Thursday, October 11, 2007

Moments of Silence

Illinois legislators have passed a new bill requiring public school teachers to hold a period of silence at the start of each day. Opponents call the law a thinly veiled attempt at requiring prayer in school. Proponents insist that silence is necessary to calm students as they begin a hectic day of study. What do you think of the law? Read this linked article critically.

24 comments:

Brandon said...

I think the bill completely violates the first amendment and should be hard to uphold in the courts. This bill is no different from past acts that were declared unconstitutional by the supreme court. In Lemon v. Kurtz (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lemon_v._Kurtzman), the Supreme Court ruled that "the government's action must not result in an 'excessive government entanglement' with religion."

Even if some claim that prayer isn't necessary, the title of the bill, "The Silent Reflection and Student Prayer Act", makes it obvious that religion was obviously implied when this bill was passed.

Also, the first amendment allows people to have their own moments of silence at home and at school, so students who choose to rest/pray/"reflect" can do it right now. The fact that the government mandates everyone to remain silent is fusing the government with religion.

I really wonder why something that, in my eyes, is unnecessary can have such strong support to override Blagoyevich's veto. The article states that "about three dozen states have passed legislation authorizing school districts to set aside up to five minutes for silent meditation or time to pray." I was just wondering, what states are following this law and if it has been beneficial to those students in any way?

Eli said...

personally, i feel that a five minute period before your first class to see and talk with your friends would be more effective than a moment silence. everyone goes through a hectic day and a true stress releaser is seeing and talking with your friends about something school related. whenever you think to your own it always comes up with what you have to do during the day...then the stress comes back. I think that a better way to start the day would be a looser advisory time with an extra five minutes after to linger the halls and socialize.

Bernadette.Brandt said...

Before I even read the article, I knew I was not in favor of this legislation. In debate last year, I debated this at a tournament. It was apparently clear after several speakers voiced their opinions that we should veto this, and we did. First of all, this bill violates the Seperation of Church and State clearly outlined in our constitution. Prayer does not belong in schools and that is seemingly what this bill is trying to do.

Also, according to the article linked, students have had the option of doing this since 2002. This was a much better system because this brings up the other flaw in the bill-enforcement. Every bill must include who enforces it. At New Trier, we don't even stand up or be quiet for the pledge. What makes them think they can force every classroom in Illinois to maintain silence early in the morning. It clearly won't happen.

As Governer Blagojevich said, children should have the right to pray or meditate, but should not be forced to do it. I agree with Rep. Monique Davis that kids are "bombarded" with work and noise during the day, but that is why we go home and relax. That's why you see kids walking down the hallways during passing periods with their iPods. It's not more 'noise' as she thinks, but rather it gives them a chance to ignore all the noise and zone out to their own tunes. What she didn't understand is listening to our iPods is like silence for us.

On another point, I agree with Kenneth Arndt.
"I was just at a high school this morning and I felt sorry for the first-period teachers trying to get these kids to wake up," Arndt said, chuckling. "When was the last time these legislators visited any schools?" I consider this bill outdated. I imagine these legislators are old men who haven't been to school in years. In the 1950's everything was peaceful and calm in schools. Today, it is quite the opposite and an extra requirement like this is unnecessary.

Chris said...

I don't see the problem with having kids praying during a moment of silence. It is called a moment of silence, not prayer. If kids choose, they can simply reflect on the upcoming day instead of praying, as nobody of forcing them to pray.

helfmank said...

I find the new law to be going directly against the separation of church and state. Aren't private schools the whole purpose as to including your religion, for the most part? There are too many different types of people and views on such a controversial topic. Yet, i find that most people would fidn that the separation of church and state to a smart idea and to keep prayer away from public schools.

Elizabeth L said...

Blagojevich wrote. "I believe this is the right balance between the principles echoed in our constitution, and our deeply held desire to practice our faith. As a parent, I am working with my wife to raise our children to respect prayer and to pray because they want to pray—not because they are required to." I personally agree with him because I have been raised this way; however, I do see other peoples disagreement in this law due to disagreement in religion. If Blagojevich really wanted prayer to be in his kids life, there is many other ways in doing so, rather than set a law permitting prayer. But I also believe that people are taking this wrong way and completely and only taking the moment of silence and connotating moment of prayer. I think it would be nice to take a moment before the day starts to just think about what is ahead in order to get ready and prepare myself for the hectic day that follows. From what I know, doesnt the constitution use GOD in it, wouldnt that be putting religion on people more than a moment of silence. People are overacting to this, its a good idea that I think will be an important part of our day. I do think it is sad though that as a society we are so busy and caught up in our lives with technology, work and extracuricular activities that the government has to make kids just take a moment for themeselves-shouldnt we be able to do this on there own. But than again, i forget to do this so i think this is a nice little reminder.
Also regarding Eli's idea of taking a five minute period to talk to your friends before class, it is a great idea, but I know that I would just walk right to class because when I leave advisory I am focused on the test or quiz or paper that is due and DONT want to have the stress of friends before that. Personal life can get more stressful than school I think atleast from a girls standpoint.

unfGuido said...

I have to agree with kevin that this is a violation of church and state. They may call it a neutral silence moment, but I get the vibe that the moment of silence is for religion. And I believe that eli is correct with the idea of having a few minutes with friends before your first class. Looking at the other point of view, it could help settle kids down before class, but even for that reason it is still a separation of church and state.

JKlei said...

I think this bill is unneccesary and uncalled for. First of all it goes against free speech. Also, it seems it is taking away from student's free time in the morning. Clearly this silence time does not have to happen at schools and there can be many better uses of that time everyday for academic reasons.

Hannah D. said...

Honestly, I think the new law is insulting. It is not right for kids, whether in kindergarten or a senior in high school, to be forced to sit through a moment of silence everyday. I can't believe that the government thinks that this is a good idea because, although they say it can be for any religion, it does not seem like it can be focused on any religion. I understand the necessity of this in private schools, but in public schools I believe this could cause problems between students.
Also, if Blagoyevich already had vetoed the bill, then why did they override it? They knew his opinion on the whole situation, and they should have just stuck to that. It is not fair for students, and Blagoyevich for that matter, to have to have to do something that we do not want to do.

Andrew said...

Every student has their own daily routine. I think that if students want to relax, they can make that choice on their own. I find it ironic that there will be a forced, structured time of silence for students to escape the pressure-filled day.

arcohen said...

If kids in school find they don't have enough time to pray why aren't they going to church more often? On one hand I don't think this bill is that big of a deal, but I can defiantly see where people find it ridiculous and unnecessary. I'm positive the word silence instead of prayer was used to eliminate conflict . But if the real reason for this moment of silence is for prayer then why don't they call it what it really is? regardless if its wrong or not. This bill is completely appropriate in private schools that are religiously affiliated, but New Trier is not. I think its great that the government is trying to find a way to involve kids with prayer, but it is 100% not their place to encourage ANY religious anything. I will not be surprised AT ALL if this bill is revoked veryyy soon, I'm sure we will be hearing more and more about this in the news in the next few weeks, I am interested to see what happens with this new bill.

Sara D said...

Before reading this article and the comments that other people had, I did not even think about the point of how this is a total viollation of church and state. I don't think that the moment of silence necessarily implies that it is a time to be religious, but rather a time to get prepare for your day. However, I am not in favor of this law. I agree with Eli when he said that five minutes to be with friends would be a more helpful way to start my day off then sitting for 5 minutes. The more I think about it, I would not want to sit thinking if I am going to have a good or a bad day.

Maseeh M said...

What was wrong with what we had before?? Isn't this a little unnecessary?

Harlesbarkly said...

This so called moment of silence is just another way the church/religious groups are using to get prayer back in public schools. I was proud that our nation separated church and state. (Our public schools are considered state just for your information.). Even though this so called moment is only a moment it will become something greater. I feel that soon laws that allow group prayer will be allowed which would discriminate against minorities like Jews, Sunnis, Shiites, or even the minor religion of Wicca. This law will lead to the discrimination of millions. If look at our History you can see that almost every war, killing, genocide, or conquering of a country was in the name of religion. This law will regress our society slowly back to religious wars, we must learn form our past mistakes that religion and school need to be seperated like the French's school system.

Eli said...

I think the proposed law is a bad idea because it takes away an element of free will, implying a need for reflection that should not be at the discretion of public schools. Whether the time frame is one second or five minutes, making it mandatory clearly crosses a line that has heretofore been inviolate. There is not now nor has there ever been a place for prayer in public schools. Call it whatever you want, but "The Silent Reflection and Prayer Act" sounds scarily like prayer in school.

Mrs. Greenspan

Hannah D. said...

This is Hannah's dad.

I think that it is often useful to ask the question, "what problem are we trying to solve?" In this case, the legislature has clearly decided that the problem is that there is no constitutionally acceptable way to require prayer in public schools, and the solution is this law. The title of the bill doesn't make a pretense of the intent: to require our children to pray in school. Regardless of the euphamism that is employed, reflection, for instance, the word "prayer" is still prominent in the title. In addition, the word "silent" is a code word often used in this context to imply prayer.

There is a mechanism in Illinois state law to apply for an exception to enforcement of such a law. I would encourage the Board of Education to consider applying for an exception, and to allow our students to use their day at New Trier for learning and not to support the agenda of the out-of-touch state legislators.

Moira C. said...

This is Moira's dad. Clearly this law is constitutes a waste of both the students' and teachers' time, and therefore the taxpayer's money. Even worse is the fact that this has even occupied the time of our legislators when there are real issues to be dealt with is symptomatic of the ineffectiveness of our current state government. It seems they would rather expend their time and political capital on addressing imaginary problems rather than balancing budgets, funding transit or attending to the health, safety and welfare of the public.

Lars said...

Hi..this is Bobby's mom. I am not in favor of government mandates in schools, but I think a 'moment of silence' is a good thing. Our world is so full of schedules, noise and more noise. A few minutes to collect ones' self in the beginning of the day is a good thing. The bill is classified as a moment of silence, not a prayer time...students can use it as they please.

Brandon said...

Brandon's father said...
"Silence is necessary to calm students as they begin a hectic day of study" is a false assumption and should not be the reason for the law. So what are the true reasons?

Andrew said...

I am Mr. Clinkman. I am opposed to the mandatory moment of silence law, primarily because there are too many state and federal mandates forced on local public schools already. This mandate simply adds more compliance burdens on already taxed school administrators. I also believe it is a way to sneak religious observance into public schools, which I also oppose.

linzerfield said...

Lindsey's mom here! I think that this moment of silence would be good for students. These kids lead pretty stressful lives and should use the moment of silence as a time of reflection or relaxation.
-Maureen Shea

Steph said...

From Stephanie's mom. Our faith and religious practices are ours and ours alone. I do not impose my beliefs on others and never want others to force theirs on me or mine. This "moment of silence" is a thinly veiled attempt to mandate prayer. Until this law is overturned I personally will dedicate myself to assisting my daughter with using this time for her own personal gain; and I gaurentee it won't be spent on her knees.

Bernadette.Brandt said...

This is Bernadette's dad. Five years ago I became a high school teacher in the Chicago Public Schools following a business career of over twenty years.

I encourge others to appreciate that New Trier is not the world of high schools. In CPS, regular 45-minute classes meet during periods 1 and 2. Next we have "division" which is 10 minutes long. Attendace is taken and announcements are made during this period. Students are typically programmed into classes through period 8--no free periods.

I suggest the issue is not legitimate time to pray or meditate, but how and when such a an effort would be executed. As a first period teacher I am compelled to get started with a "bell ringer" to get students to class on time and begin thinking about the lesson I have planned.

Zmalkin said...

I agree with brandon and eli in that 1. this does fully violate the first amendment and 2. If the purpose of this bill is to relieve stress then i don't think that this is the best way to accomplish that. I think that spending that time , as eli said, talking with friends can also relieve stress, and perhaps even more.