“Scaffolding” the Principle

Statue_of_Liberty_restoration_project copy copy

by John Redmond

JohnRedmond2Instructional scaffolding” is an educational term that borrowed its imagery from bricklayers and construction workers.  Scaffolding is a temporary structure for workers to stand and climb on so they can build, repair or restore a more permanent structure.

In educational terms, scaffolding is temporary support given to students to help them approach a complex subject by building on things they already know.  A five-year-old student learns about animals starting with cats and dogs.  They can then associate these understandings with lions and wolves.

Abstract concepts can be explained by similar substantial relationships.  For instance: “The relationship between humans and God should be like the relationship between mind (heart) and body.”

All teachers use these tools both intentionally and subconsciously.  Jesus used parables and Reverend Moon used many examples and analogies, often acting them out.

Where to place the scaffold

An important concept is that the “scaffold” be constructed in the “zone of proximal development.”

This means the teacher has to be familiar with the cultural, intellectual and emotional level of the student and use appropriate models to reach him or her. Instruction for elementary students that depends on them knowing advanced math will fail.

The Divine Principle text uses many examples and analogies appropriate to college-educated Korean Christian audiences and has been re-edited many times to strengthen the bridge to different cultures and audiences.

The early American missionaries each wrote an interpretation of the Divine Principle to use in their work, and their early disciples often prefer those books to the current ones.  They are known by their colors: the “Black DP,” “Miss Kim’s Red Book,” “The Green Book,” to name a few. Essentials of the Unification Principle is an excellent treatment that explains the Principle without scriptural references.  It is a good resource for interreligious work or non-religious audiences.

Sang Ik “Papa San” Choi wrote The Principles of Education as a scaffolding text for the Divine Principle.  This non-religious philosophical treatment of the Principle served as a bridge of understanding for American youth in the 1960s and 1970s who didn’t have a strong religious background or had an antipathy to organized religion. The Oakland Church in that period owed much of its success to that scaffolding effort.

Unification Thought, the CAUSA lectures and the IEF character education work in Russia and China all serve as scaffolding work for students to approach the larger topic of Divine Principle.

In the 1980s, the American Movement was placed under Korean leadership and Confucian-style memorization and “form” education was emphasized.  In this type of education, the student is expected to conform to the expectations of the teacher and the text rather than discover and build on the underlying knowledge.  I still remember the reaction of a good-natured young man at that time who had just been to another workshop. He said that if he had to listen one more time to a long lecture about why the fruit was symbolic he would implode. As we know, many of our young people have “voted with their feet” and been absent from any meaningful understanding of the Principle for many years.

Our movement has not been successful at witnessing for 30 years and it is time to reinstate American-style learning of the Principle, at least for Americans.

One problem is that the culture has changed since we were last successful at teaching the Principle in America.  The current generation has little formal understanding of religion or philosophy and the culture that supported constructive spiritual behavior has been replaced by the YOLO (you only live once) culture for most young Americans. The concept of self-discipline or self-sacrifice is only tolerated if it leads immediately to a tangible benefit like more money or a better physique.

Additionally, the Internet is now the educational medium of choice and knowledge, information and analysis are all broken down into sound bites.  “McWisdom” is the fast food equivalent of learning using YouTube and web sites.  Long boring lectures and structured discussion are out as a popular learning tool and “just in time” learning is in.  “Google it” has become a teaching methodology.

Other than college, the only types of learning that are well attended and that people are willing to pay for is experiential learning.  Tony Robbins seminars, Landmark Education, concerts, large sporting events, and cruise ships all give the participant an organized learning experience they cannot get on the Internet or by themselves.

It is not enough to take our existing pedagogy and put it on the Internet. We tried that when VHS tapes were a new technology and we mailed thousands of videotapes of a lecturer and a blackboard around the country to ministers and priests. That alone may have labeled our movement as clueless and out of touch.

What is an appropriate educational strategy now?

If we look around American culture, many people are making decisions based on psychology and science. Religion seems to be a secondary influence.  Additionally, there has been a rise in self-help systems that give people tools for a better life without requiring a specific religious belief. These are well-attended and people are willing to pay a significant amount of money for these insights.  Examples are Tony Robbins seminars, Landmark Education and Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits work.  There is no reason these learning tools can’t be incorporated to scaffold people toward understanding the profound insights of the Principle.

The Divine Principle is still a life-changing philosophical and religious framework for guiding one’s decisions.  It has constructive life lessons on the intellectual, affective (emotional) and behavioral levels. There are educational strategies for each of these areas and the Divine Principle can be repackaged to fit in these modern learning containers.


In the middle circle, representing the zone of proximal development, students cannot complete tasks unaided, but can complete them with guidance.

Changing how we teach

The Divine Principle learning model traditionally used lectures for content delivery, living in centers to model healthy emotional connections to God and each other, and missionary work to experience the social and global applications of a life of faith.

The information transfer model more likely to prove effective today is to have content broken down to one-page concepts, with links to historical and foundational information.  The learner can follow the links to find the scaffolding they need to build a comprehensive understanding.  For affective learning, video vignettes (no more than two minutes) can model the emotional understanding that makes the Principle so compelling. God’s vulnerability to human free will, God’s suffering, the heart of creation, how Jesus is misunderstood — these topics can be conveyed through video better than lectures.

The final step in learning is to experience the concepts of the Principle with other people and God. Online communities can support daily spiritual life. Indeed many Unificationists find more spiritual value in their email listservs or Facebook groups than they do in their local Sunday service.

Destination gatherings and service projects are where people can meet God together. In our movement, the annual BCSF Sportsfests and Camp Shehaqua are events that young members make great effort to attend. The original Top Guns have an annual get together and UTS alumni often meet around the country. These meetings do not require central direction or funding, but are where people gather to develop their faith and strengthen relationships with friends.

All learning is ultimately individual.  The best possible learning is done with an inspired and willing learner, infinite knowledge at your fingertips, and a coach who is sensitive to your needs and current knowledge. A well-developed Principle education system will have an appropriate expression for every culture, every age group, and every belief system.  Like with Christianity today, there are as many explanations about the faith as there are Christians, but they are able to find common ground and common values amid a healthy creative effort.

This means that effective Principle education should have many expressions for every culture, age and economic group. This cannot be done by headquarters. It is best developed by a myriad of individuals who are inspired to bridge the gap between God and their fellow man.

I expect that this effort will have to be led by young Unificationists who are seeking a more modern expression of the parts of the Principle that speak to them.  I’m aware of many efforts around the country to begin this process and think it is a necessary and healthy step in the development of a member-centered movement.

As blessed central families, we are called to make the foundation laid by True Parents our own, and we are responsible to God for the fruits we bear.  If our movement is to be more than one generation we will need to master modern, dynamic communication systems to make our case.  A healthy movement has active, dynamic activities in local areas with lots of experimentation and a strong linkage to national and global initiatives to identify what is most effective .

We don’t have to wait for the future. It is right at our keyboards and on our smartphone cameras.♦

John Redmond is the proud father of four interesting children, and has high expectations for the American Unification movement.

Photo at top: The 1984 restoration of the Statue of Liberty.

24 thoughts on ““Scaffolding” the Principle

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  1. A good and well-written article. I like in particular that DP and its conveyance through education is at its center.

  2. Thanks, John. It would seem that part of our task in moving forward is to fashion the “scaffolding” in relation to the various realms that we are dealing with in restoration — education, media, business, art, education, etc. As people who have lived with DP as our guiding principle for over 40 years (more or less), this is a necessary step in the process of bridging the various chasms that we encounter: East/West, Intellect/Emotion, Christianity/Confucianism, Science/Religion. We have a lot to do.

  3. Yes, it would behoove us to utilize media and technology. TBN (Trinity Broadcasting Network) is the largest Christian media company in the world. It offers feature films, marriage presentations, interviews, musical numbers, as well as many varieties of preaching and updates on countries around the world. It also filters out immoral popular culture items that promote homosexuality, drugs and an overly materialistic, hedonistic and decadent culture

    Given the line of reasoning that only what is fast, technology-oriented and faddish will appeal to people, then college is also on the way out and online degrees are on the way in. However, there is an enduring and inherently needed value in learning programs of critical thinking, knowledge-based inquiry, communication and relating that teach the skills of thought development, speaking and writing. These are modeled in inspirational oratory, sermons, books, model lectures, and educational analyses. Models are found in the classics and in expository writings.

    Recently, I have met young college students who have found value and excellent training through the study of history, philosophy, political science, and literature as well as psychology and science. Some of them have become inspired enough to start clubs and organizations on campuses and to debate the relevant issues of the day. Colleges such as Hillsdale College and others are providing a “special direction for culture and education” that fits Alfred North Whitehead’s claim that education needs to train youth toward value and transforming culture. I see that more of them are aware of the moral decline in society and they are becoming more activist-oriented to prepare others for events such as the 2016 presidential elections.

    Yes, to learn a foreign language is best done through the experience of total immersion in a culture and language. Yes, Anthony Robbins, Landmark, meditation, app-driven media and living for the moment all are useful; but, full immersion in them without proper value training and thoughtfully developed critical inquiry can lead to narcissism, selfishness, superficiality and even group think.

    Nonetheless, I fully agree with the author about utilizing media toward worthy goals. Why has our movement not focused on television media, radio and app programs?

  4. Excellent job, John – needs to be said repeatedly.

    In the last couple of decades, myself and a few others you know well have felt a bit like voices crying in the wilderness of an organization that seems not to listen to American members trying to help reach Americans with the message of DP and True Parents.

    When True Mother exhorts us to “tell everyone about True Parents,” it is up to us as Americans to figure out how to do that. Most who have tried to simply go out and start talking to people in America about how “the TP are on Earth,” etc., have had a very rough go. Others of us have been experimenting with ways to reach Americans with a “culturally connected” message that helps people discover the depth of DP and the coming of TP on their own. This is exactly what you so studiously advocate, above.

    This culturally connected messaging is still a challenge because we have not yet found the tipping point and the sweet spot to really carry the idea out to the masses. And then — considering media — once we have a culturally connected message, we need to find out a way to mass distribute it through the Internet.

    I sincerely hope that our leadership and communities in America hear your message!

  5. John, well said! As a former member of the UTS faculty, I especially feel the importance of what you say, and I wonder what I would encourage along these lines, were I still in Barrytown. The critical issue will always be the effort to distinguish between the “essence” of DP and the “superstructural” supports employed to uphold it during the instructional process. Is the “four position foundation” of the essence or is it a logistical device premised on Korean language to get an idea across? Is the “gospel” of SMM’s life the essential message, analogous to the Four Gospels vis-a-vis Jesus? Is the “providence” of the coming of the “House of Jacob for 10,000 years” the main point, or is that only Korean jingoism? Is the “person and work” of the TP the “heart” of the message, in which case who was SMM “really,” and who is HJH “really”? Or, as a final fundamentalist possibility, is “The Blessing” what it’s all about, and everything else is peripheral? Just ol’ Professor Lewis asking thorny questions, as usual.

    1. Fascinating thorny question, Dr. Lewis! I am a graduate of UTS but, alas, attended after your departure. I did sit in on a few discussions you would have with folks in the cafeteria during 1983-85 and enjoyed them immensely.

      I think one of the main issues related to your comments is the extreme difference between Eastern and Western culture and language. In the East, it’s all about “the Great Man theory,” or all about the bringer of a message. Is he speaking for “Heaven?”, etc. Once confirmed as a messenger speaking for Heaven, Eastern cultures will then follow the teachings. In one sense, the development of Christianity, which began in “Asia Minor,” could be said to have followed this idea until the Protestant Reformation. Therefore, mythologizing his life is the issue more than the message.

      In the West, it’s “the great works theory.” What are the results of a leader’s teachings and his life’s work? Do we see changes in society and in individual lives? If yes, then the leader and his/her teachings must be credible.

      From the days of your work at UTS till today, Western Unificationists have been caught between these two extremes, with — for the most part — decisions for how to work in America being made based on the Eastern view. The results: very low results in terms of growth and getting the message out in America. But I and others are undaunted. As we can see from John Redmond’s post, we’re not giving up!

      Thanks to John for beginning this seminal discussion. I hope many more see it!

  6. Dr. Lewis,

    Excellent questions, and worthy of another AU Blog article or two.

    I am a “structuralist” in that I appreciate the four position foundation and the lens that provides for a new view of history.

    Let’s have a symposium and sort this out.

  7. It’s all that and more, Dr. Lewis. Let’s just get on with the creative witness and not get distracted. Each person may have a different way to see meaningfulness and speak about it.

    See Jefferson Bethke on YouTube: “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus.”

    He put this on YouTube without any assumptions and spoke from his heart. Over 30 million views so far…Why? Because so many people could relate to his topic that drew their attention to it. So many of our second generation can do the same with what speaks to their heart about their experiences with God and True Parents.

    I just attended the Worcester Family Church and the sermon was by a young college graduate. She creatively spoke about a theme such as “Walking in another’s shoes” and then showed a video of Rev. Moon’s poem “Crown of Glory” put to musical narration. The sermon was so inspiring! It could be put on YouTube. Let’s get these unique testimonies and selections that come from people whose lives were changed by God and True Parents. TED Talks are also a great vehicle!

    1. Dear Donna,

      Freely acknowledging the importance of the “how” question (“creative witness”), I doubt whether attention paid to the “what” question (“content” of the “creative witness”) would be a distraction. In professional education, the temptation has too often been to focus on “methods” at the expense of “content.” The result of this trend is that American public education is vapid and content-free, whereas private schools prepare students far better than do most public schools. “Creative witness” to peripheral matters would surely be a waste of precious time, limited energy, and scarce resources.

      John Redmond proposes that we have a “symposium” on this. I quite agree. The Great Church has ever convened synods and ecumenical councils to issue “creeds” — focused condensations of essential matters. If only Barrytown were still what it once was, only better! A church without its seminary is destined to fade away.

      1. Dr. Lewis,

        You wrote: “A church without its seminary is destined to fade away.” There a many in the “Unification Movement” who do not believe it is, or should be developed to be, a church. They are adamant that Rev. Moon never intended for a church, but rather a movement, or a federation, or a fellowship of families who are pursuing “tribal messiahship” and home church.

        If these folks who don’t want the UM to be a church are correct, then the question becomes, if we are not a church, do we need a seminary? And then, by extension, exactly why did Rev. Moon found UTS? Do religious movements need a seminary?

        Some of my answers to my own questions 🙂 : Rev. Moon explicitly stated that he founded UTS so leaders in the Unification Movement (UM) could learn about: 1) leadership and, 2) Christianity and other religions as they related to Unificationism. #2 is one of the reasons Dr. Young Oon Kim wrote her important work on Unification Theology and Christian Thought.

        1. Henri, you answer your own questions better than I could have done.

          I use the word “church” out of habit, but also because I know that “movements” have a tendency to become a “church.” SMM fought his battle on many fronts and in many ways, such that the work of Unificationists “back in the day” looked more like a “movement” than is the case now. It’s been a long time since we were invited to a Science Conference — one of the best manifestations of the Movement that SMM conceived. Allow me to revise my wording: Human movement into the future requires educated people, and one of the better ways to educate people is to foster high-quality, concentrated learning at well-funded centers that grow and expand to meet the needs of their constituencies. In the case of the fortunes and future of the Unificationist effort, we need a better version of UTS. SMM wisely founded an educational center of studies that should have kept going and growing, but has not done so for various reasons. A “second founder” of the American Unification Movement will restore UTS.

      2. Like New Era, symposiums can be productive when people from different backgrounds attend. However, our second generation have already demonstrated a lot of contributions that can be offered already, as well as our first generation. Waiting for a synod is another sidetrack from getting down to the work of action which does not require that we “codify” everything according to a synod. But please do help revive New Era as another activity. The topic of a seminary is another valid issue. Yes, we should keep our seminary which was Rev. Moon’s vision as well as Dr. David Kim’s founding efforts for an ongoing educational endeavor.

        At the same time, current creative witness and a variety of outreach options are a needed action and valid way to go. Dr. Ki-hoon Kim voiced that we are lacking in “action” and outreach. True Mother advocates Tribal Messiah activities for all members. Previous efforts from our creative members already utilized cable TV and other options. We already have the teachings and sermons of True Parents and the text of Divine Principle and many responsible and talented members and area leaders to work on these in their areas and regions. I put my trust in them.

  8. In one sense this is not new. We need to meet millennials and people where they are at. It has happened many times before in religious history. Take the nativity crib as an example: for a population who was illiterate, it was the multimedia of the day for the Franciscans and the Middle Ages. The challenge for us is who we create paths into the heart of God relevant to today. When we use our knowledge of the principle to solve other people’s problems for them, we create CIG.

    Godspeed to everyone with their efforts in this area.

  9. See also “Sex, Marriage & Fairytales” by Jefferson Bethke on YouTube. Over 6 million views.

    He was interviewed on TBN last night by Matt Crouch who is very skilled at interviewing and being naturally himself before a camera which brings out the best in others. He is now the CEO of TBN.

    We are part of the seeds of a Greater Awakening and may God bless the cross-fertilization of all these Godly endeavors. Invest in YouTube, the Internet, cable TV, radio, apps, publications, etc. — all are outreach beyond in-house efforts.

  10. A good article, John. Of course, educational scaffolding used to be called an advanced organizer in Ed School. I would agree that those teaching in the Church really need to rethink how we teach if we want to be truly effective. I would even take your suggestions further as I am a fan of Edgar Dale’s “Cone of Learning.” When you discussed the value of service learning in the process, that is in line with educational theorists. We learn best through direct experience.

  11. The problem is not just how the Divine Principle is taught but perhaps more fundamentally whether it is being taught at all as opposed to some other stuff.

  12. Hey there! Just a guy born into the Unificationist movement.

    I don’t have much of substance to contribute, except the importance of our (now) young adults creating adult relationships with their parents. I’ve found that it’s extremely difficult to listen and absorb the wisdom from my parents.

    You mentioned “the teacher has to be familiar with the cultural, intellectual and emotional level of the student and use appropriate models to reach him or her”. I found that my parents are more familiar and interested with my level of understanding and development far more than any other teaching medium. Sure, I’ve looked into self-development programs. Sure, they’ve helped in some regards.

    What’s more inspiring than video vignettes and interesting blog posts? A real, respectful, mature, adult relationship with my parents. If I can become a student of my parent’s lives, I don’t have to go to the Internet, or find the next inspiring site. I live with a living, breathing, dynamic teacher who absolutely loves me, and has nothing but my best interests in mind.

    I’ve learned far more about myself, our movement, culture, community, and Principle from that. It’s been extremely uncomfortable and challenging, but I think developing adult relationships between UC parents and children would go much much further.

    Regardless of a person’s view on the Principle, UC, and all that’s happened, we all want that relationship. Very few of us have it.

    I was happy to read this post, and will read up a bit more on this blog/site. I hope it’s the beginning of more to come, and more young adults can join in!

    1. Seijin, it is refreshing to hear your input, your honesty and your well-earned accomplishment. I hope others learn from your sharing.

  13. “what he said…but more so”

    As part of the relational odyssey mentioned by Seijin, I strongly support what he had to say. I can say that although it’s a new paradigm to develop strong “adult children/ older adult parent” relationships, it is really a major key to establishing a condition for God to work in this weary world. It is not easy to create a new thing (however principled in nature) and just as Seijin mentioned; it’s occasionally difficult to listen and digest another viewpoint other than the one we’ve been living for many decades — but this is not a “fallen” reality; it is, in fact, a “pre-fall” cultural norm.

    Even in the ideal world, creating a new, adult relationship with one’s adult children would always have been challenging to a degree. It’s only that in our fallen world it is so much more difficult. Unfortunately, we have never really given this aspect of life the attention it deserves (for many reasons), but I have been deeply blessed by the emergence of my adult friend Seijin. It is an experience that I would wish on all of our families, and on all families of the world.

    For too long, we have believed the lies of the sixties: “never trust anyone over thirty” and “the generation gap”. As we overcome these mistaken paradigms, among others, we will see the emergence of a true culture and, ultimately, the Kingdom of Heaven on earth.

  14. Regarding Mr. Haines excellent point, it is the mission of intellectual leaders and educational institutions to drive the ideology into the existing culture, forging links and clarifying conflicts while maintaining the integrity of the main idea. A Unification intellectual who polishes old ideas for a sycophantic audience is doing half the job.

  15. Seijin and David make a cogent point. The Internet and multiple expressions of the Principle are to prepare a common base with different types of people.
    The ultimate connection comes through a person who is living the Principle. In our workshops, we never succeeded in witnessing unless there was a spiritual parent who would put themselves on the line for their spiritual child.

    Everyone’s spiritual parent should be their natural parent and that may be a source of hope for our movement.

  16. Regarding both Stephen’s and Dr. Winings’ points: one of our most successful witnessing tools was when we took young members to Project Volunteer to practice the principle by serving others. It is like lab work for chemistry or a political campaign for political science.

    There are many endeavors that reinforce the Principle yet to be developed.

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