Let’s Take a Moment of Silence… I said TAKE IT!

Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune illuminates a pointless law that was recently approved by the Illinois Senate in today’s column.

This legislation “requires public school students to start each day with a moment of silence.” Right now, teachers may choose this option if they want, but it’s not mandatory. (By the way, if you didn’t click on that link, please do. Scroll to the bottom to see the revision. It’s even more infuriating than just reading about it.)

The law is understandable, of course, because all the other problems in Illinois have already been solved…

I understand the importance of moments of silence in instances where a student was in a fatal accident or when there’s a national tragedy. But to force it every day? It seems like a thinly-veiled attempt to bring mandatory prayer back into the classroom.

Only one person in the state Senate voted against the bill. And he was a Republican (Dan Rutherford). The law was introduced by Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood).

In Illinois, Sen. Lightford said Monday her proposal is about “requiring children to have a moment of reflection for the day’s activities and whatever they might have to deal with. There are a lot of behavior issues, overcrowded classrooms and so on. This gives teachers an extra incentive to gather the class and get the students focused.”

It might help. But of course maybe, depending on the kids, they’d get a better start to the day if they spent that moment singing a happy song, stretching, listening to a good poem, or, hey, here’s an idea, getting right to work learning the material.

Zorn also spoke to Lightford about this law:

I asked Lightford: Why should the legislature make this educational decision instead of the teachers?

“It will allow for more uniformity,” she said. “Here in the General Assembly we open every day with a prayer and Pledge of Allegiance. I don’t get a choice about that. I don’t see why students should have a choice.”

The sad thing is, I believe Lightford absolutely when she says she doesn’t see. Almost no one in Springfield seems to.

“I don’t get a choice about that. I don’t see why students should have a choice”???

You’re a legislator! Go fix your own Senate policies before forcing your incorrect ways onto everyone else.

And I highly doubt they’ll punish state senators if they don’t say the prayer and Pledge.

Some readers of Zorn’s blog have some enlightening comments as well:

The difference is that Sen. Lightford chose to run for her position as a senator (and presumably knew a bit about what she was getting herself into). Children by the very virtue of being children do not have a choice but to be at school everyday.

There is one way in which this craven, unconstitutional act of unwarranted interference in our public schools might do some good: if teachers ask their students to use their moment of silence to reflect on why it is that the State legislature passes laughable legislation such as this bill instead of taking action that might actually help kids in Illinois – like fixing our school funding mess, for instance.

The thing is they took a perfectly good statute which said that the schools MAY offer a moment of silence and maimed it by changing it to SHOULD so that all schools must even if local circumstances are not apt for it. If we value diversity in this state, then what’s wrong with the MAY approach?

On a side note, this does bring to mind the entertaining “Moment of Bedlam” one finds at some atheist events :)

[tags]atheist, atheism, Eric Zorn, Chicago Tribune, Illinois, Senate, moment of silence, Republican, Dan Rutherford, Kimberly Lightford, Democrat, Maywood, Pledge of Allegiance, Springfield, Moment of Bedlam[/tags]

  • Jen

    Jesus Christ. I remember my senior year of high school (2002-2003) Illinois passed a law requiring the Pledge of Allegiance to be read every Monday morning. I didn’t have first period classes, but one morning I went in early to use the library and suddenly, everyone is standing and I was sitting, still confused. The librarian glared at me, naturally. I thought it was completely insane and reactionary to 9-11. Before that, I hadn’t said the Pledge since grade school. This seems similiar, in forcing things on students who don’t want or need it. If I want a moment of silence, I will go somewhere besides a high school. If I want to say the Pledge, I will do so on my own time. And if I want to sneak mandatory prayer in, I will pass a stupid law.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    I remember my senior year of high school (2002-2003) Illinois passed a law requiring the Pledge of Allegiance to be read every Monday morning.

    I remember when that happened. I was a youth pastor at the time and we encouraged the kids in our youth group to abstain from saying the pledge on religious grounds. Some of them did, and got a lot of dirty looks from teachers and other students for it.

  • Just Me

    As an atheist I really don’t have a problem with a moment of silence. I would encourage my children to use that time to gather their thoughts on the whats ahead of them in the day or whatever else they care to think about in that time.

    To me there should be, at least, some kind of compromise. I don’t want to be forced to pray, so why should I as an atheist, force others to not be able to pray *in silence*?

    We in life have to pick our battles and this one in my opinion is not worth the effort.

  • http://emergingpensees.blogspot.com/ Mike C

    I pretty much agree with Just Me. It’s a silly, stupid law, but why fight about it? If it’ll get the “prayer in school” crowd to finally shut up and talk about something important, so much the better. A moment of silence isn’t going to hurt anybody.

  • MTran

    I’m not bothered at all by a moment of silence in schools.

    After spending many years with default responsibility for (sometimes rather nasty) crowd management at official government functions attended by surly members of the public, I really appreciate the positive effects of ritual silence.

  • Siamang

    I’m with the posters above.

    Now if only politicians would start meetings of government with silence instead of loud prayer, we’d be getting somewhere.

    In fact… Can we silence politicans completely? Thanks!

  • AB

    It is my personal opinion that the Pledge of Allegiance lost its meaning years ago from incessant recitation; I don’t think most kids in school even listen as it’s being recited. At least, that is, until 9-11. And then I think it took on slight significance for a few months at the most. Unless your family is military, but whatever. I graduated high school in 1987, and I can’t recall ever having a prayer time in school, just the Pledge. My kids, though, have always had the “moment of silence”. They were told that they could pray silently or just sit there silently for 60 seconds. There were children of various faiths in class, and I think the only thing any of them objected to (along with their Christian classmates) was forced silence. ;)

  • TB

    Well, I just finished student teaching and you know what….the moment of silence isn’t even that. Most teachers have work for students to do when they come in (while they take attendance and listen to announcements ect.) So during our school’s moment of silence the kids simply kept working — the same way they would without a moment of silence. It is so meaningless to teachers and students.

  • Pingback: Friendly Atheist » Moment of Forced Silence