Online Seminary

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Roy
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Online Seminary

Post by Roy » 24 Aug 2020, 13:46

We, as a stake presidency, desire to have our youth be together (in person) for seminary. During these difficult times, we feel that it is important that they continue to have formal gospel instruction and we also feel that it is important for them to have the opportunity to be together(safely) to do so. We have decided to have seminary classes meet together in person at the beginning of this school year. This falls under state guidelines for religious activities and we have the approval of our Area Authority. We have visited with all of our teachers throughout the stake about this decision and all are supportive. This will require some planning and adjustments that we will need to make quickly. Please be aware that if your family decides that you do not want to participate in this in-person seminary there will be an online option. This online option will be very different than what took place this Spring – both in participation requirements and content (see attachment).
The students and teachers who participate in the in-person seminary experience (which we hope will be most of the students) will all be required to wear masks and practice social distancing ... [snip] ...
We would ask that you respond to this email with the answer to this simple question:
• Will your child/children participate in the in-person (meeting every day of the week in-person) seminary classes as described in this email?
• If not, will they participate in the online seminary program (again please see attachment to help you make that decision)?
We respectfully ask that you discuss this as a family and respond within 48 hours of receiving this email (by end of the day Tuesday, August the 18th).
Thank you for your devotion to the gospel of Jesus Christ and for the opportunity to let us join with you in helping our youth to understand and live its teachings.
This is the attachment...
Online Seminary Fall 2020
Online seminary is an everyday commitment.
The following is a summary of some of the requirements and expectations for those who will participate in online seminary.
Expectations (from the church’s online training given to seminary teachers):
Instructors should establish and maintain class standards with students, parents, and leaders before the first synchronous (online) experience.
To receive credit for being present, students must:
...be sitting at a table or desk (not lying down or reclined).
...be appropriately dressed.
...have a working camera connected, on, and centered on his/her face to receive credit.
...have a working microphone to unmute and respond when they would like to share or when called upon.
...have a separate set of scriptures or a device with scriptures so they can read and participate without pausing their interaction with the video-conference software.
...eliminate distractions from the environment (unruly family members, pets, breakfast, make-up, homework)
Note: Students must login by the class start time to avoid being marked tardy. Students missing more than 15 minutes of class will be marked absent.
Online teachers will be using the canvas program for assignments two or three days a week. Students will be required to complete the assignments each day within the allotted time. If the student does not complete the assignment in the allotted time, there will be a make-up assignment given.
This email rubs me the wrong way.
First and foremost, I know that the church has an online (self study) seminary curriculum. I believe that the reason why such an emphasis is made on in person seminary is that the leadership hopes that the group will bond together over the hardship of attending in person every day at such an early hour. This email offers an online option that I was pleased to consider for my children. It was only upon reading the attachment that I came to understand what the online option really contained. It is more like a zoom meeting seminary than the self-study self paced option I had hoped for.

Second is the language of expectation and obligation peppered throughout the email. Perhaps we had grown used to emails detailing church reopening plans that always make the caveat that nobody should feel pressured to attend if they do not feel ready. This email has a decidedly different tone. "We desire" "It is important" "We have decided" "We hope" (most will participate in person) "respond to this email with the answer to this simple question" "within 48 hours" The attachment is worse. "everyday commitment" "requirements and expectations" "must" x7 "required"

"To receive credit..." I am currently wondering what the benefit of receiving credit would be. What can I do with my seminary "credit"? I understand that seminary participation is not required to attend a church university. Is this like me getting "credit" for attending Sunday School?

DW and I discussed this with DW and asked her if this is something that she would like to do and she declined. We have not responded to the email because we feel that to respond back with a "no" might invite questions or pressure to become a "yes". We have decided that when people do eventually track us down to ask why our daughter isn't participating we will respond that we were really hoping for an online self study version and that DD really needs her sleep. I do not expect that people will fully support our justification. Surely all the kids need sleep, yet many parents are willing to make the sacrifice. Why should we and our child be any different?
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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Gerald
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Joined: 29 Sep 2011, 04:57

Re: Online Seminary

Post by Gerald » 24 Aug 2020, 14:01

"To receive credit..." I am currently wondering what the benefit of receiving credit would be. What can I do with my seminary "credit"? I understand that seminary participation is not required to attend a church university. Is this like me getting "credit" for attending Sunday School?
I THINK if your daughter wants to attend any of the Church-funded institutions of higher learning (e.g. BYU) then she will need to "receive credit for seminary." So if your daughter is planning on attending some other university, she need not worry about it.
So through the dusk of dead, blank-legended And unremunerative years we search to get where life begins, and still we groan because we do not find the living spark where no spark ever was; and thus we die, still searching, like poor old astronomers who totter off to bed and go to sleep, to dream of untriangulated stars.
---Edwin Arlington Robinson---

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On Own Now
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Re: Online Seminary

Post by On Own Now » 24 Aug 2020, 14:38

Seminary credit is not a specific requirement for BYU admittance, but it is one of many factors under consideration for acceptance. From the BYU Universe, 2016:
Seminary graduation could improve a student’s chances of being accepted, but it is not necessary. In 2015, 96.2 percent of students who were accepted into BYU had graduated from the four-year seminary program according to the BYU Admissions website. The Admissions Council considers the ecclesiastical endorsement and then academic records. Then each application is evaluated according to seminary attendance, service, leadership, personal essays, individual talents, creativity, AP/IB courses taken and unique or special circumstances, as well as other factors that enhance the individual’s application to BYU.
The tone of the email bothers me as well, Roy. We live in extraordinary times, but your SP is hearkening back to a fond memory of before the pandemic and trying to brush aside real-world concerns to get back to an idyllic age. I think I would respond with something like, "In less than 9 months of 2020, we have lost 3 times as many Americans as died in the entirety of the Vietnam War. I don't want to look back on this pandemic and think to myself that I didn't do everything I could to slow it down so that we don't reach 5 or 6 or 10 times as many losses as Vietnam before we have a way to stop it as a society. I understand and respect your view. Mine is different, which I hope you can also understand and respect. I would like to explore online alternatives to Seminary that do not include counting my daughter among the group of kids who 'do not want to participate.' "

Just so you know, years ago, when I was very frustrated with our local seminary teacher's approach, I wanted to switch my child to self-study. But, I was told at the time that self-study was not an option in cases where regular seminary was provided; it would only apply when there is no option for Seminary. I don't know if that is still true. I would think that in our present situation, that caveat could be waived.
- - -
“Everything that irritates us about others can lead us to an understanding of ourselves.” ― Carl Jung
- - -
"Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another." ― Romans 14:13
- - -

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nibbler
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Re: Online Seminary

Post by nibbler » 24 Aug 2020, 14:38

Roy wrote:
24 Aug 2020, 13:46
I do not expect that people will fully support our justification.
You already know this, but the good news is that they don't have to support your justification. It's ultimately your family's decision. People at church aren't owed an explanation.

I'm sorry you're having to deal with those decisions/ultimatums. It's a shame how our culture tends to gravitate towards the commanded in all things, one size fits all approach... even though there's the appearance of having options in this case.

What do kids do if their family wants them safe at home taking the online option but they don't have a webcam? I could ask lots of boundary case questions, so I'll just leave it at that and let people's imagination take over from there.

With all the demands I'd be less likely to try to make it work, not more likely.

What outcome would leaders rather have, kids finding a way to make seminary work, however that looks... or some percentage of kids deciding it's not worth the trouble and opting out entirely or kids that do participate growing resentful of the rules/program?

Many of the rules in the attachment appear to have the goal of wanting to guarantee the kids are being compliant. Does that really serve the kid's best interest?

There are lots of rules to assure leaders that kids are being compliant. If I had to guess the motives I'd say that leaders are fearful that kids will go inactive and that active participation during seminary is the answer.

I think a good approach is to make community (social aspects) the priority and if kids pick up any doctrines in the process all the better. We take almost the opposite approach, make doctrines the sole focus and maybe kids will build a community in spite of it.

Plus the old phrase, you catch more flies with honey. Exacting obedience out of kids honey ain't.
Assuredly, I say to you, unless you are converted and become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven.
― Jesus

Arrakeen
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Joined: 25 Aug 2018, 18:49

Re: Online Seminary

Post by Arrakeen » 24 Aug 2020, 17:19

I think the emphasis on rules and requirements to get “credit” is going to lead to a decrease in seminary attendance overall. Teenagers don’t exactly want more school, and that’s what it seems seminary is trying to become.

As for the point of getting the credit for seminary, it does play a role in BYU admissions. It can also affect where you get called to serve a mission, as some countries require you to have “religious training” to get a missionary visa. In my mission this meant we all had to have graduated from seminary.

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Sheldon
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Re: Online Seminary

Post by Sheldon » 25 Aug 2020, 09:44

Remember, "No" is a complete sentence and requires no explanation!

Roy
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Location: Pacific Northwest

Re: Online Seminary

Post by Roy » 25 Aug 2020, 12:00

Thank you for the responses and support.

I do not know if DD will attend a church school or not (as an incoming HS freshman neither does DD). I do not feel that attending seminary to bolster the chances of her getting accepted at a church school are really worth it. Instead of investing an extra hour every school day to achieve a quality that is desirable for a small handful of schools, I would rather invest time in achieving qualities that are desirable for a broad swath of schools and therefore expand potential options down the road.
On Own Now wrote:
24 Aug 2020, 14:38
Just so you know, years ago, when I was very frustrated with our local seminary teacher's approach, I wanted to switch my child to self-study. But, I was told at the time that self-study was not an option in cases where regular seminary was provided; it would only apply when there is no option for Seminary. I don't know if that is still true. I would think that in our present situation, that caveat could be waived.
Yes, that is largely the case now. My bishop had told me (in a prior off hand chat) that he had asked about the online self study option for a family that lives 20 minutes outside of town and then go to school about 15 minutes back towards their house. He recognized the extra 35 minute drive for this family at such an early hour and wondered if there might be an exception made. The response from stake leadership was no. This family did make the drive and I have no doubt that some will feel that they are blessed for their sacrifice. (In our case, we live about a block from the chapel so no travel time considerations factor in [not that it seems that it would matter]) It is too bad that this Zoom Meeting call option was not offered to this family.
nibbler wrote:
24 Aug 2020, 14:38
What outcome would leaders rather have, kids finding a way to make seminary work, however that looks... or some percentage of kids deciding it's not worth the trouble and opting out entirely
My wife had this exact same thought. Wouldn't they want our daughter to do a religious self-paced study? What are they afraid of? (I personally believe that they are afraid that if people got wind of an easier [more flexible and user friendly] option for seminary then some number would push for that and live attendance would suffer.)
nibbler wrote:
24 Aug 2020, 14:38
Many of the rules in the attachment appear to have the goal of wanting to guarantee the kids are being compliant. Does that really serve the kid's best interest?
Yes, Some of the rules seem designed to ensure that people that opt for the Zoom Meeting Call format are not unfairly advantaged over those that attend in person (again because the stated hoe of the stake leadership is that most will attend in person). If you were thinking that you can do the online option with audio only and listen to it while you get ready for the day (like some do for GC) then you are out of luck. If you were thinking that you could multitask by eating breakfast or finishing up homework while doing Zoom Call seminary then you are out of luck. If you were thinking of being comfortable in an easy chair and/or with your pet dog on your lap while learning about the gospel then you are out of luck. Your sacrifice and level of discomfort must seem roughly equivalent to those attending in person.
Sheldon wrote:
25 Aug 2020, 09:44
Remember, "No" is a complete sentence and requires no explanation!
:lol: :lol: :lol: They did in fact ask for an "answer to this simple question." To answer, "No" is a very simple and forthright answer. :lol: :lol: :lol:
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

Roy
Posts: 6112
Joined: 07 Oct 2010, 14:16
Location: Pacific Northwest

Re: Online Seminary

Post by Roy » 25 Aug 2020, 12:24

DW did tell me that the YM president called to ask if DD would be attending seminary and DW responded with the planned response. "DD functions so much better when she is fully rested. We were really hoping for an online self study option."

The YW president said that she really was not up to speed with the details of what was available but would pass our feedback along.

I feel that the benefit of this response is that it is not that we are unwilling to participate - we just need certain accommodations. I figure that two possibilities are likely, 1) they may just stop asking about it or 2) they may contact us in a more official capacity (i.e. The bishop) to explain why we cannot do self study.

Ironically, if the latter happens then this whole thing would have shifted from them demanding an answer to an "everyday commitment" to them calling to explain why they will not be able to allow DD to attend seminary in the format that most meets our family's needs. ;)
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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DarkJedi
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Re: Online Seminary

Post by DarkJedi » 25 Aug 2020, 14:27

Our stake has had an online option for a few years. Early morning seminary is still "pushed" as "preferred" and online was supposed to be only for those who could not otherwise attend early morning (distance, no seminary in their branch, etc.). In practice, any kid who wanted would be allowed (after some cajoling) because some kind of seminary is better than no seminary (at least in the minds of some). It consists of one live online meeting per week with daily lessons completed online whenever the youth could except that they had to be done during that week. The lessons have reading and video components and the student must interact and type in answers. The lessons are produced by the church with a locally called teacher who also conducts the live video meeting. Only my youngest son was able to participate and frankly he got much more out of it than he did the years he was dragged out of bed at 5:30 to sit in a class mostly asleep. This program, which I endorse, is far different from a Zoom type class (which I do not endorse).

All of that said, there are kids (people) who can thrive in the actual online program and those who need to have the live interaction. The worst part of early morning seminary is early morning - many studies affirm early morning and adolescents are not compatible with learning.
In the absence of knowledge or faith there is always hope.

Once there was a gentile...who came before Hillel. He said "Convert me on the condition that you teach me the whole Torah while I stand on one foot." Hillel converted him, saying: That which is despicable to you, do not do to your fellow, this is the whole Torah, and the rest is commentary, go and learn it."

My Introduction

Roy
Posts: 6112
Joined: 07 Oct 2010, 14:16
Location: Pacific Northwest

Re: Online Seminary

Post by Roy » 25 Aug 2020, 15:43

Thank you for the extra info DJ.

DW and I do like the concept of seminary in theory and would support DD in taking the online version that you described (once a week live online meeting, daily lesson assignments, with reading and video components).

Our biggest barrier is the early morning part.
"It is not so much the pain and suffering of life which crushes the individual as it is its meaninglessness and hopelessness." C. A. Elwood

“It is not the function of religion to answer all the questions about God’s moral government of the universe, but to give one courage, through faith, to go on in the face of questions he never finds the answer to in his present status.” TPC: Harold B. Lee 223

"I struggle now with establishing my faith that God may always be there, but may not always need to intervene" Heber13

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