Prayer in School: Good or Bad?
As secular humanists and groups like the Christian Coalition are at war with each other regarding prayer in high schools behind closed doors in Washington DC, the average high school kid is the one that gets caught in the middle.
For years now there has been a heated debate about whether or not prayer should be allowed in school,. Everytime the argument is rekindled, it ends in a stalemate, and is a topic that campaigning politicians tend to stay away from.
In the beginning, the argument was whether or not the school day
should be started with a prayer over the PA system of school. This didn't last long, as anyone can see that there is so much diversity between the religious beliefs of high school kids today. The argument then moved on to replace "prayer" with moment of silence."
Those in favor of prayer in school
pose several arguments. They say it will increase tolerance in schools, as children learn of different religions and how they practice. Many feel it will bring to surface the personal questions kids have about god and religion and allow them to search for their own belief system. The most common however is the argument that bringing prayer back to schools will help reverse the moral degragation of this country. As the Reverend Jeffery L. Osgood, pastor of the First southern Baptist Church
in Dover wrote, "Back in 1962, when prayer was removed by the Supreme Court, something happened to America's soul and America's schools. Our nation became increasingly secular and less tolerant of moral standards and values. Since America became to proud to pray to the God of Heaven who created us, we have been reaping the rewards. Crime is way up. The family has broken up. The test scores of students have taken a submarine dive. Its time for a change!"
On the other hand, Secular Humanists, have several arguments focusing on why prayer in schools is a bad idea. They state that public schools exist to educate, not to proselytize. Children in public schools are a captive audience. Making prayer an official part of the school day is coercive and invasive. What 5,8 or 10-year-old could view prayers recited as part of class routine as "voluntary,"? Religion is private, and schools are public, so the only appropriate situation is that these two do not mix. To introduce religion in our public schools builds walls between children who may not have been aware of religious differences before.
Both arguments make compellling and relavent points. Personally, I feel that voluntary prayer should not be a part of the school days schedule, however, should be allowed upon individual request. By this I don't mean that children be allowed to skip entire school days because of prayer, however, a few minutes is definetly reasonable. I feel that is it is time that our school stop viewing discussions about religion as tabu. There are limits however. Religion should for the most part be kept out of the cirriculums of younger school children, I don't think that they need the complexity of debating their life style while struggling through Kindergarten
Prayer is definetly a personal issue, but its up to the individual to decide how private he or she wants it to be. As long as it doesn't infringe upon the rights of others, we all have to become more tolerant and accepting of people practicing their beliefs in public.