HUUmanist Association Renamed

The Unitarian Universalist Association held its General Assembly gathering this past weekend in Providence, Rhode Island. As a result, there was quite a bit of activity with the #uuaga tag in my Twitter feed. Humanists in the UUA met, and fortunately Steve Ahlquist was recording when the HUUmanist Association got its new name. Henceforth it will be known as “the Unitarian Universalist Humanist Association.” Not a momentous decision, but one that makes sense.

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Potential Brand Confusion for Sunday Assembly in Brazil

Sunday Assembly is coming to Brazil. That’s big news! I heard first about the São Paulo group, and then learned that one may be in formation in Rio de Janeiro as well. In a nation where churches are practically a dime-a-dozen and theism is a given, a “godless church” may stick out like a sore thumb. Roman Catholicism has been culturally dominant for centuries, Pentecostalism continues to spread rapidly through the country, African-based spirituality has roots at least as deep as Catholicism, and Spiritism is a home-grown phenomenon that attracts a adherents from different social classes. All implicitly embrace the supernatural. In this context, what challenges will a church of nontheists face? One that seems terribly obvious to me and not at all theological is the name itself.

Sunday Assembly” translates to “Assembleia de Domingo.” That looks an awful lot like the Portuguese-language version of the Assembly of God name, “Assembleia de Deus.” The uninformed might look at the former and think it’s synonymous with the latter. Possibly worse still, the misinformed could think the former is an intentional mockery of the latter. In either case, imagine the confusion of someone wondering in off the street (and that can happen in Brazil) thinking they’re at a Pentecostal church service, only to hear no mention whatsoever of any deity, let alone any indication of people speaking in tongues.

To make matters slightly worse, there’s the matter of what to call members/participants of Sunday Assembly in Brazil. Members of the Assembly of God often refer to themselves as “assembleianos.” Sanderson Jones has suggested that Sunday Assembly folks be called “Assemblers.” See the problem?

I’m sure this must be on organizers’ radars, as I can’t be the only one to have thought of this potential brand confusion. It can be played off as an attention-getter, or it can serve as a distraction. The meat of Sunday Assembly’s message is so substantially different from that of the Assembly of God and other evangelical churches in Brazil that they’ll need to do a lot of high quality communication and PR work to make it all clear. At the same time, the difference could be a compelling, refreshing breath of fresh air in a nation that for so long has primarily known religious community options.

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Elevated Thinking: The High Line in New York City

New York City is an amazing place, rich with history, vibrant with diverse cultures and buzzing constantly with life. When I worked in the city I’d often find myself stopping to admire some architectural feature or unique view, especially when meetings or other events took me off my regular commute. Several years there were not enough to see even a small percentage of what New York has to offer, and one place I regret not visiting is The High Line.

Originally built to get dangerous freight train traffic off the street, three decades ago The High Line was decommissioned and left to the elements. What had served a vital purpose for the city was left seeming useless. As years passed, weeds, grass and even trees took root. A movement began to destroy the structure, but fortunately a counter-movement arose to save and develop it into a city park. The video below, running about an hour long, tells the full story beautifully.

While the destruction of the original Penn Station in New York remains unforgivable, The High Line’s story gives me hope that wiser heads at times can prevail and beauty can flourish in urban landscapes.

Sometimes I Miss New York

Six months ago today I boarded a flight to Brazil, rejoining my family and setting out to try creating a new future here. This came after a decade living in New Jersey, and nearly as long working in Manhattan. I left behind the dark and cold of winter for the sunshine and warmth of summer. It felt like waking up from a long sleep. I was glad to get here and I hope we can make a go of it. Still, sometimes I miss New York.
What do I miss? 
First, work. Here in Brazil I’ve returned to teaching English as a foreign language, something I did earlier in life as well. I’m also taking care of a project for The Loop, an Australia-based tech company. What I do, together with my wife’s English teaching, pays the bills minimally, but I am definitely underemployed. I’m not just talking about money either. I miss being at the heart of a vibrant tech community, working daily on innovative products while also using accumulated expertise to handle routine projects. 
Second, did I mention the tech community? New York is not Silicon Valley, but there is no shortage of groups and meetups to cover virtually every methodology and technology in circulation…at least twice over. Last year I attended Agile, Lean Startup, open source, project management and software development meetups at least twice a week, every week. Here in Uberlândia these are few and far between, and I haven’t made it to one yet.
Third, the diverse culture. Every type of humanity is represented in New York City. I joked once that if you look hard enough you’ll find hobbits in the city. People from all points across the globe bring with them ideas, customs, art and food. You can find pretty much any type of cuisine you like in the city, and I for one fell in love with South Indian vegetarian cooking. 
These are just a few aspects of New York that I miss. Still, I’m very happy to be where I am. Living in Brazil is something I’ve dreamed of doing almost my entire adult life, and I hope it works out this time around.

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Comentários sobre o ensino no Brasil

Moro no Brasil e tenho dois filhos estudando em escolas públicas aqui. Vejo coisas boas e também coisas ruíns no sistema de ensino aqui. Quero comentar de aguns poucos aqui.

O Positivo

  • No Brasil, todo estudante que forma do ensido médio estudou quimica e física. Não é assim nos Estados Unidos. Lá, pelo menos na minha experiência e a de meus filhos antes de mudar para este país, estas matérias são basicamente opcionais. O que tem deles é pouco e fraco.
  • O ensino superior no Brasil é gratuito, supondo que o cidadão conseguiu passar no Vestibular o no Enem. Caso contrário, existem as universidades particulares. Nos EUA, não existe faculdade de graça. Pelo menos, nenhuma que eu conheço que ofereça um curso de qualidade. O estudante é normalmente obrigado a criar uma dívida enorme somente para estudar.
O Negativo
  • A ênfase está nas provas: Enem e Vestibular. O foco deveria ser a aprendizagem com atenção para ver que o aluno está conseguindo dominar o material. Geralmente, é tudo somente para conseguir passar nas provas. 
  • Meio período não dá. Com somente 4 horas na escola por dia, o que o aluno vai aprender? E isso deixa muito tempo vago para arrumar bagunça nas ruas. Além disso, para conseguir um salário completo, o professor tem que dar aula e duas ou até três escolas. A atenção dele é dividida e a vida dele fica mais corrida do que deveria ser necessário. O professor precisa ter condições para viver de uma forma digna e poder dar atenção aos alunos de somente uma escola. No Rio de Janeiro já existem escolas seguindo este modelo. Agora falta o restanto do país.
Agora, um pouco de humor: