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Abstract:
On raising our children ("little aliens") and what they're learning from the contemporary world they see.
Notes:

Little 'aliens' who spontaneously break into song

by Ted Slavin

published in St. Catharines Standard
St. Catharines, Ontario: 2009-07-18
A friend of our family once compared raising children to hosting aliens in your home. In my first three years of being a father, I see the connection more clearly every day.

Who are these amazing creatures that belt out spontaneous songs in the middle of grocery stores? What display of wonderment is greater than a child watching the activity of an anthill? How many questions of "Why?" can parents expect to follow every explanation?

Any alien planning world domination would do well to mimic children's abilities because, in time, world domination is what every generation of children achieves. However, given that the type of world children will shape depends on how their families and community have educated them, it's well worth a moment to consider what our children are learning from the world they see now.

In 2001, I attended a conference on Moral Education in Ottawa that featured Dr. Haleh Arbab, now Director of the Institute for Studies in Global Prosperity. When speaking on morality and society, Dr. Arbab said that we are living in a new era of two extremes. Our age seems to have accepted "such noble principles as the equality of men and women, the elimination of all prejudice, and the need for the establishment of a world peace." On the other hand, this is "also an age of greed, of unbridled individualism, of violence and of cruelty."

Dr. Arbab's words were moving, but eight years later their relevance to my little alien, who likes to wear her fairy wings costume to bed, made me uneasy. Like all parents, I'm responsible for my daughter's well-being, but there's a twist in that responsibility. I may not be able to imagine what kind of world my daughter will see in adulthood, but parents are still responsible for equipping their children for the challenges they will meet in the future. If the present is any clue, our children are in for a rough ride.

Increasing moral dangers are seen in our neighbourhoods. Children, many at a very young age, are being forced to navigate through a complex world that includes bullying, drugs, sexuality, weapons and gangs. Sometimes the dangers come from their own families.

Many groups have made efforts to counter what amounts to a crisis. One of the Bahá'í community's responses has been worldwide and simple: to develop classes based on spiritual and moral education that are open to all children.

Having spiritual education classes doesn't mean that material education is unimportant. On the contrary, education for sciences, physical health, commerce and the arts are essential. Bahá'í children's classes, however, promote the dignity of the human spirit and teach service to humanity, training children to be the lights of their communities.

Nancy Flynn is one of the Bahá'í children's classes teachers in the Niagara region. Her weekly classes are held in Grimsby and have something special to offer beyond a character education class. The lessons of the classes, drawn in large part from the Bahá'í writings, teach children love for the arts, science and for humanity with all its diversity. This makes Nancy's classes all the more vital to her.

"I believe, so passionately, that what children learn in these classes will stay with them for the rest of their lives. They will go on to contribute to an ever advancing civilization and influence their peers in a positive way," she said.

A love and respect for the world's religions, trustworthiness, honesty, courtesy, generosity — these are just a few qualities being taught that, Bahá'ís believe, will determine the heroes of future generations and those that follow.

Children who are on their way to world domination are welcome to have their parents contact the Bahá'í community at bahainiagara.org to ask about children's classes in their area. All are welcome, especially the little aliens who break into spontaneous song, watch anthills and wear fairy wings.
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