I wish to again express my gratitude to Farshid Tebyani for sharing his thoughts about education and Iran with us. Here is more from Farshid.
My education in Iran was primarily with some of the elite schools of that time. My elementary school was Miss Mary Elementary School, where we had half a day of English and half a day of Farsi. My seventh grade I attended Iranzamin, and that was the second year that Iranzamin was formed. Iranzamin was an international high school and under the Baccalaureate system, part of an international Swiss-based educational system that had 21 schools throughout the world.
We were eventually to pass six subjects from categories of literature, sciences, mathematics, social studies and history. The greatest and the most amazing part of this education was its "diversity." There is one thing for diverse backgrounds to live together, and it is a completely different story when you learn the history of every continent in a celebratory and respectful way.
Every culture becomes inspirational, and the child develops a deep feeling of belonging to the world, and feels as a part of a planet that is moving forward. The feelings of being part of an isolated culture are replaced with an international all-embracing feeling; this is what I saw was the distinguishing feature between those who graduated Iranzamin from the Iranian or even American high schools. It was a shock to me to see how little Americans knew about other countries and their cultures when I went to college here.
The U.S. has some of the greatest school facilities in the world. From football fields to indoor basketball courts, huge classes and auditoriums, amphitheaters, etc., the schools in this country are far more superior to even some colleges in other countries. It would be expected that this would cause more knowledgeable students and a higher rate of graduation.
What I liked about the U.S. system of education was that the students had classes like home economics, or shop, and they had a more hands-on education than the one I received in Iran. However, there are some problems with the schooling here. The classes are large, so students can get away with doing less. There are problems such as bullying, gangs and teenage pregnancy. There is also the fact that in the poorer neighborhoods, the students need to work, and stay clear from "the street."
A friend of mine was telling me that in her predominantly African-American neighborhood, they do not have text books for the kids, so the teacher has to print out/copy the reading material, from money out of her own pocket, for the students to be able to study and keep up with the curriculum. This is something I did not think would be happening in this country. Also because the family has a lot to do with the commitment of the students to their school life, the families that truly value education make sure that their children finish school, graduate and pursue higher education. It is, therefore, essential to stress the value of education to the parents, and allow an economic solution for those who may not be able to pay for their children’s extra needs.
Living with anxiety and feeling isolated is what Americans are very accustomed to, that I still cannot accept as healthy living. Then there is a racism, sexism and a special nationalistic attitude that makes me still, to this day, after 47 years of living here, uncomfortable. You would hear stuff like, “we should bomb the hell out of them” when people speak of other countries. I have accepted all of these as part of America, but I attribute it all to the early education people receive in their families, and in their schools.
I believe every child has a self that is filled with its unique set of potentialities, and given the right upbringing he or she would come to realize and develop his or her own unique self. Education should make one know one’s own set of feelings, capabilities, gifts, interests, values, etc. Just like when within the seed of an apple is the potential to become an apple tree, humans too, if given the right upbringing, the right soil, the right amount of water and sun, proper gardening and tending, the child too will become what it inherently possesses.
I believe many children do not get to know themselves, and the process of knowing who they are is often delayed, and sometimes never fully realized. The problem is not unique to America, but in every country it takes a different shape. I am not an educator nor have my own children, but have been involved in the upbringing of one child who was the daughter of a woman I was dating before I got married to my wife. I was also part of teaching the Baha’i School in Santa Monica, and also was the son of a mother who was a very caring teacher.
America is one of the greatest countries in history. I believe that the reason for its greatness is its Constitution, because it is based on the solid spiritual truth that all humans are created equal and are entitled to the same rights. America has brought many technological and industrial innovations to the world, and the people of this country have a fighting spirit that is astonishing. However, America has also done some bad things, and like everyone else my highest hope is that America will bring the essence of its Constitution, equal rights, to this planet. Let me be very clear. My biggest fear is that materialism and greed would make America forget its spiritual foundation.
I want to finish with a quote for Darius the Great’s will, written to his son, Xerxes, around 500 B.C. He says, “Continue the education reforms that I began, and allow your subjects to learn how to read and write and increase their intelligence; the more intelligent they are, the more you can rule with an easy mind. Always defend the faith of worshiping Yazdan (i.e. God), but never force any group to follow your faith, and always bear in mind that everyone should be free to pursue whatever faith he or she desire.”
Learning about Iran: Prior to the 1930s, Iran was called Persia. The country has about 10% of the world’s oil reserves. About 70% of the population in Iran is under the age of 30.
I have been writing to Minnesota legislatures about the need to have a statewide goal of a 100% graduation rate. I hope they read my letters.
John R. Eggers of Bemidji is a former university professor and area principal. He also is a writer and public speaker.