Hello friends –
The religious naturalist orientation is based on the adoption of “Everybody’s Story” – from Big Bang to galaxies to Earth to life to human life/culture – as one’s core narrative, supplemented with other narratives as desired.
This central feature of our orientation carries a premise: that Everybody’s Story is a well-known account, familiar to all, and hence available to any and all seekers. We know, of course, that this is deliberately not the case for the Christian home-schooled and, more generally, for those wishing to deny this account for doctrinal reasons. But what about everyone else?
Several years ago, I served on a panel that evaluated the K-12 “Science Standards” in all 50 U.S. states, documents that specify the subjects that are to be taught, and tested, in each grade. All fifty, even those that were otherwise excellent in the depth and rigor of their science coverage, lacked any “units,” at any grade, devoted to considering an integrated account of cosmic/planetary/life history. Nor did I find questions along these axes in Advanced-Placement tests. Possibly individual teachers/schools were or are so engaged, but it’s my understanding that most stick closely to the Standards.
I’ve also conducted mini-experiments – you might want to try them as well – wherein I’ve posed general questions – How old is the universe? Where do atoms like carbon and oxygen come from? – to groups of people at social events, and have been dismayed by the level of not-knowingness, from folks of all ages.
Religious traditions have known for millennia that their orientations are best communicated at a young age. “Early and often” is the time-honored premise.
Hence I call your attention to two outstanding on-line sites that are devoted to ameliorating this state of affairs. The first, Deep Time Journey Network, the creation of Jennifer Morgan who has also written wonderful children’s books, has just been re-vamped and has many wonderful resources, with a particular focus on reaching young children.
The second, The Big History Project, inspired by David Christian and funded by Bill Gates, is also elegant and includes content for specific mini-courses, typically at middle-school level.
I suggest that, if nothing else, you bookmark these URLs so they’re handy to send to others, particularly those that express curiosity about your RN affiliation (along with, of course, the Religious Naturalist Association website).
And should you find yourself called to engage in a more active response, you might seek to learn what’s being presented along these lines in your local school system or in the schools attended by, say, grandchildren or nieces/nephews. If it all looks good, I would love to hear about it (firstname.lastname@example.org). If it doesn’t, you might want to make some waves!
With love to you all –
Ursula GoodenoughPresident, Religious Naturalist Association