Russian State Social University
World Congress of Families
Restoring the values that promote the birthrate
Christine de Marcellus Vollmer
It is an exciting honor to be invited to contribute to this important meeting; a meeting reflecting the anxiety of the leaders in Russia regarding the abysmal birthrate threatening the future of civilization. I wish to congratulate all the organizers, especially Alexey Komov, Chairman of the Organizing Committee in Russia and Larry Jacobs and Allan Carlson of World Congress of Families, and everyone else involved, for having organized this important Summit. I am convinced that this meeting will mark an historic point of inflexion in the thinking by leaders everywhere about what could be called this emergency, the catastrophic decline in marriage and the birthrate all over the world, and most particularly in our own beloved countries.
The experts that have been brought together here are the best in the world to describe the problem, its causes and its terrible effects for the immediate and long-term future. I will leave this to them and have the pleasure of speaking to you today in a more optimistic approach, which is the solution to this terrible problem we see attacking our families, our economies and the very lives of our older generations.
Several generations of materialism and attacks on the family and on the religions which uphold the family as God’s system for replenishing His earth with men and women created in His Image, have brought us to this situation whereby our economies no longer can easily allow mothers to educate their young, and where the pervading ideologies consider the work of mothers to be an occupation inferior to the work in factories and offices. Marriage has been devalued and single motherhood has become accepted as mainstream.
Statistics from many sources tell us that the result is not only the declining birthrate, but increasing poverty and social problems. Crime, drug addiction, youth gangs, overflowing prisons and so on are reported everywhere. We seem to be entering a downward spiral of loss of family, loss of values and loss of direction. The economists were the first to alert the world as to the looming economic catastrophe when social security and pensions everywhere will be unable to care for the aged, while schools will be closing for lack of children.
Many programs have been initiated to counter many of these ills, and some have had great success on a local level. But we must go to the root of the ill.
The root problem is that family and children are no longer considered the first priority of any government.
In fact, it now takes a certain heroism to have a family and children.
This is the fact we must face… and address.
We must also admit that, as things stand, strong interests, as well as the voting public, will tend increasingly to favor entitlements over family and children. This is a normal result of our systems and mentality. We need to break this cycle by changing the mentality.
And love of family cannot be imposed, neither is it easy to motivate a childless generation to begin to bear children. They must be inspired to do so.
Having pointed out these negative truths, I will now point to some positive truths which can and must be our key to reversing the mortal trends we are living. I would like to share with you today some of the amazing things we now have discovered as we teach values and virtues to some of the poorest and most difficult populations. Our experience teaching….. you might say ‘from scratch’…..the values and virtues that constitute strong families and strong societies has been most uplifting and has given us real hope for the future.
The first of these positive truths is that children and young people have an extraordinary capacity to recognize and sacrifice for high ideals. In our experience, even the most hardened young criminals have a clear idea that generosity is good and meanness is bad; that treachery is bad and loyalty noble; none of them likes to be lied to or disillusioned. As one of them has said: “we all have values, but we don’t know how to live them”.
Another truth is that small children naturally love babies. This intuition is taken from them gradually by our materialist society.
Our method of restoring the logic of virtue and family values in children and young people, even those who have not the benefit of two-parent families, nor adequate schooling, is centered around a curriculum called Alive to the World. This curriculum has been carefully crafted to take into consideration not only the existential needs of each age from 6 to 18, but also the neurological development of boys and girls, in order to address their developing interests and their growing capacity to understand and integrate the logic of virtue.
Our forebears understood this logic because of the hard realities of survival in rural lives and the difficulties of making a living in the early towns and villages. Our ancestors also lived in extended families where stories of heroism were told, proverbs learnt and family and neighborly solidarity was the stuff of life.
Today’s children, even today’s parents have had very little of these. We must find ways to transmit the truth and logic of values to them in today’s circumstances.
And so, our curriculum, Alive to the World, is built upon a story; a story which reflects the interests and longings of the developing child and adolescent. These are universal interests and longings which every anthropologist can recognize: to be accepted, to understand themselves and others, to know what they want in life, how to take decisions and how to find reliable love.
As the story develops in its 12 levels, each with 35 chapters or lessons, over the 12 years of school, these interests and longings are experienced by Charles and Alice and their friends and companions of school and neighborhood. Different attitudes and aptitudes, experiences and adventures of many varieties shed light upon the values and virtues which produce happy outcomes and how different personalities can react with integrity, preserving their sacred individuality.
The pedagogical objectives of each lesson or chapter address the 3 levels of the human person: the spiritual, the level of the intelligence and the will; the psychological level of the emotions, and the physical, the level of action.
Children and young people absolutely love this program and all seem to identify with one or another of the characters in the story. We have found this curriculum, and the teacher training courses which come with it, to be liberating for young people in the most varied countries and socio-economic levels. Schools are telling us that it reduces school violence and bullying within months of starting the program.
As students begin to understand themselves and to identify with the noble values illustrated in a manner so understandable, they become strong in their conviction that life is for living in a positive way: to do good for others, to create permanent bonds, to form solid families and love their children. Girls begin to see the positive side of womanhood and motherhood and to eschew the role of sex-object. Boys become enthusiastic about being good husbands and fathers, as well as working for social justice.
The titles to the books indicate the progression of ideas:
Getting to Know Myself;Happy and Healthy ; A Great Team;Is it Mine?; Caring and Sharing ;Talents and Tastes;Different and Complimentary; Friends! ; Changes and Challenges ; PersonalityPlus ; Worth Waiting For ; Feelings and Ambitions ; The Future Begins Now ; Major Decisions.
This is the future we must build: a future of new young people full of love of life and hope, prepared to contribute their work, and their love. For this, they must be given the tools to understand themselves, each other and the God given power they will have to provide for their loved ones and change the world, if only they are armed with the sword of the spirit and the strength of virtue.
May this remarkable meeting of experts give Russia and the world not only an alert, but positive actions to start a new way of fostering happy, fertile marriages, family values and the virtues which make those livable in the real world.
Alliance for the Family offers Russia and all who are interested, this curriculum and the research behind it for translation or adaptation. I invite you all to visit our page www.alafa.org
May the Lord bless Russia and all Russia’s families, and bring love and hope into every school and every home in this great country, Amen!