Any Hope for a Disintegrating, Selfish, Achievement-Obsessed Culture?



“Our survey of 10,000 students found that the majority of youth today think that is more important to achieve at a high level and be happy than it is to care for others. “

“Too often, today’s culture sends young people messages that emphasize personal success rather than concern for others and the common good,”

- Richard Weissbourd

Said Richard Weissbourd, senior lecturer at the Harvard Graduate School of Education and co-director of the Making Caring Common Project.


“As a rite of passage, college admissions play a powerful role in shaping student attitudes and behaviors. Admissions deans are stepping up collectively to underscore the importance of meaningful engagement in communities and greater equity for economically diverse students.”


Tuesday, January 18, 16 I was driving to the Palomares Empowerment Program meeting to plan for the project period. NPR was talking about the dilemma of the ever-widening political and, more critical, social divide in America and how everyone is baffled to find a real and effective solution. For bridging the government divide between the politicians, more casual interactions such as having lunches and dinners together and even including the families, were recommended. When I heard the solution to America’s ever-widening social divide, I almost fell out of my seat. Mandatory community service for high school students was offered as the only solution to the widening divide!!! I thought what a confirming coincidence. Palomares Empowerment Program has been pushing for including community service training and projects from the beginning. For over two years, we have had consultations with teachers and principals to explore how to convince the students and their parents as to the importance of students learning about themselves, and ” immersing themselves in an experience that is meaningful to them over a sustained period of time, to learn about themselves; The perspectives of others, especially those who are different in background and character; and their responsibilities toward their communities.”


The students and parents who are open to our vision of community building as an integrated part of education, are happy to join us. Some who struggle with poverty, homelessness, and dire economic and social impediments, simply do not have the luxury of commitment. Those who take college education seriously, do not see community service and the rest as their priority. To them going to college means collecting points and amassing achievements. For them, the college admissions process is about an arms race among students and parents which proves not just stressful but plain toxic and fuels selfishness and achievement frenzy.

As a result in the past two years, our most engaging, interactive, meaningful, and empowering after-school program has been mostly underutilized due to competition with sports, academic competition, and a lack of vision of building a community centered around service to humanity that enjoys peace, prosperity along with unity in diversity.

In one of our consultations with principal Dr. Beal, she suggested we offer our services to the students within the school curriculum once a week during the project period; an hour of in-school designated time where students focus on learning how to identify social concern issues in their own communities and figure out to design a community service project to address the issues. The students are motivated to participate mainly because the school requires that they do 120 hours of community service in order to graduate.


Soon our empowerment team discovered that for the 3rd time, the project period is canceled due to other priorities such as an unexpected rally! Since we were already on campus, we decided to go to the office and learn what we could do to speak up about the importance of the project period and community service. Having the wholehearted support of the school staff,  we heard the vice principal Jillian Davis, inviting us to be the first to participate in the rally. We were delighted and wondered what we might do to impress upon the students the importance of community service.


Our next surprise was the school counselor Mr. Shone walked into the office upon asked him how he was doing, he shared his frustration about the difficulty of finding resources and training experts who could mentor, and accompany the upper graders who want to learn how to have meaningful discourse about community issues and design a service project. What a coincidence! His frustration will present us with the opportunity to join forces and serve the students get training and their hours.  He was delighted to know we have the answer to his dilemma and the upper graders will be trained and mentored to serve their community in a meaningful way.

This is such a piece of welcome news to CGIE having been committed to the empowerment of students to choose community service which provides students with sustained opportunities of immersing themselves in meaningful social discourse, learn about themselves and others with different perspectives and develop the skills of bridging the gaps and more sophisticated capability for listening and understanding in order to build harmonious yet diverse communities.


First, we argue that what’s important in terms of service is not whether it occurs locally or in some distant country, or whether a student shows leadership. What’s important is whether students immerse themselves in an experience that is meaningful to them over a sustained period of time and whether they learn about themselves; the perspectives of others, especially those who are different in background and character; and their responsibilities toward their communities.


No wonder we are most delighted to hear Dr. Richard Weissbourd of Harvard Graduate School of Education interview on PBS saying, “For perhaps the first time in history, a broad range of colleges has come together to send a powerful collective message that what’s important in admissions is not high numbers of impressive accomplishments or long “brag sheets.” Yes, academic engagement matters, but so does meaningful ethical engagement, especially as shown in concern for others and the common good. The report also redefines ethical and intellectual contributions to more fairly capture the strengths of students across race, culture, and class.


That he among all the world’s multitudes should become a source of social good.

CGIE finds much inspiration by learning about the global efforts of the Baha’i community and its global social  action knowing that;


“Bahá’í efforts of social action seek to promote the social and material well-being of people of all walks of life, whatever their beliefs or background. Such efforts are motivated by the desire to serve humanity and contribute to constructive social change.”


We echo these words of Abdu’l-Baha who says;

“And the honor and distinction of the individual consist in this, that he among all the world’s multitudes should become a source of social good,”


In light of these new developments in the college admission process, CGIE celebrates the increasing opportunities of making a difference in becoming a source of social good. We also hope that with this sea change funding will become available to our Empowerment program to secure its sustainability.

Keyvan Geula is a licensed Marriage, Family, and Child Therapist; LMFT. She received her Master of Science in Marriage, family, and Child Therapy from the University of La Verne, in La Verne, California. She employs the latest research in behavioral sciences, neuroscience, and the Baha’i principle of the oneness of all humanity to serve the well-being of her clients.

She offers her services as a clinician, lecturer, trainer, and supervisor to a global set of clients in person and online. In her clinical work, she incorporates the wisdom of the Baha’i Writings, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy research, Mindfulness meditation, and consultation skills, as well as knowledge of the spiritual self.

She is an adjunct professor of Behavioral Sciences at Citrus Community College, faculty of continued education at Claremont Graduate University. She teaches psychology online to students at Baha’i Institute of Higher Education.

She is the Founder and Executive Director of Center for Global Integrated Education (CGIE), a non-profit Baha’i-inspired educational organization, which explores oneness of all humanity, and teaches the integrated mind-body-spirit approach in education.

She has served for two years as the producer and host of a two-hour weekly live radio show for the Persian community in Sothern, California focusing on the role of the psychology of spirituality in personal and social transformation, creativity, emotional and social intelligence, and a greater sense of harmony in a global society. She also has been the host and producer of TV series called Transforming Human Consciousness for eight years. She regularly writes and blogs on on topics related to integrated education, the oneness of humanity, the powers of the human spirit in the betterment of global society, elimination of all prejudice, equality of women and men, and education reform. Some of her shows are posted on her; Keyvan Geula YouTube Channel.

Mrs. Geula has served in several Baha’i institutions since her youth in Iran and USA.


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