Contemplating Unification Thought

by Dr. Jennifer P. Tanabe



The Unification Thought chapter on the Theory of Education is perhaps one of the most frustrating for many people. If you approach this chapter, without having read any of the others, and with the expectation that it will contain a theory of education similar to what you might find in contemporary texts, you will be disappointed and confused. My first reading of this chapter left me with the question, why is there so much Divine Principle in here and so little educational theory? Indeed, the theory seems to be based on the Three Blessings from Genesis 1:27, and there are many pages describing God's heart at the time of Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. It is easy to wonder what this has to do with a theory of education! In fact, at a recent ICUS meeting, one professor spent the whole of her paper, which was supposed to deal with the praxis value of this theory of education, struggling with the biblical interpretation and never addressed educational issues.

However, the solution to this confusion is quite simple: the Unification Thought Theory of Education is a philosophy of education, which deals with the ideals, goals, and forms of education. This should be distinguished from a science of education, which deals with curricula, teaching and learning techniques, assessment, and so on. When I approached the Unification Thought Theory of Education with this understanding, I realized just how important this chapter is. I also have come to appreciate the deep wisdom contained in it, as well as the spiritual power of the descriptions of God's heart. I cannot read that section without tears flowing and being overcome by great feelings of love for the God whose anguish is so clearly described. If you want a description of God's heart from the Unificationist perspective, this is the place to find it.

So, what are the ideals, goals and forms of education according to Unification Thought? Well, the main point is quite simple: "education is an effort to guide children to resemble God" (Essentials of Unification Thought, p.169). As we know from the theory of the Original Image, God's nature is one of perfection, harmony of Yang and Yin (multiplication), and dominion, and God's character has heart, Logos (reason-law), and creativity. Thus, there are three ideals: the ideal of individual perfection, resembling God's heart; the ideal of family perfection, resembling God's harmony between Yang and Yin and God's lawful nature; and the ideal of dominion, resembling God's creativity. These three ideals are translated into three forms of education: Education of Heart with the goal of producing a person of character, Education of Norm with the goal of producing a good citizen, and Education of Dominion with the goal of producing a genius.

Now, before addressing each of these forms of education and their corresponding goals, let us look first at who is responsible for all this education. In today's society there are a lot of failures in education. It is easy for parents to blame the teachers and the school system with its "value-free" curriculum, no prayer, and bureaucracies. It is equally easy for educators and administrators to accuse the parents, since many are single parents, teenage parents, or providing an environment in which drugs and alcohol are freely used and available to the children. In order to solve the problems we need to understand the purpose of education.

Unification Thought explains that the original, most fundamental form of education "is the guidance that parents give to their children so that the children may fulfill the Three Great Blessings" (Essentials of Unification Thought, p.174). This section also contains deep insight into Adam and Eve's responsibility as the first human ancestors. Had Adam and Eve fulfilled their responsibility without God's interference, by following the commandments given by God, they would have accomplished the difficult task of resembling God by themselves. All their descendants, in other words the rest of humankind, would have had a much easier task because they would have had parents who had already accomplished the goal. Such parents could help their children by showing the example, by giving testimonies of their own struggles and victories, and by providing support and encouragement to their children. Thus, the original way of education is for parents to show their children by example, and teach them from their knowledge gained through experience.

In the previous article on Epistemology I mentioned briefly that the process by which we obtain knowledge provides a basis for the process of education, since it is possible to ask another person about an object that it unfamiliar, and use the information given by that other person to develop an appropriate prototype and thus identify the object. I am happy to see how the various sections of Unification Thought work together in this way, producing a whole system that is interrelated.

In today's society, then, teachers should represent parents as they instruct children. In other words, parents are primarily responsible for their children's education, and, in order to provide the best possible education, they rely on teachers to assist them in the task. This means that parents are in the subject position and teachers in the object position when it comes to the purpose of education. The responsibility for education, then, falls on both parents and teachers, and also on the relationship between them. Without a harmonious give-and-receive relationship between parents and teachers, the educational process will not go well and the child suffers.

Now to the three forms of education. The first is Education of Heart, which means involves raising children to resemble God's heart and so to love all people and all things in the same way that God does. Unification Thought asserts that in order to do this, and thus become people of character, we need to understand God's heart throughout history. God's heart is expressed in three forms: the heart of hope at the time of creation, the heart of sorrow at the human fall, and the heart of pain during the history of restoration. As mentioned above, the descriptions of God's heart in these three forms are incredibly moving. However, I would like to add that I believe there is one more form of God's heart that I want my children to learn about: the heart of joy when the ideal world is finally established.

The second form of education is Education of Norm which is to prepare people to become a spouse and to form a family. Education of norm also refers to the education through which one becomes a being of reason-law (Logos) and a good citizen living according to the laws of the universe. The actual details of these laws are the topic of the next section in Unification Thought, Ethics, which will be dealt with in my next article.

There is one norm, however, that I will consider here, and that is, sex education. The issue of the nature of sex education in our schools has received great attention in recent years, particularly concerning the problems of teenage pregnancy and the spread of AIDS. Unfortunately, many of the curricula have proven ineffective in decreasing sexual activity, teenage pregnancy and AIDS. Well, what do you expect if the curriculum teaches students all the varieties of sexual behavior both theoretically and practically, and either distributes condoms in the classroom, provides them in the school bathrooms, or gives students the task of purchasing them as an assignment!

Now the problem here is not only practical, but philosophical. Unification Thought maintains that "through the Education of Norm, the sanctity and mystery of sex should be taught with special care." (Essentials of Unification Thought, p.183) Sex education is not just about a physical relationship, and sex education necessarily involves more than this. Unification Thought explains the spiritual significance of the sexual act and its place in human relationships, i.e. in the conjugal relationship between man and woman, reflecting the harmony between yang and yin in the Original Image. Therefore, abstinence from the physical act is only part of the issue; the real point is to prepare to enter the conjugal relationship with one's eternal spouse.

As mentioned above, Education of Norm involves teaching observance of rules. Several scholars have noted a tension between this emphasis on obedience in Education of Norm, and the emphasis on love in Education of Heart. They ask what the relationship between the two is. Well, in the ideal person love and norms are fully united. However, love should be subject. Therefore, Education of Norm should be conducted in an atmosphere of love, for without love norms become only legalistic rules. Similarly, though, love should not be given blindly without norms. Parents and teachers should have dignity and authority and children should feel respect towards them.

Education of Dominion, which is basically what contemporary theories of education focus on, refers to development of creativity, and asserts that everyone has creativity endowed as a potentiality. The exact nature of this creativity differs from person to person, though, such that one person has the potential to be a great artist, another an athlete, another a scientist, and so on. Thus, Education of Dominion is individual education as it is given in different fields to different people.

Education of Heart and of Norm, on the other hand, are universal education, which means that they should be given equally to everyone. Education of Dominion requires this foundation of universal education in order to be successful. The truth of this can be seen when we look at examples of child geniuses who clearly did not receive adequate Education of Heart and Norm. The movie "Amadeus" acknowledged both Mozart's genius as a composer and musician and his weaknesses in the emotional and ethical spheres. Even if a young child is intellectually capable of taking graduate level college courses in nuclear physics, it does not mean that he is emotionally and socially ready for the experience. However, this should not be taken to mean that ten-year-olds should not learn advanced physics, merely that they need more Education of Heart and Norm to be successful. The exciting possibility appears to me that in the future we may be able to reduce the time needed to complete our education by about half, and have everyone complete graduate school even by the age of fourteen or sixteen years!

This concept of becoming a "genius" as the goal of Education of Dominion has proved troubling to many. Is it really possible that everyone can be a genius, or does that not deny the meaning of the term? I have found that some people react against this idea, maintaining that genius must refer only to a select few in the population. On the other hand, I have also met educators whose eyes lit up and who jumped up and said, yes, I have always believed that each and every child can be great at something! The problem is just to find that area that he or she can excel in and develop that potential. I belong in the latter group. When I was in high school I found that many of my classmates were truly hopeless at math, which I found easy, but that they could outdo me on a history test, or out run, out paint, and out sing me with no effort at all! Clearly we are different, but different is good not bad, and we should develop our God-given potential in whatever area it falls. That way we can become creators, resembling God.

In conclusion, I believe that the Unification Thought Theory of Education is a philosophy of education that can revolutionize the present approach to education. Its emphasis on Education of Heart and Norm as the necessary foundation for Education of Dominion, and the understanding that the family holds a primary role in education are two very significant features. However, this means that we need to look at the family, its role in today's society, and the norms of our society very closely in order to realize this model education. These questions are addressed in the next article on Unification Thought Ethics.


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