Sunday, November 25, 2007

On Why the Closing of Maxwell School May Be Evidence of a Step Forward: Baha'i Children and Youth Are being Prepared for Excellence Everywhere

Northeast States Baha'i youth at NEBYfest, "on FIRE," uploaded on February 23, 2006 by BlakeRead on flickr,
licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic

My daughter-in-law Megan is a graduate of the Maxwell International School, a Baha'i boarding school offering a high school education on Vancouver Island in Canada. She loved her experience there. She is pursuing a teaching career in large part because of the inspiration she received at Maxwell.

Last night over a wonderful meal she had prepared at the end of a day members of the family spent hiking in the Olympic National Forest, we discussed the announced closing of Maxwell after 20 year of operation. The Baha'is of the Pacific Northwest feel a close connection to Maxwell, but so do Baha'is all over the world. The thought of its closure tugs at the heart of so many.

Maxwell has been operating under the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Canada, which made the decision to close, after considerable consultation, I'm sure. I have no idea as the specifics of that consultation, of course, but I told Megan that I thought Maxwell's closing may be viewed as evidence of a profound step forward that has been taken by the global Baha'i community.

Maxwell is a boarding school. Parents wanting a certain kind of experience for their children, one that would ensure a devotion to the Cause, in addition to academic excellence, have sent their children to Maxwell. Maxwell has supported the enhancement of Baha'i identity in an extraordinary way.

Ten, 15, or 20 years ago one could not be as assured of the development of a strong Baha'i identity in the children of Baha'is as one can be today as a result of the Institute Process. There were not the supports in place locally, regionally, nationally, or globally, to support the development of Baha'i identity and the pursuit of academic excellence that there are now with the Institute emphasis on the holding of children's classes as one of the core activities of Baha'i life. The option of sending children away to attend a boarding school to is simply not as attractive as it was two decades ago. Happily, all over the world, Baha'is are now taking seriously the importance of children's education.

Flitzy Phoebie
It starts with children's classes for the very young. It continues with exciting and substantial activities for junior youth. Baha'i identity continues to grow through vigorous youth activities at the high school and college level. Baha'i identity comes to fruition in the Baha'i Year of Service that so many Baha'i young adults now engage in.

Service is what being a Baha'i is all about. Baha'is who have been inculcated in Baha'i values and trained in the practices of Baha'i life from their earliest years are, of course, best prepared for lives of service. With proper Baha'i education, Baha'i youth are protected from unnecessary suffering and innoculated from the dangers of marginality. Baha'i youth are being fully prepared for a life of excellence.

Flitzy Phoebie
Take a look at the faces of Baha'i children at the Leaves of One Tree children's class in our cluster. Look at the faces of Baha'i youth on Facebook or some other social networking vehicle. See who's coming to the Northeast States Baha'i Youth (NEBY) Conference. Be glad that the global Baha'i community has turned the corner and has taken the education of its children seriously. -gw


SAM said...

I am sorry for the closing of the school. It was (is?) a model school in many aspects (eventhough I might agree with the arguments presented about its boardingness).

About bahá'ís in Canada: nothing will happen. After all, yoiu will still have other facilities (private or not) for education and other social intervention. And, besides, after all, Canada was the country that made the primal and main impulse on the Human Rights Resolution about Iran, in the UN (which I believe has much to do with bahá'í position in Canada).

Anonymous said...

NEBY stands for Northeast Baha'i Youth.

George Wesley said...

Thanks, anon, I've made the correction.

pedsfs said...

My 10th grade daughter has been campaigning for months to be sent to Canada to go to Maxwell. I guess this will end that discussion, although I'm really sorry this is how it ends!

Anonymous said...

Please do not give up on Maxwell yet! While its true that the NSA has said that it can no longer financially support the school, there is a group of dedicated individuals working to save the school. God willing, if enough new students enroll for September 08, the school will not close and can continue to make a difference in the lives of youth. If you would like more information, or would like to enroll a student for next year (yeah!), please email the new management at My daughter would not be the happy, confident, service-oriented young woman she is today without the influence of her peers at Maxwell.

Rick Schaut said...


I have a daughter who is in her third year at Maxwell. She's currently a sophomore. I don't think Maxwell's primary value is the establishment of a Baha'i identity among the students. Rather, Maxwell's primary value is the diversity of its student population.

I don't know what this year's numbers are, but last year there 150 students from 27 different countries. The cultural differences alone provide opportunities to truly experience the oneness of humanity that, I believe, exist nowhere else in the world.

Pedsf, as Anonymous has said, don't give up on Maxwell just yet. In fact, I strongly encourage you and your daughter to apply. Of course, you should have a back-up plan in place should current efforts fail to bear any fruit, but the problem with Maxwell has always been low enrollments.

Anonymous said...

My daughter began attending Maxwell International School for grade 11 this Sept. She declared as a Baha'i this spring after much serious reflection and discussion with me and her mentors in the tiny pioneering Baha'i group here in the Inuit community of Arviat, Nunavut. Unlike Baha'i s in more populated centres, my daughter was very isolated here and did not have the support of the groups and classes you describe. She was also subject to some serious criticism of her spiritual choice. Most of her school mates were totally uninterested in spiritual matters or were condemning her from the perspective of fundamentalist Christianity. Although she has always been able to discuss and question all aspects of life with me at home, in the process of developing her own identity, she needs to be able to discuss and share her seeking with other people her own age.
At Maxwell she has been able to be nurtured in her chosen faith and to pursue her spiritual quest in unity and harmony with other people from cultures and backgrounds very different from hers. Even after a few months, I see a maturity, confidence, and breadth of vision and experience that amaze me. I have no regrets at all about sending her to Maxwell, even if it is only for one year. I pray that Maxwell will be able to continue so that other young people may have this amazing opportunity to live in a warm, caring multi-cultural community and be nurtured in their spiritual development during the crucial teenage years.
Nothing can replace the role of parents and family in the nurturing and education of their children, and I applaud the efforts of Baha'i s everywhere to support their children in growing spiritually. At some point, however, young people need to leave home to make their own ways in the wider world. For many this step occurs when they go to university or other post-secondary institutions, but some need to take this step sooner, for various reasons. As an only child, my daughter needs the experience of living and sharing with other people than her mother. This is something I cannot give her at home. At Maxwell, she can have this experience in a safe, supportive community that shares the values she has chosen and which I support whole-heartedly.