Monday, April 21, 2008

Religious instruction and curriculum

I don't recall what I was looking for yesterday but I came across a 41 page Roman Catholic outline for religious instruction of children produced by the Religious Education Office of the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City. There's no information on the document about who uses it--the schools, the parents, or the churches. Also no information if this is a document in general use or if that archdiocese created it. It's simply an outline, but it is amazing in its depth. If anyone, child or adult, systematically used this guide, she would have a seminary education (although I don't actually know what's offered in seminary) without all the psychology and sociology extras.

The general outline for 5th grade is, I. Creed--students will demonstrate understanding of the core of Catholic beliefs; II. Sacraments--students will learn the importance of sacraments in their life (Lutherans only have 2, so we're unfamiliar with some of these like penance and holy orders); III. Christian living (discipleship, human dignity, human interaction/sexuality). See pages 18-19.

I couldn't help but compare that to a curriculum our church uses from Group Publishing, called Hands On Bible. I don't teach Sunday School so I don't know what additional material the teachers receive from the education department to use with the material given to the children. Yesterday's handout sheet "Dealing with Family Crises, Week 8" for take home for Grades 5 & 6 included "Discussion Starters" and "Family Building projects" for kids only, for parents only, and for the family to use together. There is one snippet of a Bible verse on the page, a very short 3 paragraph story, and some genderless cartoon people who have huge saucer shaped heads, bodies and hair, but the rest is obscure. The story, as told by a 15 year old, was about an alcoholic father, a marriage that was a mess, and the dad becoming a Christian after the mother dragged him to church.
    "But after my dad became a Christian, he stopped drinking. He stopped yelling and started smiling! He has a bunch of friends in our church now. He hasn't had a drink in over 5 years! My parents still have their problems, but they are really working together to make our family better. My dad is a different person, and I know it is because God is real and has healed him. As a result, I have become a Christian, too, and I am so thankful that God has brought the same happiness in me that he has given my parents."
I have no idea what the teachers had to work with or if the class discussion dealt with family crises. But I can see a few holes in the story, things that might raise more problems than it solves. I hope they didn't have to deal with 20 eleven year olds sharing about their family problems. I don't know if the students received any Bible stories in class for content. I'll ask. You can't judge a whole program on one handout--even one that is as disappointing as this one.

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