Tuesday, June 01, 2004

A Curriculum Experiment 

by Dave
I here report the results of an experiment performed Sunday in a soft, comfy chair in the pleasantly air-conditioned foyer of a chapel in the great state of Southern California. The materials used were a copy of the current Heber J. Grant lesson manual and a ball point pen (blue ink, fine point Papermate Flexi-grip model).

Methods. I reviewed the 24 lessons printed in the lesson manual's table of contents and classified each under one of the following three categories: Organizational Maintenance, Self-Improvement, and Gospel of Jesus Christ. Close calls were resolved by consulting my inner voice and making my best guess after flipping through the pages of that lesson. I was investigating the hypothesis that the majority of lessons in the lesson manual preach the gospel of health, wealth, and education rather than the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Results. About 42% (10 of 24) of the lessons were directed at Organizational Maintenance (e.g., member recruitment through missionary work, obeying organizational leaders, improving the public image of the Church by being loyal and patriotic citizens, supporting temple and geneaological work). Exactly 25% (6 of 24) of the lessons concerned Self-Improvement (e.g., persistence, being a good example, attaining financial security, maintaining good health by observing Mormon dietary laws). About 33% (8 of 24) concerned the Gospel of Jesus Christ as one might hear it preached by missionaries (e.g., the straight and narrow path, priesthood, forgiving others, prayer, Jesus Christ). The example topics given with each category are adapted from the titles of lessons in the sample assigned to that category. I believe the results are robust and will be observed in other curriculum materials.

Discussion. The results confirm my a priori expectations based on earlier, informal inquiries along the same lines in earlier editions of similar lesson manuals. The rule of thumb is one-third for each category. I suspect Sacrament Meeting talks follow a similar distribution, although with youth speakers added in it probably pushes the percentage more in favor of true gospel topics. On the other hand, if high council speakers are included the other two categories would almost certainly get a boost.

Conclusions. Early to bed, early to rise, makes a person healthy, wealthy, wise, and a good Mormon. Punctuality is optional but cleanliness is highly encouraged.
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