My Journey in Life: Timely Guidance for Today's Teens
by Robert Beebe
International Educational Foundation
Wednesday November 6, 2002
"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
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
. 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
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
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 the International Educational Foundation
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
. For more information
or assistance, you may contact Robert Beebe at
Comments by educators and students about My Journey in Life
"My Journey In Life is a unique event in the field of teaching
theory and school practice. The textbook absolutely deserves the
highest commendation. This publication of the International Educational
Foundation is an altruistic effort directed at supporting humanitarianism
by promoting universal values among youth."
Olga R. Archegova, Robert M. Ganiev
Assistant Professors of Education, Vladikavkaz State
"This book is extremely important. In its reflections about the value
of family and its role in the life of a person and in society, this
edition is unique. The authors conduct a conversation with the student,
engaging him on various themes in a way that encourages the student to
think. By offering guidance in family relationships through the skillful
use of author-student dialogue, My Journey in Life teaches us the ABCs
of family life."
A.I. Antonov, Ph.D.
Chairman of the Department of Family Health & Social Policy
Moscow State University
"I have become more tolerant. There are fewer conflicts in my family."
"It reconciled me with my father."
"I could see that I can change. I thought I was hopeless and deprived
of any capability."
Students from St. Petersburg
"...the ability to determine your place in life, in society; the
ability to choose values necessary to reach your goals, to learn to
handle your emotions, to overcome temptations, and, most important,
to achieve peace and harmony in your heart. This course helped me to
deal with these questions more than any other."
A 10th grade student, Moscow
"The most valuable idea, which permeates the whole book, is the idea
of chastity. It is a message that our young people, bombarded as they
are from all sides by the media and society that chastity is no longer
a value, need to hear now more than ever."
A group of parents from St. Petersburg