Teaching About a Post-Scarcity Society in a Unitarian Universalist RE Class
This morning I taught RE (Religious Education…it’s what Unitarian Universalists call our Sunday School) again. I’m one of three people who volunteered at the beginning of the school year to take turns teaching the 6th/7th grade class for the second service. The big theme of the year for this grade is Social Justice, and today my lesson was about Abundance and Scarcity. Although we are provided a prepared lesson outline to teach, we’re at liberty to change it as we see fit for the class. Oddly, there was a little bit of math in there for today, and that just won’t do. I also felt it was a little too slow. What’s a Humanist teaching Sunday School to do? I used Star Trek, of course.
I began the class with the usual chalice lighting and greeting, then talked a bit about water with the group. We were supposed to have a glass of water in the class anyway, but I decided to use it differently. I had a volunteer go and put water the glass, and then we talked about how 663 million people in the world don’t have reliable access to clean, safe drinking water. Unsafe water kills more people each year than war.
That’s pretty bad.
We had a pretty good discussion about water, including the crisis in Flint, Michigan, and then I moved on to something a little lighter. I showed them three clips from episodes of two different Star Trek series involving food replicators. This is where I introduced the idea of a post-scarcity society, but I did so lightly, asking the kids that if they had a food replicator, what they would ask for first.
From there we read an African folktale about a poor old woman ‘stealing’ the aroma of her neighbor’s good food while she ate her simple soup, and then worked on defining what we meant by ‘abundance’ and ‘scarcity.’
All in all, it was a great discussion, and I capped it off with another clip from Star Trek, one in which Captain Picard explains the economics of his day to a woman from the past (from his perspective). A ‘big idea’ of Star Trek is that one day we could have a post-scarcity society. One of the kids suggested that we would overpopulate if there were no limits on resources, but I pointed out that people in more developed nations with access to education and health care tend to have fewer children, not more. The final word I left with the kids was simply that the ultimate goal of social justice work is to promote human flourishing. I could have also mentioned beloved community, but that didn’t occur to me at the time.
The playlist is at the top of this post. Perhaps something here will be of value to other RE/Sunday School teachers or youth workers.