The Role of Individual in the Development Process, Part 5

Exploring the framework for a “Balanced Development” model


Ramses Rashidi

©2008 Center for Balanced Development (


In the last few articles we talked about the implications of the various roles we play in a social setting. Here, we’re going to take a further look at the different roles that individuals play in society and its impact on the development process.


The Teacher

The teacher plays the role of the catalyst in the evolution of human civilization. The most natural manifestation of this role is when parents teach their children the basic skills of life including eating, walking, talking, virtues and just about everything that we learn in those early years. Here, usually the mother has the greatest influence in building the child’s character. However, the role of the mother, as the greatest teacher of humanity, is yet to be recognized in most cultures. Upon entering school, we get to know the commonly acknowledged “teacher”. This is the person that helps us to understand the sciences and the arts. In some cases the teacher realizes and practices the role of mentor and guide as well. In many cultures, the teacher plays a deeper role in society and is highly respected and even considered equal to one’s parents and as part of the family. In the Chinese culture, to call someone a “teacher” is not only a sign of great respect but also reflective of the high social status.


The traditional picture of teacher, however, has been one of authority. Knowledge would flow down to the students as the teacher struggles to engrave ideas upon the blank slate of the unlearned mind. The concept that each human being is inherently gifted, and the teacher’s plays the role of a facilitator that brings out the innate or latent gems, is yet to be further explored and implemented. Reflecting upon the teacher, we all know the building called the “school” where we spent a good portion of our childhood and youth memorizing formulas, historical facts and geography, as well as improving our basic skills in reading, writing, artwork and scientific applications. Some of us may even remember the teachers who taught us. We appreciate those teachers who were kind and understanding. We have profound memories of the teacher who encouraged and empowered us to find our place in society and achieve some measure of success. We might also remember the teacher who was cruel, uncaring or unforgiving. The memories of those long minutes before the bell rings are still very much alive.


The role of the teacher has changed as our social values and priorities have changed. Today, the teacher is under tremendous pressure to perform and do the things that the students, parents and society have failed to accomplish. In our highly specialized world, we have placed all our hopes and expectations on the teacher. We think that the teacher can somehow magically fix the scars of our conflict-ridden society on our young ones while fostering virtues, positive values and social responsibility. We see that the whole education machinery is focused on a process where the teachers are required to follow a limited and rigid curriculum which does not allow for the students to find their place in today’s chaotic society. The high school graduate often has no clue as to what he/she wants to study or do in life. At the same time, we seem to be unable to make changes or adjustments to the education system that would address a student’s uniqueness, social relations and spiritual awareness.


Among the difficulties that the teacher faces today are high credentials and relatively low pay. The teacher must be highly skilled to perform the variety of tasks that would properly train the students and set the tone for the development of our human resources. However, we are not willing to pay our teachers accordingly to compensate them for the ongoing efforts and the many long and difficult hours that the teacher must spend in order to perform his/her duties properly. Therefore, we have alienated the teacher from our system. There are any number of jobs that are much easier and pay better. As a community, we are often reluctant to put in a few hours to give the teacher a hand and to build bridges with our young ones. After all, we are so involved in what we are doing ourselves, that like the teacher, we don’t have much time to do anything beyond our own long hours at work and the commute back and forth.


So the teacher is caught in a situation where he/she must do two things in order to be able to produce results in terms of fostering students’ potentials. On one hand he/she must address the effects of conflicts, violence, gangs, drugs, sex which is rampant on TV, Internet, and other varieties of mass media, and in the social setting. On the other hand the teacher must develop a culture of empowerment, harmony, peace and a healthy attitude to enable students to realize their potentials, develop their talents, and build upon these in a systematic way. This difficult task can only be achieved if we are willing to invest in our teachers and in the education system while inviting the community to get involved in the process. This calls for an appeal to all members of society including parents to put the education of the next generation as one of their priorities where each citizen is asked to spend at least a couple of hours a week to meet with students of all ages and to share their thoughts, feelings and skills with them. This initiative will give children access and exposure to a variety of real and up-to-date resources in the community that they might ultimately choose to pursue at an early age rather than later in life.


The Spiritual Teacher

Here, let’s talk about the pivotal role of the spiritual teacher whose writings and teachings shape the development of civilizations and guide individuals towards fulfillment of purpose and harmonious relations. Throughout history the spiritual teachers have shown the path to enlightenment and happiness. They have encouraged us to be virtuous and serve each other unconditionally. Indeed, these spiritual teachers have helped humanity reach new heights of material and spiritual progress. However, it’s also unfortunate that there are those that have misinterpreted the writings of the spiritual teachers and have led segments of humanity to tremendous hardship, suffering and loss of life throughout history. Nevertheless, this does not dim the importance and contribution of the spiritual teachers who are truly the source of knowledge and manifestations of the realm of perfection.


Finding the Balance

The teacher plays an important role in finding the balance in our personal lives, social structure, physical environment and material endeavors. For this role to be effective, we need to show humility and respect towards the teacher while approaching the process of learning with an open and searching mind. In terms of understanding the spiritual realities of life and the source of knowledge we must get into the habit of independently investigating the truth and facts that are presented to us. Once we accept a given truth, we must then put it into practice in all aspects of our lives. This approach will not only help us with our own day-to-day lives, professions and relations, but also it will gradually lead us to find the balance in the overall picture of our existence as members of the human species. 


In the next article, we will continue to examine the role of individuals in the development process. 



Ramses Rashidi ( is the founder and director of Center for Balanced Development.

The center is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing resources and services to foster global balance in social, personal, ecological and economic development.