Last weekend’s Convocation of the Partnership of Unitarian Universalist History and Heritage (PUUH) organizations had many inspiring moments. It was a joint session with Collegium, which itself had too many highlights to count. I recommend accessing websites for both groups (PUUH via UU Historical Society at http://www25.uua.org/uuhs/) to get more info, as it becomes available.
But there was one bit that sent off alarm bells, and sent me on a deeper train of thought. It came as Gail Forsyth-Vail, of the UUA’s Adult Programs office, was introducing the history and heritage curricula for the Tapestry of Faith curriculum series, adult level. She told us she was so excited that for the first time, the UUA has dared not only to teach with a curriculum series — in itself a nice change from some of the “tell us what you think” weak points of the recent past — but to frame it in “an outcomes based curriculum”
Outcomes based? What flashed across my mind was the story of the Roman Catholic priest visiting his parishioner to ask how things were going at home. “Fine, Father.” “I only ask, Mrs So-and-So, because it has been awhile since you’ve brought me a baby to baptize. You know how much the church values each of the lives of its faithful…”
This little story reveals my three questions for any UUA program or resource which aspires to judge outcomes.
1) What are the units of these outcomes? What are we measuring, according to what standard, along what timeline?
2) Who judges the acceptable or unacceptable level of each criterion?
3) By what authority are these measures and these judges put in place?
4) What are the consequences for a positive or negative determination by these judges?
5) What is the process for appeal, in either setting these standards or challenging the conclusions drawn for oneself, one’s program or one’s congregation?
6) Who keeps the records, and with whom are they to be shared?
A million sarcastic remarks come to mind, but I’ve known Gail and the rest of the RE Office for a long time, and I know their intentions are honorable. So I’m just taking these old questions, which I learned from C. Conrad Wright and his generation of polity scholars — dry, methodical, detached — and putting them forward in relation to what is happening now.