Bahá'ís consider the education and support of all the children of the community to be a high priority. The values that children learn at a young age are perhaps the single biggest factor in determining what our society will look like decades from now, and children's education is thus a critical component of our ever-advancing human civilization.
The Bahá'í teachings tell us that each individual has the power, and the responsibility, to make his or her own decisions about what to believe and how to investigate the truth of our existence. Children are not automatically bound to their parents' religious beliefs. Rather, they should learn about the common values and teachings that are shared among all religious traditions. They should learn to understand the meaning and the importance of respect, love, justice, harmony, equality and all the other positive values that shape our existence. They should learn to recognize and reject prejudice, greed, aggression and other detrimental forces. They should be exposed to different traditions, cultures and ways of worship so that they may learn to live in peace and harmony as members of a diverse, yet united, society. When children who have been so educated approach adulthood, then, they will be well placed to make – and understand – their own decisions.
The Kingston Bahá'í community, like most Bahá'í communities worldwide, runs children's classes both for the children of its own members and for the children of the broader community. The curriculum and structure of these classes is highly flexible; teachers are trained to adapt to the needs of each class. Families of any religious background are welcome. There is no fee or cost for the classes and no one is pressured to convert religions.
For younger children, we focus on teaching positive values. Children learn about important values, such as equality, respect and justice, and how to use these values to help guide their decisions.
As children grow, they begin to see how to recognize prejudice, inequity and other negative forces, and learn how positive values can help them steer these situations in a better direction. They also learn about religious traditions – the history and teachings of the Bahá'í Faith, yes, but also the lessons that were taught by Christ, Moses, Zoroaster and the other Manifestations of God, and how common themes and values tie the different faiths together.
When they reach their early teens, many children are ready to join "junior youth" activities, in which they are encouraged to gain more independence, learn how to find their own answers to their own questions, and to find ways to help support and improve the communities in which they live.
Kingston's children's class teachers, most of whom are parents, have been specifically trained for this task, and the Assembly has vulnerable sector police clearances on file for all its teachers.