New Adult Curriculum?

Okay, so, I’ve enjoyed the improvement in the YW program. A lot. It’s been great. No question that the average YW class is miles beyond where it was two years ago.

But, there are a few things about the way we talk about it that irk me. A lot. And as I see this new program “roll out” for the adults, I have many concerns.

I’m going to be criticizing the article specifically.

The youth curriculum eradicated lecture-style teaching

Eradicated? Whoa. I don’t know that it is eradicated. And should it be? The older lesson manuals weren’t bad because there were times of lecturing, but because we were presuming that the manuals were scripture. Put a suggested lesson in place of scripture and then lecture that, and you’ve got a problem.

I still lecture. Sometimes. Sometimes not. But we’re so quick to decide that was the problem — not the fact that we need to learn better how to listen to the Spirit.

“The principles are so representative of the way the Savior teaches,” said Brother Tad R. Callister

Ouch – really. Why do we need to look at the stories of Christ and try to imitate what we think He looked like when He taught, instead of going to the Doctrine and Covenants, which actually do tell us how God wants us to teach?

D&C 42? D&C 46? D&C 50 and 52? All of these describe teaching “in the Lord’s way” and none of them talk about whether to lecture or lead discussions. That, my friends, ought to be the “how” that the Spirit directs while you prepare, or in the moment.

So I think this curriculum has made an improvement, but not because of lecture vs. not lecture. I think its improvements come from:

1) Our material is no longer a suggested lesson development, but words of scripture, leaders, & prophets. Those were options before but too many treated manuals as words of scripture, leaders, & prophets. The loyalty shown to the manuals is now being placed in the right places. 🙂 And I think the Spirit is much more likely to come when we start with the scriptures and prophets as our main texts than with object lessons, poems, etc. (or so D&C 42:12 seemed to say way back then!).

2) Too many didn’t know how to lead discussions, so telling them to “not lecture!” has been a great move because it has opened them up to another way of teaching. Besides, lecturing when you aren’t really preparing by the Spirit can be death! Discussions and questions are much more likely to bring the Spirit, because we come to those moments open and ready to learn. I this new development has definitely opened teachers and students to the Spirit. The Spirit can still be a part of lectures, though. I think it is the attitude not the method that has made this way of teaching effective. (See D&C 42:13, too.)

3) Student involvement. I do think this aspect of the new curriculum can’t be overrated. It’s been a great idea to put some responsibility on the youth, and to help them know where to find answers to their questions. Fantastic.

So I want to reemphasize that I do think this has been a great move. But not because manuals, lectures, etc. are in themselves bad. And I don’t think that we’ve magically all of a sudden found out the way that Christ taught so we can imitate it. I still am bothered that we don’t go to the D&C to see how to teach. All those are problems, I think. But all the same, there’s improvement, so I’m not bothered by the program itself. Also, it has certainly opened up a place where those who want to teach by the Spirit can without anyone telling them they should be following a manual’s suggested lesson outline instead. 🙂

Just another point or two from the article:

“Youth curriculum was the first step,” Elder Pieper said. “What we have to do is take youth curriculum to adult curriculum. We have to get all of this connected to teaching and learning in the home so that what happens on Sunday supports what happens during the week, and really this is a man raised up by the Lord” to guide that.

Okay, whoa. First of all, perhaps he was “raised up” for this, but I think we’re getting way too excited about curriculum. It was already going on, and now we’re pushing it on to the next step, as he says. Why did someone need to be raised up specifically for that? Especially when it was already going on? I get the idea that we are excited about the Church and any new program, but this seems a little too much. And I’m afraid that whenever we get over-excited and over-blow things, then opponents of the Church have something to criticize all-too fairly. Anyway, I just think we ought to be much more careful.

Church leaders hope the new programs for church classroom settings improve teaching in members’ homes, both when families gather for weekly home evenings, a church program for gospel teaching and family time, and for spontaneous teaching moments and discussions.

Well, I hope it does too. What I hope doesn’t happen is that we think that the monthly themes have to be what we teach in the home, and also (more especially) if we teach that, then we know we’re teaching by the Spirit and all will be well! I am afraid that all the over-exuberance about this “new” and exciting way of teaching is making us as a people all the more reliant on the Church instead of really making us more independent. It’s great when we talk about Church things at home. That should have been going on already, right? If a new curriculum is going to make it happen, then what was wrong with us before? I don’t know what I’m really getting at just yet, but I think there’s something to wonder about in this move.

They also believe that improved learning and teaching and participation will make members better missionaries.

Very, very true, I think. I think this is an awesome point.

Brother Callister is the popular LDS author of “The Infinite Atonement.” First published 14 years ago, both that title and an illustrated version are on Deseret Book’s best-seller list.

Brother Tad Richards Callister earned an accounting degree at BYU in 1968, a law degree at UCLA in 1971 and a master’s degree in tax law at New York University in 1972. He worked as a tax attorney in a family firm in Southern California until he served as president of the Canada Toronto East Mission from 2005 to 2008.

His family tree includes…

I like how they mention his book, in a way that almost sounds like it’s explaining why he’s good pick for a curriculum changer – he’s written a book popular with LDS readers. But then we hear his schooling, which doesn’t have anything to do with writing or religion. 🙂 I just think it’s funny – why mention it? 🙂 And then we have to include his “important family tree.” 🙂 Doesn’t this communicate that we can’t really be leaders without a proper family tree? 🙂 I assume really they just think people are interested in personal details of someone’s life, and they’re right, people are. 🙂 The way it was ordered just struck me as odd and made me smile.

So anyway, there are my rambling thoughts on the new move, as presented in this article.

I have other thoughts on changing Sunday School from a week-by-week working through of Scripture, to a theme-based discussion. Those are in the next post.

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