Moment of Forced Silence October 12, 2007

Moment of Forced Silence

Back in March, the Illinois Senate approved a bill mandating a moment of silence in the state’s public schools.

In August, Governor Rod Blagojevich vetoed the bill:

“The law in Illinois today already allows teachers and students the opportunity to take a moment for silent thought or prayer, if they chose to,” 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.”

And today, the Illinois House voted to override the veto.

That means public schools in the state will be forced to have a moment of silence. There’s no definition of what a “moment” is, so schools can take some liberties with that, I suppose…

As Chicago Tribune columnist Eric Zorn writes:

Some schools, some classrooms and some students may benefit from the calming effects of a moment of silent thought-gathering as the school day begins. Sure. But others may not need it. They might benefit more from a moment of science, to paraphrase a bumper sticker I saw recently, or from singing a song, or from doing 100 jumping jacks or issuing a group primal scream as the tardy bell rings.

I trust the teachers and the parents and the administrators at each school to make such a decision without any arm-twisting from Springfield.

How else can the state’s General Assembly “help” Illinois schools? Zorn suggests these ideas (and many others):

The Alphabetical-Line Ban — In order to prevent discrimination against those with last names beginning with letters toward the end of the alphabet, teachers may no longer ask students to line up in alphabetical order.

The Tardy Bill — A teacher may not count as tardy any student who has at least one foot inside the classroom door by the end of the ringing of the bell.

I’d like to know how a moment of forced silence helps anyone. It’s not illegal; it’s just not useful. Hell, I’d much rather listen to my iPod if I want to relax than be silent.

What sort of lesson does that teach, anyway? Maybe if people weren’t so silent, we wouldn’t have idiotic laws like this one.

If you’re interested, here’s the history of the piece of legislation.

(via The Doubtful Daughter)

[tags]atheist, atheism, moment of silence[/tags]

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Of course, the minute any teacher explicitly says that the moment is “to pray” or for “silent prayer” or even to “ask” for something, we’ve got an Establishment case. I sure hope one of those fundie knuckleheads slips up.

  • I’d like to know how a moment of forced silence helps anyone.

    It doesn’t. It is merely the fundies attempt to get religion in through the back door. Since they aren’t allowed to lead organized prayer in school, they merely call it a “moment of silence” and pretend it is truly secular in nature. If the “moment of silence” is so beneficial, then why weren’t they doing it all along instead of praying? The “moment of silence” is just their way of biding their time until they can get enough votes on the supreme court to allow some sort of organized religion back into the schools. Keep one foot in the door.

  • Richard Wade

    There’s no definition of what a “moment” is, so schools can take some liberties with that, I suppose…

    I wonder if there will be a correlation between the religiosity of the teacher and the length of the “moment.” If this absurdity ever reaches Hemant’s classroom:

    “All right everyone settle down for the morning state-mandated moment of forced silence.” (one quarter second later) “Okay open your trig books to page fifty-four…”

  • Mriana

    *Mriana raises hand* Teacher, does this mean we have to stay in school every day for an extra few minutes to make up for the moment of silence?

    Seriously, it seems like a waste of time when the kids could be learning something. Snow days are necessary for transporting kids safely to and from school, yet they have to be made up at the end of the year or something. Now why don’t the kids have to make up for that moment of silence? It all adds up too, be it one minute or 5 minutes and could easily be oh maybe a 1/2 day of school by the end of the year.

  • Jamie

    We already have that lovely moment of silence in Texas. All it does is test my patience every morning as I remind my first-graders that a moment of silence does, once again, mean that they should not be talking. We do school-wide announcements, or else I would be tempted to skip that and the two pledges (both with “under god” in them) altogether.

  • Mriana

    Do they REALLY think kids pray or what have you during that moment of silence? I’d be wondering what terrible food they were going to serve for lunch or that math assignment I could be rushing through to get it finished before math or what I’m going to do after school or wondering what my pet is doing or “Why is that kid writing on his desk? He gonna get in trouble!” or here’s one I thought of as a kid, “Why does Suzie have a permenant tan? I wish I had one.” or or or or or or 😆 You get the idea.

  • Richard Wade

    Mriana’s right. They’ll be thinking about everything but prayer, with the exception of an occasional “Dear God, please have Mrs. Jones not ask for my report today. I didn’t finish it but it’s not my fault.”

    I doubt the moments will be very long. A whole minute is a really long time for kids to stay quiet. The lord’s prayer can be said in 22 seconds without rushing. (I only know because I asked somebody else to do it, honest. )

  • Mriana

    The lord’s prayer can be said in 22 seconds without rushing. (I only know because I asked somebody else to do it, honest. )

    Hail Mary can be said in less time without rushing. Maybe half the time. 😆

  • I think mandating a moment of silence is just a ridiculous as banning a moment of silence. You can’t force children to have respect, you can just force them to show it.

    On the other hand, consider what happens during a moment of silence: some folks pray, but some think instead. As a moment of uninterrupted thought is exactly what a lot of students need, I can find no fault with that.

  • Mriana

    Well then, Joe, why don’t we get them to call it “A Moment of Thought”? I like how that sounds. 🙂

  • Well, you call it a moment of silence because the students are expected to, at the very least, be silent. I don’t see why calling it a moment of silence because of that should be a problem.

  • Joe

    If someone doesn’t want to do the moment of silence to reflect on anything, why not be constructive and think of a question to ask the teacher after the silence to enlighten everyone.
    I heard some “brillient” person on the radio today say talking about his daughter that if it were just 15 seconds long that it would equal an hour for the school year and that would be 4 hours in her high school career that she could be learning and not wasting time! what a pathetic stance to take.
    Well, have her write out a question. If there is 177 days in the class a year, 708 questions that she could ask in her high school carrer and make the whole class smarter…..using his logic.

  • Joe

    Sad that before prayer was removed from the school that a fist fight was one of the worst things that happened. Since then, well….you get the idea. Take him out of the country and well… you get the idea…or do you?

  • Skeptical Pantheist

    It’s all about context. Momentary group silence can be a powerful pedagogical tool, if it’s used in the right context. As a cover for prayer, of course, and done in an industrial by-the-clock fashion, it isn’t useful, it’s oppressive.

    On the other hand, a moment of silence guided by someone who really gets it can work wonders with developing listening skills and concentration in the kids. It is a way to develop sensitivity for others, patience, and self-discipline… essential social skills. It’s more about using silence as a practice in itself than as a trojan horse for authority.

  • Kyle

    I’ve taken part in the moment of silence thing at school. The principal would announce it over the intercom at the beginning of the day. Sometimes it felt appropriate. Sometimes I’d just twiddle my thumbs. I never felt like I was having anyones religion forced on me.

    It fosters respect and reflection. Whats wrong with that?

    Pick your battles, guys. Do we really need to concern ourselves with such petty bullshit?

  • Teacher Jane

    As a teacher, at our school the moment of silence is during the announcements and only for a 5 or 7 seconds. Then the announcements continue. I noticed someone asked how long the moment of silence was? The length of the moment of silence is usually up to the principle.

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