Can’t We Move Beyond Sophia Lyon Fahs? or Is It Time To Bury Sunday School pt. 3

The divine Ms. M wrote in her comment to the first post in this thread:

I wish that there was more conversation about the place of Sunday School in contemporary UU culture – and remain sad (and a bit exasperated) that Fahs is still on the MFC reading list as the primary “UU” philosophy of education.

As I am never one who tries to limit discussion, I thought I would post this to continue the conversation.

For those of you who don’t know, the Fahs that Ms. M is talking about is Sophia Lyon Fahs, that saint of UU religious education who wrote a book that some of you might have heard of: Today’s Children and Yesterday’s Heritage. What you might not know is when the book was first published. 1952. That’s right friends, 1952.

Now, we’ve learned a lot about how people learn since 1952 and yet what is the book that is required by the MFC on the subject of religious education? Today’s Children and Yesterday’s Heritage.

Doesn’t this mean that religious education-wise as a movement we are stuck in 1952? Why haven’t we moved into the 21st century yet? How much are we losing because of where we are?

4 thoughts on “Can’t We Move Beyond Sophia Lyon Fahs? or Is It Time To Bury Sunday School pt. 3

  1. Yes, the Fahs material is old. Yes the list probably needs revised. But the MFC Reading List does contain more than just Fahs on the topic of RE:

    Lifespan Faith Development

    Read At Least One UUA-Published Religious Education Curriculum for Each Age Level and Identify by Title:
    __ Grades 5 and under: __________________________________
    __ Grades 6-12: _______________________________________
    __ Adult: _____________________________________________

    Read All:
    __ UUA, Essex Conversations: Visions for Lifespan Religious Education (2001)

    __ Sophia Fahs, Today’s Children and Yesterday’s Heritage (PDF): A Philosophy for Creative Religious Development (1961)

    __ UUA, Our Whole Lives (Choose Curricula from at Least Two Age Levels) (1999-2000) (11 choices available)

    Choose One:
    __ Roberta M. Nelson, Claiming the Past, Shaping the Future: Four Eras in Liberal Religious Education 1790-1999 (2006)

    __ Wayne Arnason & Rebecca Scott, We Would Be One (2007)

  2. Thanks for the Divine mention! 😉

    I think we lose a LOT. Institutionally there is a profound ambivalence about teaching and learning in UUism, despite what many would claim as our theological imperative to be as “well-educated” as we say we are…

    Here’s an interesting file that notes some of the ways that not paying attention to what we teach and why means UU’s lose so many: Rev. McKnight suggests ” raised UUs struggle with the significant difference between their religious education experience and the adult church.”

    A s for Fahs, lots of the things she raises as concerns in the middle of the last century are the same things that are concerns nowadays…untrained people leading pointless sessiont hat have little to do with the real questions of the learners…

    but she was also concerned about the impact of the radio, and we’ve got a whole other WORLD of technology to contend with…

    Reading curriculum without a theology or religious philosophy of education rooted in the 2010 knowledge Kim refers to seems…well, sorta sad. And maybe even irresponsible.

    Finally, I think there is an interesting bit to study in terms of geography and the success of “sunday school” programs. There seems to be some evidence that there are bigger and better “RE” programs for kids in places that have a more theologically conservative community around them. I’ve also worked with more than a few congregations that talk about their “commitment to teaching world religions” or “OWL” or “conflict resolution” without an awareness of the excellent programs in the local public school covering the same topics from a secular perspective. Kids are bored in Sunday School for a lot of reasons, including that they already studied such and such a topic for twelve weeks with a trained teacher and classmates who were with them every session and homework and field trips and and and…

    Thanks for keeping the conversation going…

  3. Pingback: Burying Sunday School: a sleep-deprived RE Chair goes ape sh*t « uuMomma

  4. I’m with you. I bet the MFC would get something from going over to take a look at the reading list for religious educators in the credentialing process.

    Fahs is great, but Fahs as you point out is in the 50s, and that isn’t nor should it be “it.” There has been a tremendous amount of work since that time in the world of religious education.

    One of the challenges of being a religious educator, for me, has been that most ministers have very little training in religious education let alone in education as a whole. Yet often ministers, when congregations don’t understand the value of a lifespan faith development professional, end up having primary responsibilities for adult religious education. I don’t think that is fair to ministers, congregations, or for that matter, professionals who have chosen religious education as their vocation. More is necessary, and you are so spot on when you point out that the MFC reading list is a part of it.

    By the way, I saw in another post your discussion of multicultural education. While there is still TONS more work to be done, I see a lot of the work that is happening taking place in circles of religious educators, and very little happening outside those circles. Ministers would benefit from taking a look at what the religious educators are up to in this area.

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