Texas moment of silence challenged

Filed under: Day Care & Education

Did you know that in Texas, the state mandates that schools observe a minute of silence each day? I didn't. Although they don't specify an intended purpose, it's pretty clear that it is intended to be used for prayer. At least, that's the contention of David and Shannon Croft of Carrollton, Texas. The couple has three children in a local elementary school and is determined to ensure that they receive a secular education.

So, they've sued the governor and the school district, claiming the law is unconstitutional. This past week, a federal court heard arguments for and against the law, with the plaintiffs arguing that it is a violation of the doctrine of the separation of church and state, especially given the inclusion of the specific suggestion that the time could be used for prayer. The state, meanwhile, argued that the law was secular, even if prayer was an option; what is done during that moment is up to the students.

As opposed as I am to the idea of public schools using my tax dollars to promote religious beliefs or activities, I have to say that the idea of a simple minute of silence -- so long as it is not specifically designated as being a time for prayer -- doesn't bother me too much on that basis. If the kids are free to use the time to do whatever they like, it's not really a religious issue.

For me, however, the real problem is that if it is not intended to be used specifically for prayer, why bother? That's a full minute of wasted school time -- time better spent, oh, say, teaching the kids. As the Crofts point out, there are 180 school days each year -- a minute a day is 180 minutes per year or three hours of lost instruction time. That's the problem in my book. If it's not about prayer, why waste that time?

It will be interesting to see how this plays out. This doesn't just affect Texas; there twenty-five states with moment-of-silence statutes and thirteen of them specifically list prayer as an option. It seems to me that if the kids really want time for introspection, meditation, or prayer, they are welcome to take care of that during recess or, if all they really need is a minute, between classes or while the teacher is calling on another student. What do you think? Are you in favor of these laws or opposed? How would you want your kids to use a moment of silence?

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.