From the February 2000 Idaho Observer:

World peace faith influencing global curriculum

Baha'i-pioneered Electronic “Distance” education wave of future?

by Diana Anderson

Schools know that educational pathways are the 'bridges' between the source of knowledge or understanding and the student. Advocates of the distance education bridge would have a computer interface with every child in the world, including Idaho's children. Distance education vendors are happy to sell their wares over the Internet to assist students in meeting exiting standards. Given the controversy in educational reform, a close examination of these bridges is imperative for parents and teachers. This article, however, is less concerned about the profiteering of computer technology, than the nature of the knowledge imparted long distance to our children locally.

One little known source of curriculum designs lies in a village 10 miles north of London. Milton-Keynes hails the largest 'university without walls' in the world. Open University, also known as the Baha'i Institute for Higher Education, has gained mirror sites in the United States and accreditation by the U.S. Department of Education. This university is quite unique in that no students are found on campus, yet it houses over a thousand faculty researchers and teachers to impart long-distance education.

The Baha'i faith is a religion founded in the mid 1800s by the Persian prophet Baha Allah. It proclaims the necessity and inevitability of the unification of mankind and world peace.

Computer consultants across the United States have developed distance education labs in businesses and schools, seeking investors and forging partnerships for various providers of distance designs from Europe (i.e. Virginia Ostendorf, Inc. based in Littleton Colorado). Confusion lies in having to select from a stream of vendors who represent a myriad of educational designs. Money is no object. Even the poorest of America's schools are not without connections to cable, satellite or Internet lab access.

Two weeks after the Littleton shootings, I visited one of Al Gore's 'broken window' communities in Pender, Nebraska. This depressed farming community sorely needed a new coat of paint. After risking a back door entrance to the enormous brick high school, I weaved my way, unimpeded, to the main office. The superintendent cordially guided me through echoing halls and ill-equipped rooms (save some computers) to see “his baby.” Behind a locked door, adjacent to a library of sorts, we entered the 21st Century. Snake-like microphones, rising from long tables, faced large television monitors, whereby teachers had interacted with distanced educators from who knows where.

This room would be available to students this 1999-00 school year. Last year, Midwest farmers could barely sell soybeans at 1950 prices to properly raise their families and I doubt they would find much comfort in knowing their taxes are being used to equip media labs to electronically interface with God knows what to their children.

Pender High is indicative of the contrast between community needs and the high tech hype of distance education. If small, traditionally agrarian communities such as Pender are going to standardized, impersonalized electronic public educational curriculums, we have every right to be concerned that we, as a nation are quickly losing local control of our children's education to a global influence that is not necessarily consistent with local values and traditions.

Built larger than Oxford in the late 60's, Baha'i Open University paved the path in distance education. Since it's controversial conception, it has extended course offerings to mainland Europe, Asia and Africa. More recently, according to the article “The British are Coming (New York Times, April 4, 1999)” it “helped the state university systems of California and Florida design distance-learning courses based on its singular model.”

Baha'i Open University agents were present in 1973 when taskforce teams set out from the University of Chicago to create lifelong learning communities and capitalize on technology to engender a working participatory democracy in the U.S.

Baha'i Open University is not without open controversy, least of all in its pathways in Iran. The Iranian government has decidedly closed the “Baha'i Open University” to students, which makes one wonder -- do traditional Iranian universities merely shun competition from distance university schooling or does the Iranian minister object to the substance of the curricula?

Unlike Iran, the separation of church and state has seemingly been perfected in U.S. public schools, current controversy centering more around the separation of school and state. However, though not used in public schools, religiously-inspired school curriculums are electronically available on the web, some recommended by stakeholders in many communities and lifelong universities.

Teachers are hard pressed for time in investigating distance education material and more often are “handed” designs at school via vendors who have contracted with school administrators through grants. No rhyme or reason is given in the selection process and no real evidence as to who “owns the inspiration” of a particular resource. To get you started in examining various web sites you need to look outside of curricular URLs.

The Global Classroom “is the first and only Baha'i-inspired publisher and distributor in the education field. Its goal is to encourage creative work and publish and promote its own and other peoples work in Baha'i- inspired education for both Baha'i and non-Baha'i educators, parents and children.

“Its first catalog is a repository of over 300 items focused on such topics as character and values education, peace, tolerance and conflict resolution, excellence, and service. It has full blown curriculums to activity and guide books for teachers to story books for children.

“This 40-page full-color catalog was sent in April and May 1998 to 149,000 schools in the U.S. and the remainder of the 200,000 catalogs to superintendents and directors of schools nationwide. It plans to mail up to three catalogs per year and thus become a leader in the field of character and values education worldwide.” (The above taken from:

This quote was gained by searching “capacity building” inside a Baha'i search engine. Who would have guessed that searching a Goals 2000 expression would have resulted in the “hidden words” of a barely noticed religion in the United States. The fact that Open University is the informal name of the “Baha'i Institute for Higher Education” must have been an oversight on the part of the New York Times. But that's why you are reading The Idaho Observer. It would be interesting to discover if Global Classroom catalogues credit the Baha'is for their inspiration.

Project 2061: The Idaho Department of Education recommends numerous sites for curricular options. Its position on Secondary Science states:

“Since 1965, the State of Idaho has recommended that the sequence in the secondary schools, grades 7-12, be Life, Physical, Earth, Biology, Chemistry and Physics. This recommendation has proven to be, up until this time, consistent with national trends and consistent with the needs of modern science education for today's students. The publication of AAAS Project 2061 Science for All Americans and the National Science Teachers Association (NSTA) are excellent resources on curriculum recommendation and national trends in science education.”


“Up until this time?” Does this mean the disciplines listed are no longer viable coursework for teaching science literacy? Project 2061 reads more like coursework in the social sciences.

Two Examples: (a) The curriculum discusses various treatments for mental health victims inclusive of drugs, group therapies, electric shock treatment, punishments and rewards to modify behavior and personal interviews (The Nature of Science).

(b) “Philosophers in and outside of science were troubled by the implication that if everything from stars to atoms runs according to precise mechanical laws, the human notion of free will might only be an illusion.” ( Project 2061: Historical Perspectives, at

Is this type of thinking conducive to the health education of our children? I'll risk a guess and state that modern philosophers are now creating a self-fulfilling prophecy in designing programs and mandates that would seek to restrain our free will. If this material is indicative to Phase II of Project 2061, I would shutter to read Phase III's thoughts and philosophies.

Designers of computerized curricula are going the distance to bring, not only convenience to the “customer” but their philosophies as well. The separation of church and state is not as separate as some would think (it's merely the separation of Christianity and state). The separation of school and state is history.

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