'Secular Sunday Schools' to be launched in US

By agency reporter
15 May 2008

The Kochhar Humanist Education Center (KHEC), which was launched yesterday by the American Humanist Association, is to develop a curriculum for the humanist equivalent of Sunday schools.

This will include programs in ethics geared to serve the children of atheists, agnostics and freethinkers.

It is also developing similar curriculums to serve high school and college students, parents and older adults.

"Religious organizations have long had educational programs and institutions for passing on their values to each new generation. These have included Sunday schools, private religious schools and an abundance of resources for parents," said Dr Bob Bhaerman, education coordinator of the KHEC.

"Now it's time for nontheistic people -whether they call themselves humanists, atheists, agnostics or even identify with a more traditionally religious label - to more effectively share their values with future generations and deepen the understanding of those values among adults."

A major focus of the centre's current activities involves developing curriculum units, lesson plans and instructional approaches for all age levels. Such curriculums aim to create understanding and build knowledge about humanism - its philosophy, principles and aspirations - and encourage scientific thinking, rational values, as well as activism toward freedom and social justice.

The centre is also acquiring a relevant library of children's books and developing citizen action guides to get individuals to apply their humanism to current political, social and educational issues.

Its online resource centre utilises compiled materials and will enable local groups and liberal religious congregations to adapt curriculum modules. There will be an online discourse on humanist education as well as a vast library of books that will be available for reading online and downloading.

"Our hope is that this centre will make humanist education accessible to all," said Roy Speckhardt. "Among other things, humanists see a need to defend minority faiths and philosophies from discrimination. And the best way to accomplish this is through education - not only education of people like us but also the wider public. We want to share our values with our children, refine our own sense of right and wrong, and promote understanding of our worldview among non-humanists. Thus we are working to fill a great need both inside and outside the humanist community."

The American Humanist Association advocates for the rights and viewpoints of humanists. Founded in 1941 and headquartered in Washington, DC, its work is extended through more than 100 local chapters and affiliates across America.

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