The phrase “prayer in school” means different things to different people. For some, it’s about religion and the freedom to pray, or not, for assistance and guidance. Others see it as an absolute line in the sand, as if freedom of religion meant the same as freedom from religion.
As is often the case, reality is far different from the abstract concepts that people argue about in court and at family gatherings. Echoing the words of someone else’s prayer does not make you prayerful any more than taking two aspirin makes you a doctor.
Someone who wants to pray quietly will never be stopped and a person who doesn’t, never will.
There are also others out there with yet another view regarding school prayer. They see it as a type of gateway drug. They worry, or hope, that a child who sees someone praying will suddenly want to do the same.
People who think that have a poor understanding of human nature. Either that or they have so little faith in their ability to instruct and guide their children that they think a few minutes exposed to a different point of view will undermine the core moral values they’ve spent years developing.
A group of these people live in Ohio. They recently forced their local school board to cancel a program intended to help children improve their test scores while decreasing stress levels. Participants worked toward that goal through breathing exercises and meditation.
The protesting parents determined that they didn’t want their children to improve focus and gain greater emotional stability because the concepts being taught were also found through the practice of Buddhism.
The school program that was eliminated did not include any elements of prayer or worship. In many ways, it was no different than a coach telling a child to focus while playing a sport. Something similar also occurred last year in California when parents complained that teaching children yoga inappropriately exposed them to the beliefs of the Hindu faith.
To call these arguments flawed is the equivalent of smashing a cellphone with a hammer and then calling it slightly damaged. Using the same logic, children in schools should not be told that curse words are bad, that parents should be respected or that murder and theft is wrong, all because those lessons from the Ten Commandments can be found in the Old Testament, a document revered by Christians, Jews and many others.
Only one word is needed to describe those who think exposing children to different philosophies is inherently dangerous. That word is insecure.
Children are little for only a short amount of time. It’s natural for a parent to want to protect a child as much as possible for as long as possible. But there’s a fine line between sheltering a child from the evils of the world and being scared of the moment when that child starts thinking independently.
Parents on the wrong side of that line don’t recognize that independent thought will always occur. The only control they have is whether their children will expand their horizons within the framework of parental guidance or follow a path in direct rejection of what they perceive to be childhood indoctrination.
When you look at the damage caused by extremism in our world, in all its forms, it’s hard to understand why some people are such strong extremists. If children learned at a young age to respect different opinions, the world would be a better place, wouldn’t it?
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In my view, we should not endorse prayer in school because in 50 or 100 years the children in American public schoold may be forced to recite Muslim prayers from the Koran. We are far better off having no prayer in public schools because individual students can always pray silently if they like as opposed to being forced to pray in a non-Christian manner.