The Words of the Rapkins Family
Mrs. Linna Rapkins leading a discussion group with blessed children
Question: An elder sister once expressed to me that she considered elementary schools relatively safe for our children, but that church-related schools become more important because of peer-group influence at the junior high and high school level. Yet, I know that many parents whose children are just starting school fear the effect public schools will have on their children. What is your feeling on this point?
Based on the experience of the older blessed couples, the public elementary schools weren't that bad. There have been no church-related schools, so they were our only option. If you live in a good neighborhood, public schools are usually adequate. But I also know that if we can focus on only one area, we had better focus on the very early, formative years. We older couples have sometimes felt a little ambivalent about the idea of our children being only in our own schools. Perhaps they should be exposed to the world a little more, otherwise how can we expect them to suddenly relate to the world when they get out of school? We also questioned whether our own schools would be of a high enough standard to qualify the children for higher education, especially in the beginning stages.
Our children seemed to do okay in the lower years, but in middle school they get hit with a lot of teasing from children who know they are Unification Church members. The peer group is re ally strong in the middle school. Feeling left out or wanting to be included in the peer group causes our children to start splitting off. It seems that if they have good spiritual experiences with the church when they're young, then they are okay when they get into high school. The middle school years seem to be the most fragile. If we can't have a complete school system, these are the areas where we should focus most of our resources.
But with the 8,000 couples really pushing for schools, the time has come to work together to make really good schools. Father did say that we should have schools, but he didn't say we should isolate our children. Instead, Father suggested making the schools high quality to attract other children and to serve the community. In that way, we don't box ourselves into an exclusive community with our own schools; rather our children become aware of the world through their association with other children within our schools. Our schools would then have to be broadly based, not strictly church schools.
Church traditions would then have to be taught by the parents. But the deep internal teachings, the Principle, could be incorporated within the curriculum. We can teach that the central part of life is love and having the right kind of heart, without having to spell it out in religious studies. Learning science, for example, would be appended to this core of the Principle. Social studies, math, and all subjects would be taught from this viewpoint. If we have that model for our educational system, then children will learn the fundamental Principle. You won't necessarily be telling them, "The heart is the center," but teachers will be trained to keep in mind when they are teaching any subject that God is the core. Science represents the third blessing, to take dominion over creation. The first blessing is to take dominion over ourselves and that is where academic learning helps us find out what our talents are and how to develop them, so that we grow into the best person we can become.
Question: Has your office established a national curriculum, or some goals and guidelines for education?
We've been working on it, but we haven't developed it enough. I feel we have to spell out our philosophy of education: If Divine Principle says this, or that, then what does it mean for our schools? Once that's clarified, then we should develop the curriculum.
For many people, philosophy seems vague and not so important because we have the Divine Principle. But determining our philosophy of education is so important -- it is the foundation. I have arranged a task force with Phillip Shanker, Sharon Goodman, Joy Morrow, Nora Spurgin, Marie Ang and a few others to work out what this means for developing the curriculum.
In the meantime, schools are developing -- for example the elementary school opening in Washington, DC this fall. I wanted to have our philosophy completed and a curriculum worked out before this happened, but things are developing more quickly.
I have a wealth of ideas on how to build a model for teaching and administering schools, based on having the right things at the center, while other subjects act as spokes around this hub of the wheel.
Philosophy is very general, while the specifics constitute the theory of education. Our committee read the philosophy of education from Unification Thought and are trying to rewrite it in a more easily understood form. It is difficult, because none of us have our PhDs in education, nor have we ever focused on this before. It is hard to understand whether something is a theory or a philosophy, or where one ends and the other begins. We should decide on our theory of education, which system we want to use, and then make it consistent within our schools.
Happy participants in one of the early workshops for blessed children in America
Question: Like Montessori, for example?
Yes, Montessori is based on a philosophy. Marie Montessori had her philosophy of education and based the development of her schools on it. That is what we would like to do. For example, if we believe that children are children of God, it is an entirely different approach from the more secular humanist approach used in public schools. Also, teaching the family as the basic unit of society is different from the viewpoint of public schools.
Question: When Father first came to America, Dr. Young Oon Kim asked everyone in the Washington DC Center to write a paragraph on how the Divine Principle applied to their field of work. I was teaching at the time so the conclusion of my thoughts was, "Education can't work unless parents and teachers work together."
I agree because children will act one way at school and another at home, especially if the parents don't understand what is being taught and don't reinforce it.
Question: So is our aim to create a national system of education; in other words, a school in every state? I see so many different levels and forms of education in existence: Saturday schools, our school in Korea and Sunday Schools.
We are not equipped in this office to develop a national school system; we don't have the personnel or the finances. I feel the actual schools will come from the local levels. In Washington, DC, for example, they were inspired to start a school; God really pushed them, they had a person with the energy to do it, so it is happening. Now they are getting the support of the members.
The way I see it, our office will have a good philosophical foundation to offer people, and some guidelines and goals for all our schools. We will be here to support them as much as we can.
In the future, I hope we can travel and visit opening schools. But it will basically be up to the local level to decide to do it, get the building, teachers and equipment.
Like the Montessori schools, there should be a common core system, in which people are trained. I think that will be called Shim Jung Education, although that is not an official name yet. In the future when someone wants to start a school, I would see them letting us know, us giving them whatever information we have, and then working together. Some of our information explains how to go about the legalities, now that some people have done it. Of course, each school would be a little different because of the administrators, teachers, and student body. That's okay, as long as they all follow the basic philosophy. I hope we'll eventually have a basic system that we recommend and that allows school founders to be creative. We'll have to have certain guidelines for a school to be called a Jin-A or a Shim Jung School.
I haven't yet been able to go to Japan to see their schools, but they have a very prestigious education department, and have developed a very strong system. Although we are of a different society, but we want to find a balance of Eastern and Western methods. I wish I could spend all my time studying and researching philosophies and systems.
Question: Our members often don't have money for expensive private schools. My concern has always been, what can be developed for parents who want the best education for their children but can't afford to send their children to private schools? The Mormons have an excellent Wednesday night family education program. They have a curriculum guide for parents with ways to teach their beliefs. And Mormon parents who followed it had a really good relationship with their children.
Yes, we could develop things like that. Again, the local level must work that out. They could perhaps make a sliding fee scale. Maybe something can be worked out through the local church, perhaps raising money for scholarships. Of course, Sunday Schools and Korean study are key points. Mrs. Inku Marshall in Washington, DC is doing a very good job with her Korean Saturday School. It is a big investment to make an elementary school, so Korean Studies schools and Sunday schools are much more within reach. Our office has tried to develop a Sunday school curriculum, but we still have a long way to go. We want to be a resource for members everywhere.
Question: Is there material for missionaries, like Sunday school curriculum or family teaching curriculum?
There isn't "a" book with everything, but the books we collect are listed in the Blessing Quarterly, and we receive orders on the things we do have. I think missionaries are the ones most interested in Home Study. For some of them, that may be the only option for giving their children a good education. We have a lot of good material on home schooling available.
Question: Did Father set guidelines for parents about what and how they should be teaching their children?
When Father visited Alabama, he was asked about setting up a school there, and he said he had already told Americans a long time ago to start schools. The Winter 1990 Blessing Quarterly published a speech Father had given to mothers in 1977. He has said general things; for example, about the teacher being an extension of the parents. That is a very deep statement if you set up your schools that way. It also means that parents and teachers should be working closely together, not just sending the children off to school to be taught everything.
Question: Is there any way for members with teaching experience to be involved with choosing curriculum?
I don't know how long it will be before we can have a curriculum committee who can devote their time to writing curriculum. That is what many churches do for their Sunday schools. For now, it is really important that interested and talented members get their teacher certification, because we'll need many teachers in the future.
Question: I would like to see something endorsed by the national education department with a general outline and lesson plans that allow for teaching creativity while explaining the basic concepts to be taught.
Quite a number of people have worked on lesson plans and some of them are available through the Children's Education Department. Joy Pople, for example, wrote a Divine Principle curriculum with a lot of ideas. It is very creative, giving the basic lesson and explanation of a concept in the Principle and several activities to choose from. Stories also help, which is why we publish them in the Blessing Quarterly. We could have stories which illustrate the Principles of Creation, for example, and we need such stories on many different levels. Also, it is good to be able to recommend books to read to further illustrate some Principle point. We are developing a bibliography of such books.
We should be able to provide training for all teachers, and once we develop a philosophy handbook, we'll have a pretty good nucleus for an educational system.
Question: If you were to give advice to people who are interested in religious education but who may have other responsibilities, what would you tell them?
Well, it is hard to narrow it down to a sentence or paragraph, but one thing that I repeatedly recommend is not to just lecture the children. Someone may think, "Okay, we are going to teach our children Divine Principle now," then sit down and give them a lecture. Children don't learn that way -- they don't respond to it and they don't use it in life. Although they might tolerate it, it doesn't inspire them and they don't internalize it.
When I worked at the blessed children's summer camp and helped develop Divine Principle lessons, I looked for ways to get the children involved and apply it to their lives. We taught them good give and take through sports, getting along at the dinner table, and other activities. Later, we would explain the Principle terminology of give and take.
So I usually tell people not to worry about giving a Divine Principle lesson each week. Teach them by example. Have a little Sunday morning discussion and tell them, "When you do such and such it is called give and take; that is one way you can make God happy." Make it short but point out what they are doing in their lives. You don't really need lesson plans for that, you just do it. Perhaps one week you can have it in your mind to teach give and take, and the following week teach God's heart. But always emphasize living it.
Another thing that Mrs. Mal Sook Lee emphasized was to tell them stories. That is very good advice. In Sunday school she would tell Old Testament stories. From there you can draw the moral lesson of loving God or being brave, and so on.
Question: How can people help in the education providence?
Of course we need people working on practical administration here, especially to help with the Korean program -- mailing letters, keeping lists up to date, and so on. Next, there is our school system and within that, the philosophy should to be developed. We need people to work on a curriculum for Sunday school and camp programs. We also must develop a system for teaching Korean studies -- video tapes and audio tapes -- so people in remote areas can learn Korean. The possibilities for contributions are great in all of these areas.