A couple of months ago, our Director of Religious Education joined one of the members of our congregation in a training program about sexuality education. A great step - the more people and congregations able to lead such courses, the better!
Then I learned that, even with such training, it ain't so easy.
"We're looking into teaming up with other congregations in the area," one mom told me, "so we can get a critical mass with a balance of boys and girls, and a good team of teachers."
Well, you can do that here in Boston. There are, after all, four UU churches in downtown Boston, and even more within a short subway or car ride. But what about those relatively small and isolated groups, without so many resources or willing volunteers?
We seem to have locked our own congregations into a Catch-22. We love to promote the heck out of the Our Whole Lives curriculum - and well we should - but then we set up all of these hurdles to actually teaching it. Maybe the folks at UUA headquarters should try to go through those hurdles themselves, as though they were staff or lay volunteers in the average UU congregation.
Imagine that you're a leader of a small to mid-sized UU congregation in the middle of the country. You have a vibrant Religious Education program for children and teens, and you want to hold Our Whole Lives modules for them. So now, according to the UUA's recommendations, you need to...
... find one or more programs within driving distance of your church or fellowship.
... locate both a man and a woman who are not only willing to teach the course, but who have the time to drive out to each training session and back, and for each and every module.
... have parent orientation programs "that affirm parents as the primary sexuality educators of their children" for each and every module - so now another set of meetings.
Get the idea?
Voltaire warned of making the perfect the enemy of the good. Yet I fear that, with all that a congregation needs to do just to get started, we've fallen into that trap. And with the lack of meaningful sex education in so many parts of the country, our young people can't afford to wait for perfection.
Here's one suggestion with regard to training new instructors. Why don't we use various media technology, such as DVD's and online seminars, to provide greater access to OWL's training programs? People don't have to wait for a workshop to come to their area; they can use their computers and phones to bring the workshop to them. And not only would this make the trainings more accessible, but with less driving they would also be greener!
Last but not least, we need to remember that there is more to education than just a lesson plan or written text. There is also the passion and enthusiasm of the teacher, the encouragement of parents, and the desire of students to learn. When these things are properly nurtured, then it doesn't matter if the curriculum is perfect; the very drive to teach and to learn will fill in the gaps.