Unification News for September 2002

International Educational Foundation - My Journey in Life: Timely Guidance for Today's Teens

Robert Beebe

"This course is an amazing discovery for everybody: students, teachers, parents and grandparents. It is as important for our children today as the air itself." This response from Svetlana Smirnova, a St. Petersburg teacher, is typical of the enthusiasm that has greeted the arrival of IEF’s character education curriculum in the schools of the former Soviet Union. This course, known in Russian as My World and I, has been in use in more than 10,000 schools. Its impact has been profound. In one study conducted among teachers using the material in the Ivanovo Region of Russia, the majority of the teachers themselves reported a significant impact on their own personal character development. Now, for the first time, this course is available in English.

The course is divided into two parts in the form of two textbooks. By teaching universal principles and values, the first volume, entitled My Journey in Life: A Student Textbook for Character Development (in Russian, known as My World & I: The Way of Unification), seeks to help those in their early teens to develop their heart and character, emphasizing the importance of mind/body unity, the development of the conscience, and sexual purity. As a support, it includes the moral and ethical teachings of the world's great religious traditions, which are at the root of most of the world's cultures.

With lesson themes such as "What Kind of Person Should I Become?", "What Do We Live For?" and "The Challenge of Life," the text engages pupils in internalizing fundamental values that are at the center of good character. In this way the curriculum seeks to help young people develop the inner strength to resist negative peer pressure and detrimental social influences that are so rampant in today’s world.

Fundamentally, this book challenges the student to examine the principles and resultant values that constitute a meaningful life. It offers three basic life goals as a framework for this: becoming persons of mature character, establishing loving relationships and family, and making a positive and creative contribution to society. If young people can be made aware of these life goals and be inspired to strive for them, it will greatly help them to resist the destructive temptations of drugs, crime and promiscuous sex. Ultimately, such socially destructive influences will only be overcome by offering young people an achievable alternative that speaks to their most fundamental hopes and dreams in life.

The second volume, My Journey in Life: A Student Textbook for Developing Loving Relationships (in Russian, My World & I: The Way of Love), written for those in their mid-teens, focuses on human relationships, particularly in preparation for marriage and family. It includes topics on human sexuality, marriage, family, conflict resolution and social responsibility. It also covers problems such as divorce, single parent families, alcoholism and experiencing rejection. The book features marriage and family traditions in the world’s religions to demonstrate that there are basic universal norms of human love and its sexual expression. In this way students can develop their vision of a realistic ideal for their relationships and future marriages while being aware of the pitfalls along the way.

If the evaluations by pedagogical experts and the reflections on the part of teachers and students who have used this curriculum are any indication, then it would seem that both My Journey in Life books have been a resounding success. Receiving high praise for their content and interactive methodological approach, the curriculum has inspired both teachers and students to strive for higher ideals in their lives.

Due to circumstances the My Journey in Life series appeared first in Russia, followed by many of the former Soviet republics. However, this work was envisioned long before the actual publication in the 1990s. Although first used in Russia, they were written with the young people of the entire world in mind. Thus, these texts should not be seen as a translation of the Russian, but represent improved editions of the original English texts. In response to numerous requests from around the world, IEF wishes to offer these English editions for use in other countries. They may be translated into various national languages and contextualized by using literary sources and examples from the national culture. IEF is ready to offer its vast experience to assist in this process.

Those interested in ordering these books, either hard copy or on CD, may call Ying Yun Tagawa at the IEF office in New York, tel. 212-944-7466, ext. 403, or send an e-mail to yyus@internationalcharacter.org or hyyus@hotmail. If you would like further information or assistance concerning working with ministries of education and schools or organizing teacher training workshops, please contact Robert Beebe at ief@online.ru.


Many Unificationists are aware of the opportunity that presented itself in the early 1990s for our movement to work in the former Soviet Union following the Rev. Sun Myung Moon's historic visit to Moscow in April 1990 and his meeting in the Kremlin with Mikhail Gorbachev. This meeting opened the doors to begin a massive exchange program under the title of International Leadership Seminars involving thousands of Soviet and American students over the next two years.

One of the results of this close collaboration with the Soviet Ministry of Higher Education on this project was the initiation of a series of conferences on the theme "Spiritual Renewal and School Education in Russia", held in the Crimea in November 1992 under the auspices of the Russian Ministry of Education for the purpose of presenting ideas for a moral education curriculum. More than 1500 educators from throughout Russia plus 300 school directors from the Ukraine gathered to hear lectures based on the fundamental values and concepts of the Unification Principle, emphasizing their use as a foundation for moral education.

The early 1990s was a period of optimism when many people throughout the world harbored the hope that lasting peace and harmony was finally within our grasp. However, as the shadow of the Cold War receded, other problems came to the fore to show us that we were still a long way from this ideal. Both the democratic and former communist worlds were being afflicted by similar social problems, such as ethnic conflicts, youth violence, alcoholism, drug abuse, divorce and family breakdown, and a proliferation of sexually transmitted diseases. These problems were symptomatic of a severe crisis of values born of a century that placed the highest priority on scientific and technological development while neglecting to honor and promote the traditional values that had provided a sense of social cohesion and spiritual well being. Brought up to believe that scientific knowledge could solve all of our problems, young people were cast adrift to find answers for themselves in fundamental areas of human life, such as the maturing of their character, preparing for marriage and raising a successful family.

In many of today's societies there is no longer any consensus about right and wrong or which values should lie at the heart of education. Children often seem to question all values and authority, leaving parents and teachers unsure how to guide them. Ignoring the deeper questions about life, many young people pursue a hedonistic lifestyle of self-gratification, seeking to find happiness in material pursuits.

In the case of Russia and other former Soviet societies, the collapse of communism suddenly discarded the ideological framework for the teaching of morals and ethics. At the same time young people struggled to understand how to employ their newly found freedoms. Many chose to pursue with abandon the material benefits long denied them. In reaction to the collectivism of the past the post-Soviet period saw the rise of extreme individualism.

Given this reality, participants found the theme of the Crimea program timely. The enthusiastic response of participants led to the establishment of an international team of writers under the direction and guidance of Dr. Joon Ho Seuk, president of the International Educational Foundation, in order to produce student textbooks and teacher manuals that would promote universal values in an exciting and inspiring format conducive to young people's sensibilities at the time of the approaching 21st century. This was the beginning of the My World & I project.

Working at a rapid pace, the first edition of My World & I: The Way of Unification, intended for 13-15 year-olds, was published together with an accompanying teacher manual. In the summer of 1993, IEF held its first Teacher Training Workshops in order to train teachers how to use the new curriculum. In these workshops lectures explaining the philosophical foundation of the curriculum were presented as well as lectures suggesting innovative methodological approaches appropriate to the teaching of the material. In 1994 IEF produced a second volume of My World & I, subtitled The Way of Love, written for 15-17 year olds. In subsequent years IEF went on to publish other student textbooks, teacher manuals, and handbooks for parents, designed to be used for various age levels. Many of these have been translated into other languages from the original Russian with the support of various ministries of education. Each year IEF has been conducting hundreds of training seminars involving thousands of teachers throughout the CIS, Baltic States and Mongolia to instruct them on the use of the materials. At these seminars and in other ways, hundreds of thousands of books have been distributed in these countries.

As mentioned above, the My Journey in Life series represents a unique collaboration of an international team of educators and writers. The original versions were published at a time when the Cold War was coming to an end and opportunities for ventures between the democratic and communist worlds were opening up in many different fields. Thus, they are probably the first of their kind covering an area of vital concern to cultures throughout the world -- the moral education of children. In the nations in which they are being used, these books offer a refreshing approach to the field and are seen as a valuable resource supporting the character development of the young generation.

Our hope is that these books, which have given much inspiration and joy to thousands of school children and their teachers in the former Soviet Union, in their English editions will benefit countless others throughout the world and contribute to the character development of the young generation in many different nations and cultures.

About IEF

Founded in 1990 by Rev. and Mrs. Sun Myung Moon to promote moral and ethical values in education, the International Educational Foundation, through its activities and publications, seeks to address the worldwide crisis of values by offering an approach that combines the best of contemporary and traditional values, spiritual and material values, and Eastern and Western values. We call this a universal values approach. It is an approach that emphasizes what we have in common by stressing timeless values and presenting them in a way that can appeal to the idealistic sensibilities of young people transcending cultures.

IEF works in the fields of character education, youth purity education, marriage and family education, and service education or volunteerism. In the field of character education, it has been emphasizing the need to cultivate the hearts and consciences of children in addition to the education of their intellects. Based upon the teachings of Rev. Moon, the My Journey in Life two-volume series is an attempt to meet this need.

Once again, for orders please contact Ying Yun Tagawa at the IEF office in New York by phone at 212-944-7466 or by e-mail at yyus@internationalcharacter.org or hyyus@hotmail. For more information or assistance, you may contact Robert Beebe at ief@online.ru.

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