Thursday, March 22, 2007


Today I actually have something to say. Go figure. While reading the Red Eye this morning, I learned that the Illinois state senate has passed a bill requiring schools K-12 to have a moment of silence at the beginning of every school day. This is seen as a way to circumvent the whole no prayer in the schools thing. Obviously, they can’t require prayer because of a little thing called The Constitution but, apparently, this is just fine.

Currently, there is a law saying that teachers can choose to have a moment of silence at the beginning of the day if they so desire. I had no idea about this, then again I have never attended school in Illinois and I don’t know how long this law has been around. It seems strange to me though. I do, however, know that I will very likely be teaching in Illinois at some point and will, as of now, be required to have a moment of silence in my classroom. I find this disgusting.

I have written about my views on organized religion before (although it was so long ago i had like one reader and no comments). I consider myself to be agnostic andI am generally uncomfortable around praying people. I don’t know why but I guess I assume that your praying should be done in the comfort of your own church or home. Maybe I am being insensitive about it but that is just the way I feel. Once I went to breakfast with co-workers and was about to start eating when one was like, “Wait, we have to pray.” I looked at her a little funny and ate. Thinking "Sorry, I don’t have to do anything". (I totally I wrote that interaction wrong. It was more like our food came and I picked up my fork and she stopped me with "You better pray over that food, you don't know where it has been". "Thanks, gross, and I don't pray" I thought. She then began to pray aloud while I just sat there with my fork still in my hand looking confused. I did wait for her to finish before eating. I'm not as rude as all that. Although I did want to be.) Now, if I am eating with someone and they take time out for a little prayer to themselves I am not bothered. I guess it is organized praying that gets to me. Kind of like how organized religion does but spirituality doesn’t.

Now if people want to pray before they start their school-day it’s fine. Do it before you get to school. If you want to have a little moment to yourself at the start of class then fine, but to have it legislated is preposterous. I fully understand that just because people are being silent doesn’t mean they are praying. A moment of silence is technically a time for reflection and introspection. However, that is not how it will be seen. I would guess that there are other teachers or potential teachers who, like me, are uncomfortable with the idea. That would be why some of them have elected not to have moments of silence in their classrooms. I would also guess that, particularly in High School, there would be a number of students who, like me are a little uncomfortable with the whole idea.

Maybe I am being too sensitive. Maybe there really isn’t anything strange about requiring this and I am just an odd person out. Maybe my thinking that people have a right to go to work and school and not be surrounded by people involved in religious practices is out of line. I really don’t know. I do know, however, that I don’t think it is right. I don’t think it is something we should be required to experience. If you want to pray at school go to a religious school. There are plenty of them. I know those schools cost money and that brings up a whole issue of class and rights of the more economically disadvantaged to be able to pray in school. I do see both sides to the issue. I just think there are many far more important (and less divisive) things that our state senate could be focusing on.

On a happier note it looks like they are also very close to passing a bill on legalizing civil unions. It’s not marriage, but it’s a step in the right direction. Baby steps here, people, baby steps.

I am also getting my hair cut tonight. I have no idea where my camera is so I am hoping that I can find it by the time I get home tonight for an after picture. If not I’ll either be very happy tomorrow or very sad. Maybe my writing will sufficiently describe what happened to my head.

1. It’s raining/ It’s raining/ There’s nothing you can do/ It doesn’t only rain on you/ But you’re acting all upset/ like you’re the only one that’s wet.

2. On the corner/ We talk away/ Everybody's older these days/ I'll just hit the reset button on this game.

3. Let it flow/ Let yourself go/ Slow and low that is the tempo. Kiyotoe knows it's the Beastie Boys but we still have room for the title. Ern to the rescue with our title of "Slow and Low".

4. Well she was just seventeen/ You know what I mean/ And the way she looked was way beyond compare. I Saw Her Standing There, The Beatles. Identified by WLFG and Danielle

5. Lada-dada-da it’s the motherfucking “d” “o” double g/ Lada-dada-da you know I’m hoppin with the “d” “r” “e”. Kiyotoe Knows it's Dr. Dre but we are, again, titleless Ern has cleared it us with "The Next Episode"


Kiyotoe said...

wow Nat, that was a passionate piece of writing. I understand where you're coming from. People/kids shouldn't be forced to participate in any of these mandated requirements but from the Devil's Advocate p.o.v., I guess this was the best compromise they could come up with. If you don't pray, then don't pray, but if you do, then do it during the moment of silence.

I'm with you though, all of it could and should probably be handled at home in the morning or even before little Tommy gets out of mommy's car at school.

Beastie Boys and Snoop? ;)

Jaclyn said...

I like the old adage, "As long as there are tests, there will always be prayer in school."

Keep your religion and your religious practices to yourself. I am in total agreement with you on this one.

With Love, Fat Girl said...

I was just listening to #4 on my ipod not half an hour ago, When I saw her standing there by the Beatles.

I don't know where I stand on this exactly since I'm the kind of person who keeps their religion within their own home and that's it... I went to Catholic school where we mumbled prayers every morning and etc., but I hate when religion is forced. That friend of yours who wanted to pray before the meal could have done that many different ways, without involving you in it.

Monica said...

remember when we went to "The Taste of Chicago" for the 4th of July and while everyone stood for the pledge and the anthem, we casually continued our game of cribbage? Remember the horrified looks we got? I remember.

When I am finished working, I will have more to say. I'll be by at 5 to go to your haircut w/ you.

paz y amor said...

Ahh, the old "prayer in the schools argument". Before the kids come, teachers at my school (public) start the year with a staff prayer- which at first made me uncomfortable too, but I had to understand that I was vastly outnumbered and raising a fuss wouldn't make them stop praying. I don't feel as though they force it on me at all, I just choose not to participate when they do it. I agree though that the praying should happen at home and should stay there, but being in the bible belt, rules regarding religion get bent.

Mom said...

Natalie, good luck with the haircut. Nice that Monica's going with you -- I hope she is a good advocate/support person! :-)

And I certainly do want to see a picture!

How on earth do you enforce a moment of silence in a classroom? How long is a "moment" anyway? Do you have to start over if someone talks? I hope "they" don't try to enforce any particular train of thought during the silent moment. Regimenting the "silent moment" like this could possibly backfire and make kids less likely to want to pray. It is possible that the moment of silence is "in trade" for civil unions; this doesn't make sense, logically, but many people approach these issues without logic. What about religions that have certain required prayer times during the day? A lot of the issue comes down to the difference between saying "everyone has to do it my way" and saying "everyone can do it their way as long as it doesn't abridge someone else's rights." What's done in schools should add to a healthy learning environment; through this lens, to me, the time spent on this law is a waste and should have been spent on other issues.

Danielle said...

I love your random lyrics. I know some but the song slips me by, I enjoy the challenge. I tried to bite you yesterday but something screwy happened to the post. I will try again sometime today.
Prayer in school? Back in Boston I remember praying the ol'god is good god is great prayer, I now think that the school was breaking the law having the class pray out loud before eating lunch. I don't have a problem with a moment of silence but wouldn't it be more meaningful to ask the children to take a moment to write what is on their mind. Prayer is a very personal thing in my book but in India I experienced the energy of collective prayer with chanting mantras. My husband prays daily after bathing in front of our homemade temple which is just a wardrobe decorated on the inside. I chose the wardrobe for privacy. We have had Christian fundamentalists get angry at our beliefs like including Jesus, Saint Anthony next to Shiva and Ganesh. To me nature is divine, life is divine, expressions of love are divine, tolerance is divine and YOU are divine.

Phil said...

I realize the thought behind this is to get prayer into school, but I think a skilled teacher could turn it into something posotive.

CSG said...

I remember that, while being a senior at a HS in Ohio, we had to Pledge Allegiance to the flag every morning. Everybody would stand up, and I also did it. Although, of course, being from Spain I never even tried to mumble it. But I stood up anyway, kind of showing respect.

I had the same experience you did at lunch with a college friend. It was only one person, but the rest of us waited for him to finish his before-meals prayer. I thought it was respectful to do so. But it also made me feel unconfortable, so I guess he should've been also respectful and let us have our meal without delay. So I guess I'm still not sure about my opinion about it.

My opinion is clear about public school prayers. No way.

Danielle said...

I just reread the post. Why would a moment of silence every day be legislated? What is the purpose and intention of such a law? What will the children learn during that moment? How to be quiet? Will there be a lead in before the silence?
I got number 4. The Beatles "I saw her standing there". I love that song.

Natalie said...

Kiyote- Good call on the artists, but what are the songs. What are the songs. I agree that is a compromise needed to be made this is the best way to do it. Still, I say keep it at home.

Jaclyn- Sure, take time out before your test to pray. Don't expect it to be deducted from the set time limit.

With Love- It's the forced thing that bothers me. I have plenty of friends who are very religious but they leave me out of it and it's all fine (I rewrote the interaction at breakfast because I realize I didn't portray it correctly).

Monica- Boy do I ever remember. We were busy and also in big protest against the government at the time. Leave us alone.

Paz- I too realize I am outnumbered but at least they did it before the kids got there. To me that is the strangest part.

Natalie said...

Mom- I'm glad Monica is coming too. I think that the "everyone do it this way" thing is what really got me. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. A moment of silence can certainly be hard to enforce.

Danielle- I totally agree that prayer is and should be allowed to be important for whoever wants it to be and I also think it is very personal. Collective prayer can be very meaningful also but, it would seem more impactful if people had a choice. It's the legislation thing that freaked me out though.

Phil- You are right. The article was very brief but I wonder if the teacher could direct their moment of silent contemplation or if that would be seen as interference.

CSL- I actually did wait until she was done to eat. I am about respect. It was just the whole interaction gave me the creeps. The Pledge of Allegiance isn't something I like either. It makes me feel I have to agree with everything our government is doing, even though that isn't the point.

Mom said...

Nat, did you ever see that old Star Trek episode (TOS) with "E Plebneestum" ("we the people")? I know Dad and I would always talk about it. The thing is, if we do this democracy thing right, we are "the government." (The hard part is doing it right.) And the Pledge of Allegiance is supposed to be a pledge to stand by our country (in other words, to stand by one another) and to stand up for liberty and justice for all. At times when I have viewed the pledge as a rote endorsement of what a given administration was doing in my name and over my objecions, I have declined to participate. But most of the time, nowadays, I try to view it as a statement what is supposed to be, which I do endorse. But, hey -- remember "The Great Loyalty Oath Crusade" in Catch-22? Legislating people's hearts is just not the way to go...

notfearingchange said...

Now here is my thought - a little broken but wtf...If i pray to the Rock Gods. Yes that is right the Rock Gods - Such as the Ramones. Such as Metric. Such as the Pixies. In my one minute of reflection can i put my ipod/mp3 in my ears and blast them to ensure i truly hear my gods?
Just a thought...going back to my wine

Eve said...

That is strange, and I agree that if someone wants to pray before school, pray before school! Not in class. What about instituting a meditation minute? That's not religious...

Do they still do the pledge of allegiance? We always did that growing up (I went to CPS.)

Also, I like how you typed out "la da da da da." I can't remember the name of that song either. Damn.

Jeff Roberts said...

As compromises go, I think this is at least in the spirit of freedom of religion, as opposed to freedom from religion. I could pray, you could make out your mental shopping list, no one gets hurt in that. I'm sure I'd be expected to be "tolerant" if they instituted a "moment of sodomy".

In the same way it may seem odd or offensive to you that they would set apart a moment during school for this, it's terribly sad to me that they have to, and that they have to couch it in such vague terms to even do it.

Not to pick on jaclyn, because I hear this all the time, but saying someone should keep their religion to themselves is not freedom of religion. That's like telling one ethnic group that they have all of the rights of citizens, except that they may not procreate. The heart of most religions is to tell others. If I had the cure for cancer, I'd be remiss in not sharing it.

RastaManErn said...

Jeebus people!

"Slow & Low" and "The Next Episode"

RastaManErn said...

...and sorry, Jeff. One can choose one's religion, but not one's ethnicity, so that's not very apt, but I see what you're driving at.

Mom said...

The heart of some religions is to tell others; not sure if it's the heart of most. It is not a feature of the one I grew up in. But I do get the point. There's a huge difference between politely asking someone "Can I tell you about my religion?" and shoving it down their throat through laws, conquest, "establishment" of a government-approved religion (which is prohibited in our Constitution), etc. I realize that there are many people who feel certain that their religion is the one true path and thus feel an obligation to get others to follow. But there are also many people do not see someone else's religion as the one true path; in this world we all have the right to our own beliefs and the right not to be made--by force of law or of might--to relinquish our beliefs or adopt others.

Not talking about something isn't the way to deal with it either; we need to talk more about religion, race, culture, ethnicity, gender, etc., because these are part of who we are as people. If we don't talk, we don't learn and don't grow. Of course we need to talk respectfully and not tread on each others' rights and human dignity.

Natalie -- how did the hair turn out???

Johnny Yen said...

I have a better idea-- how about a whole day of silence! As a teacher, I can get behind that one.

Blondie said...

Look at all this chatter! Whoo hoo! My 2 cents: Moment of silence is BS.

kim said...

You know Natalie. I'm with you but in a different space. As someone who does not go to church, I pray to God constantly. In my head, driving to work, going to sleep. I'm usually saying thanks, but then I ask for help about this or that. I don't feel comfortable praying in public; but I have this strange personal conversation to God. Mr. Yen is agnostic; he says he's an atheist, but I don't believe him. My daughter is very spiritual. I think making people pray in a public space is like making a kid eat their peas, when they don't want to.

Natalie said...

Notfearing- I wonder if you had your headphones on quietly so no one else could hear if that would be ok?

Eve- The strange thing is that I think if we started meditation minute people would assume there was a push toward eastern religions. I know a few schools (I can't remember where) stopped offering Yoga because it was seen as religious.

Jeff- I can respect your opinion but I do think that freedom of religion also includes freedom from it. The freedom to choose not to worship is just as valid and important. The thing is no one would ever institute a "moment of sodomy" because it isn’t accepted as ok. Many religions I have leaned of aren't about conversion; in fact you have to go through a lot to become part of that group.

Ern- Amen to that.

Mom- It's good pics are in your mailbox and will be up here shortly.

Johnny- That sounds good to me. It would be nice as a teacher.

Blondie- I know, I was super excited about it!

Kim- I agree with you. Religion is, to me, a personal thing. Also, when in a religious edifice you are with like-minded people and it is expected that you share the bond. Legislating it seems to take some of the spirituality out of the equation.

Monica said...

just for the record, i wouldn't say a pledge of allegiance even if I was OK with the government. I am however perfectly fine with people "getting their pray on". What does it have to do with me unless it somehow infringes on my choice to not be involved in it. It's strange because in some situations I feel like I owe religious types some basic level of courtesy sans participation (for example at dinner, let them pray. I can wait a few extra seconds to eat while I look around uncomfortably waiting for them to finish) but at other times I feel like no one deserves anything one way or another. why should i look around uncomfortably fidgeting while you pray in an inappropriate setting (mandated "moments of silence")?

CSL said...

I took a weekend off and now I'm trying to catch up. I like this post - although there is techincally nothing religious about a moment of cilence, I think those who don't want to pray feel pressured. I agree they should take their moment at home. And I gate when someone tried to stop me from eating so they can pray. Why can't they just stop quietly and leave me alone? I especially hate being at a school function where they do a prayer first. It's apublic school, but it never seems to stop them. I could go on and on about this, but you already said it better.

Janna said...

I agree with everything you just said, so I guess I'll just stand back and applaud. :)

Natalie said...

Mizzle- too true too true.

CSL- The technically nothing religious thing is what makes it legal but it still just rubs me the wrong way.

Janna- Thanks a bunch. I get ranty sometimes.

Roxanna said...

Interestingly, the bill is entitled,
Silent-Reflection and Student Prayer Act and is a legal part of the school code of Illinois. If you are going to teach in Illinois-I am an IL teacher-it is good to know the law actually includes the words prayer. That is what I disagree with vehemently and we teachers have enough to do without adding this to our list. Plus, it violates my faith and values and there is no protection provided. Also no length of time, is to be teacher-led. So what is really happening? The principal or superintendent uses the intercom to lead the Silent-Reflection and Student Prayer time-taking it out of the state mandated teacher's hands. Information from the front lines....