Today’s guest poster is Molly.

Back when I was in elementary school, the teachers of Utah went on strike. Now, I was only about 10 so my memories may be skewed, but I remember being told there were non-teacher substitutes (“scabs,” if you will), who were willing to come teach a few days. When they were told there would be no lesson plans, they were confused, upset. “We can’t do that!” they cried in frustration. See, they were used to the heavily correlated lessons of the church, in which every question, scripture, and “attention activity” were scripted.

And so it has long been in the church. As a current Primary teacher, it almost doesn’t matter how prepared I am. As long as I’m familiar with the scriptures, I can just go along with the manual and teach the lesson just fine. Usually I spend time preparing, but when I forget it’s my turn to teach until that morning, it’s happened. Judge me if you dare.

There’s been a lot of buzz about the new lesson manuals for the Young Men and Women. There are some really good things about them. Although I haven’t done a super in-depth study of the new lessons, here are some things that look great about them.

  1. They are roughly equivalent between the two sexes. Although there are a few differences, notably around priesthood things, Duty to God, and Personal Progress, the differences are more that one gender gets additional material rather than one gender talks about modesty and the other gender talks about the Restoration. To be honest, despite being a lifelong BIC member, there are plenty of priesthood things I have to ask my husband about, because the Young Men learn about them, and we did not. This is crap. The new manuals fix a lot of this. Now all we have to do is make the paperwork equal (+1 YW), the funding equal (+1 YM), and the activities equally awesome (+1 YM. Archery, anyone?).
  2. I don’t know about the Young Men’s, but the current Young Women’s manuals have a whole bunch of fake stories about Susan, Sherry, and Carol who go through a lot of mental angst about whether or not to go to the mall on Sunday. First Susan, Sherry, and Carol are the names of the current YW leaders, not the girls. Second, the stories are supposed to show important gospel principles, but just end up sounding trite and tiresome. Make a choice, Carol, and move on!
  3. The new manuals include videos embedded within the lesson. I know this is all first-worldy, but it’s about time the church’s official manuals used new media! Also, the new manuals suggest activities that aren’t teacher-centered, like having the students pair up and explore scriptures with slightly fewer “guess what I’m thinking” questions.
  4. There is a ton of information in the manuals, without so much script for the teacher. This will allow teachers to choose the best parts of the lessons, the parts they feel their girls/boys need most, or that are more interesting. It leaves more room for the spirit to encourage leaders to teach what the kids need and is not so painfully one size fits all.

Although there are great things about the manuals, I’m a little worried that the last great point – the lack of script – will allow some bad things too. Well, one bad thing, really.

I’m worried that the less specific and guided nature of the lessons will encourage even more of the extra-curricular “helps” for teachers. The kind that suggest lesson-enhancing activities like the infamous “licked cupcake” object lesson. You know the one, ladies, the one where the leader gives the girls a cupcake/stick of gum and have the girls lick off the frosting/chew the gum, then compare that to their chastity? That one? The one that tells girls that once they have sex THERE IS NO GOING BACK, THEY ARE RUINED FOREVER? Forget that pesky atonement! You’re a licked cupcake!

Although these possibly scarring object lessons are around now, I worry that with a little less guidance in the manuals, the YW leaders may look for guidance elsewhere. (I’m less worried about the YM. Call me prejudiced, but I have the idea that the YM teachers are less likely to be uber prepared.) There are plenty of great things “elsewhere,” like on the Internet, but there’s also a lot of stuff that can encourage kids to be judgmental, blind to the needs and challenges of those not like them, or self-condemning.  The new YM/YW curriculum seems really good, but non-approved supplements are very uneven.

So, what are your thoughts?

  • What will you miss from the old manuals?
  • What do you like about the new curriculum?
  • Do you have any concerns about the new curriculum?