Sunday, May 2, 2010

Providing religious education

Kate Tweedie Erslev suggests in Chapter 7 of her book, Full Circle: Fifteen Ways To Grow Lifelong UUs, that parent handouts go home after every Sunday School session so that parents can discuss what was learned in Sunday School with their children.

Why is that a good idea?

Not because in our patronizing and condenscending way we think that this is good for the children, but rather because this is good for the adults.

You learn what you teach.

Parents get the lesson too.

Good Sunday School teachers are not educating children as much as they are educating adults.

This insight often gets lost in religious ed programs.

In today's Unitarian Universalism, parents are often lost. They don't know enough about the faith themselves to be able to discuss it knowingly with their children. As Erselv points out when asked about the topic parents often respond, "We don't know what to say!" The religious educator's role then is to teach parents "what to say". The religious educator's role is to help parents teach their children, not do it for them.

Parents are undermined enough and sabatoged continually by our modern society by all kinds of professionals who make a living by taking over the care of their children whether they be teachers, coaches, dancing instructors, counselors of all sorts, child protection workers, and do-gooders of all types. Parents willingly turn their children over to these "professional experts" who train their children "the right way" and parents become marginalized in the process.

As Unitarian Universalists we believe in the right of conscience and the use of the democratic process and this is nowhere more important than in the family. The parents right and responsibility to oversee and monitor the education of their children is one of their most sacred duties and yet so many fail because of their feelings of inadequacy and defectiveness when confronted by so many authoritative discourses represented by their experts who continually imply to parents that they know best. The church of all institutions should not be complicit in this subjugation and oppression of parents.

Empowerment of parents requires that religious educators provide parents with the knowledge, the skills, and the opportunities to engage in the religious education of their children. This is a huge challenge if it is done in the right way.

Are we Unitarian Universalists up to the challenge?

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