The following is the full text of the speech delivered on May 7, 2014 by Ayatollah Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution, in a meeting with a group of teachers.
In the Name of Allah, the Beneficent, the Merciful
I would like to welcome you dear teachers and managers of the educational system, who imbued our working environment and our life with your warm and friendly presence.
First of all, it is the month of Rajab which is an opportunity to serve God. Our entire life can be an opportunity for serving God in a proper way and true happiness lies in this. Some occasions increase our opportunities and the month of Rajab is one of these opportunities. We should prepare ourselves in this month. We should pray for one another so that Allah the Exalted helps us prepare ourselves in this month and in the month of Sha'ban and Ramadan and so that He helps us take one step forward and achieve transcendence.
Reviving the memory of a number of martyrs is one of the opportunities of this meeting and this day as well. Primarily, I would like to revive the memory of our dear martyr, Shahid Ayatollah Motahhari, who was our great thinker, our teacher and a mujahid on the path of Islamic thought and belief. With his martyrdom, he achieved the blessing to obtain the approval of Allah the Exalted for his long jihad. Good for him!
I would also like to revive the memory of Shahid Rajai and Shahid Bahonar who spent their lives in the educational system. They were two mujahid, pious and sincere individuals who were at the service of the educational system. We witnessed up close the efforts of these two dear personalities in these areas for many years and for a short time after the Revolution.
Our annual meeting with teachers has a major goal and several minor goals. The major goal is expressing respect for teachers. With this meeting, we want to show our respect to the position of teachers. This symbolic move is necessary. Respecting teachers and teaching should become a widespread practice in our society. Everyone should feel proud of being a teacher. Everyone should be proud of greeting and respecting teachers. The higher the position of teachers is, the higher the position of education will be in our society.
Adopting a narrow-minded outlook towards teachers is a loss for society. This should be prevented. The outlook towards teachers should be a respectful one. There are many different professions in the country which are seemingly very prestigious, but the position of all of these professions is much lower than the position and the profession of teaching. All of us should know and understand this.
The Holy Prophet (s.w.a.) is quoted as saying, "I was sent as a teacher" [Usul al-Kafi, Volume 2, page 95]. The fact that the Holy Prophet (s.w.a.) considered himself to be a teacher is the greatest honor. Of course, teaching exists at different levels, but the truth of teaching is only one thing. This is a source of honor. This is our issue. With this meeting, we want to show that we hold teachers in great respect and that we are indebted to them because of what they did for ourselves and because of what they do for our children and for those whose future is important to us. This feeling is shared by all the people. All of us are indebted to teachers. This is our main issue.
There are some minor issues as well. One issue is addressed to teachers themselves. Another issue is addressed to the managers and officials of the large educational system. What is related to teachers is that the dear teachers should know their job is not only teaching. In other words, their job is not only to teach the textbooks that are available to them. Teachers should promote knowledge, teach the way to think and strengthen morality in themselves. If we consider teaching to have a broad meaning, it will include these three tasks:
The first task is promoting knowledge and teaching the textbooks that our children - the future men and women of the country - should learn. This is one task.
The second task, which is more important, is teaching how to think. Our children should learn how to think in a proper and reasonable way. They should be properly guided about how to think. Shallow outlooks and shallow learning of the issues of life cripple a society. In the long run, it destroys a people. Thinking should be firmly established in society.
This is why when we mention someone like Shahid Motahhari, we do not only speak about his knowledge. We speak about his thinking as well. If someone knows how to think, this spirit will help them to discover the important issues of knowledge. If our youth, our scholars and our scientists are thinkers, they will use the knowledge that they have to pose tens and hundreds of new questions and to get answers for these questions. So, using knowledge is only possible with thinking.
The third task is behavioral and moral education and what the honorable minister referred to in his statements: lifestyle and behavior. We are a people with lofty ideals, with great slogans and with clear and definite peaks that we want to reach - if there is time, I will briefly address this issue later on. This requires patient, wise, religious, innovative, kind, compassionate, courageous, polite and pious individuals who are ready to take action, who avoid laziness and who consider others' pains to be their own pains.
The mold and make-up of a person that Islam wants to build is shaped through education. All people can be educated. Some people may learn late and some may learn sooner than others. Some learn more efficiently and some learn less efficiently than others. But all individuals are subject to change and this change takes place with education. Primarily, this falls on the shoulders of certain main elements one of which is a teacher. Of course, parents, friends and other such people are influential as well, but the influence that a teacher exerts is deeper and more permanent. This is a task that teachers should carry out.
Therefore, teachers teach how to acquire knowledge, how to think and how to be moral. Learning morality is not like acquiring knowledge. That is to say, one cannot be moral by reading books. Morality cannot be taught with books. Behavior is more influential than books and words. You teach with your behavior in your classrooms and among your students. Of course, you teach with words as well. You should provide verbal advice, but behavior has a deeper and more comprehensive influence. It is one's behavior which makes it clear whether one's words are sincere or not. This is what we wanted to say to teachers.
The society of teachers has been entrusted with the responsibility of taking care of children. We should pay attention to this issue. If, by Allah's favor, our teachers decide to build children and teenagers with this method - that is to say, by paying attention to these three elements - then I believe that this will exert great influence on the future of society.
Of course, after the Revolution, certain good measures were adopted in this regard. The society of teachers exerted great influence with their commitment and by showing their presence in the revolutionary environment - whether during the Sacred Defense Era or afterwards. I sometimes read the books which are about teachers. A teacher who took part in the front lines of the Sacred Defense and who was martyred exerted great influence on the minds of his students. One can see this.
One issue about the educational system and its management is the issue of the transformation plan. The transformation plan - which has thankfully been prepared and established - was not something that was created all of a sudden. This plan was one of our desires from the beginning of the Revolution. Because the educational system in our country was created by imitating western educational systems with the same form, content and order, there was a need for a fundamental change in the educational system of the country, whether in terms of form or in terms of content.
Well, many people shared this thought for many years. Then, it was developed gradually and it led to the transformation plan. I am not saying that this transformation plan is the peak of our desires. This is not the case. For everything, there is a higher form. It is possible that by Allah's favor, you take action, move forward and gain experience in a way that you can add something to what is available to you today.
However, this transformation plan is what is available to us in the present time and therefore, it should be taken seriously. My advice to the honorable officials and managers of the educational system is that we should take the transformation plan seriously. And this seriousness should be beyond formal statements. It should be shown in practice.
Well, as the friends in this meeting quoted what I had said before, if we want this transformation plan to be implemented, we need a roadmap and a plan. If our thoughts and the general ideas that officials and sympathetic personalities have in mind do not take the form of a practical plan, then it will remain a mere idea and it will decay. Therefore, it requires a practical plan.
You should prepare and implement this practical plan in collaboration with the Supreme Council of Cultural Revolution - which is a great cultural center and a reference point for making decisions and in which officials are present. You should feel that this step has been taken. Then, you should go to the next step. Of course, some tasks should be carried out simultaneously and in line with one another.
An issue for the management of the educational system is the issue of manpower. As was pointed out in this meeting, the educational system is the greatest decision-making organization in the Islamic Republic. More than one million officials exist in this great system. These officials are directly involved with more than 12 million people and they are indirectly involved with tens of millions of people - that is to say, families. Such a great network is very important.
The forces that should be employed in this great network should have certain characteristics. One of these characteristics is that they should be motivated and enthusiastic. You should not give priority to tired, old and unimaginative forces - those who tried whatever they knew and who do not have new methods anymore. The priority should be given to young, enthusiastic, motivated, pious and revolutionary forces and to those for whom the main goal is what the main issue of the educational system is - which is building individuals.
You should benefit from these forces. This is one issue. Therefore, in my opinion, the first issue about the macro-management of the educational system is that they should see what forces they are using. They should benefit from religious, revolutionary, enthusiastic and zealous forces who love their job and who are ready to enter difficult arenas for the sake of the goals of the educational system. This is the most important task.
The second issue is the issue of support. All governmental organizations are responsible for supporting the educational system, whether the organizations which are in charge of the budget or the organizations which are formed on the basis of the laws that the Majlis passes. The outlook of all these organizations should be such an outlook. They should not think that the educational system is only a consumer. Sometimes, there is such an outlook. Some people say that the educational system is only a consumer. But this is not the case. The more you spend money on it, the more results you will achieve. The educational system is such a system.
This is an organization which creates the future generators of wealth, knowledge and civilization and the future managers of the country. It is not the case that we think the educational system is a costly organization. There is no achievement which is greater than the one the educational system makes. Whatever achievement and innovation you see throughout the country is rooted in the educational system. You should improve this organization so that everything will be improved. Therefore, spending money on the educational system and expanding the financial resources of this organization is one of the tasks that we hope government officials pay attention to.
Another issue is that - as I mentioned in the middle of my speech - the managers that we choose should be managers whose focus is on the main issue of the educational system. Adopting partisan, political and other such outlooks is poison for the educational system. Over the course of these long years, we have witnessed certain eras during which there was more attention to such issues. As a result of this, the educational system suffered a loss. You should be careful about this. You should adopt such an outlook towards the different issues of the educational system that for each manager in each sector of this large and vast organization, the main issue is the issue of education and building revolutionary forces.
Dear brothers and sisters, the reason why we stress the issue of building revolutionary and religious forces is that we have a long way ahead of us. Our people have a long way ahead of them. The goal that we have in mind for the Islamic Republic - which is based on the general guidelines of the Revolution - is a very lofty goal. When I say "we", I do not mean this humble person. Rather, I mean the people of Iran, officials and the owners of the Revolution. This goal is creating an exemplary society. You want to build a society in dear Iran - which has been located in a very sensitive geographical area in the world - which is a model in the shade of Islam and under the flag of the Holy Quran. This model is both in material areas and in spiritual and moral areas.
Westerners made a leap in material areas. They made a leap in a certain era, but this leap was separated from and opposed to the moral movement. It was a hundred percent materialistic leap. In the beginning, no one understood what had happened, but now they are beginning to understand. They are gradually feeling the irreversible damage of what they did. No one should think that a purely materialistic and secular civilization can help its people achieve happiness. This is not the case. The people in this civilization will face a great disaster.
In the present time, they are witnessing this disaster. This disaster is not because of the demonstrations which are held in European streets. For the west, this disaster is much deeper than this. Primarily, what humanity needs is psychological, moral and conscience-based security. Primarily, what it needs is the satisfaction of its conscience. Such satisfaction does not exist in western environments and it will get even worse.
If you are familiar with western writers, critics and thinkers, you will see that it is several years now that they have been raising their voices. These people are showing some aspects of increasing corruption in their societies. A materialistic lifestyle is like this. Although they have moved forward in the area of science, technological achievements and the like and although they have accomplished great feats in this regard, they have collapsed in the area of morality and they will continue to collapse because of this.
The society that Islam wants to build is a society that is at an advanced level in terms of wealth, knowledge and welfare. But it also wants this society to be at this level or even at a higher level in terms of morality and spirituality. This is an Islamic society. You want to build this society. So, you have a long way ahead of you. But it is possible. No one should say that it is not. Many things were considered to be impossible, but they happened.
When a people show determination, they can accomplish great and historical feats. Our societies have shown that they can be great, that they can blossom and that they can grow and exert influence. Man is an endless and infinite creature. Knowledge has made so much progress, but the main parts of man's brain are still unknown. This is what the scientists who work on this say. This physical aspect of man is unknown, let alone his spiritual, psychological and inner aspect. Man has many capabilities. We can carry out many tasks. An individual can simultaneously achieve great material and spiritual growth.
Well, we want to reach these goals. Reaching these goals requires manpower more than anything else. What is more important than the path is the person who takes this path. If there is not such a person, then even a well-paved road is useless. But if there is a determined person, then lack of a well-paved road will not be problematic. You have seen that mountaineers climb so high while there is no road. But they have feet and determination. So, it is possible to move forward and to reach peaks. It is possible to know and utilize unknown talents. It is possible to solve problems in a constant way.
All of these things require human resources. These human resources should be created in the educational system. Universities are important in this regard. The same is true of society and the IRIB. But none of these is as important as primary school. The teachers and managers of this great organization have such a responsibility. Therefore, we stress that they should be religious and revolutionary.
It is with this religious and revolutionary spirit that we can take this path. Even if there is a hard obstacle ahead of us, we can move forward. Even if there are certain hurdles, we can jump over them provided that this revolutionary spirit, this piety and this commitment to religious and revolutionary steadfastness exist. This is one point.
Another issue is the issue of textbooks. We should be very careful about textbooks. They should be well-developed. If they are poor in content, this is harmful. Not only is it not beneficial, but it is also harmful. If they contain deviant statements - whether political, religious or factual deviation - this is harmful. Those who are responsible for this should carry out their responsibility with complete trustworthiness and precision.
Another issue is the issue of the teachers' training university. On my way to this meeting, I spoke with the honorable minister about this issue. This university is different from ordinary universities. As well as the advantages that other universities have, this university has the advantage of producing teachers. This has certain requirements. Great significance should be attached to this university.
Another issue is the issue of moral education and the deputy of moral education. This issue was neglected. This deputy was closed at one point. Later on, they opened and closed it again and again. The deputy of moral education is an organization in charge of attending to the issue of moral education - spiritual, revolutionary, behavioral and moral aspects of education. This deputy is important both at a ministerial level and at lower levels.
I hope that Allah the Exalted bestows His blessings and mercy on all of you. I hope that, God willing, the immaculate soul of our dear Imam (r.a.) - who opened this path for us - is pleased with you. I hope that the pure souls of our dear martyrs - particularly those martyrs who were teachers and students - benefit from divine blessings.
Greetings be upon you and Allah's mercy and blessings