Kids Should Be Able to Pray in School If They Want To… Amen!

PrayerWhen I was a kid, there were three standards about the school day, no matter what grade or part of the year we were in: the roll call, the morning announcements, and the Pledge of Allegiance. I never felt endeared to any of them, especially the latter. It was just part of the process of digging into another day on the learning front. But now, from what I hear, many kids don’t know it at all. Public schools have pulled it from their daily regimen because the word “God” is in there.

Running right along those please-don’t-say-the-“G”-word lines, prayer clubs, religious references, even Christmas carols in music classes, are being snuffed out left and right in a sweep of political over-correctness. Kids can meet up and learn how to skeet shoot or handle a firearm, but prayer? That’s no longer a school-sponsored activity. Fail.

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I’m well aware that civil liberties is a hot-button issue, even in the educational arena because — God forbid — a non-believer be encroached upon by fellow students praying, mentioning a superior being, or openly expressing reverence for that omnipotent, unseen Creator of all things in the sky. Parents who are adamant about their atheistic or agnostic beliefs don’t want their kids exposed to anything that can counteract or challenge what they’ve worked so hard to instill, particularly since they live in a predominantly Christian society. I can imagine they would cringe at the idea of their kids saying “one nation under God” or “our Father, who art in heaven” when they’ve drilled into them that the idea of a higher power is just that: an idea. Not a truth or a reality.

What I don’t understand is why there can’t be space and opportunity for everyone to respectfully learn about different beliefs, whether that includes Allah, Jesus, Darwin, or nobody in particular. You know, like each gets equal billing as part of the curriculum? Even students who do come from religious families could grow a little more in knowledge about their own faith in a non-sacred environment. There’s a big difference in getting information about it from an academic perspective than at the mosque or temple or church.

But aside from that, shouldn’t we be giving our kids exposure to all kinds of religious beliefs — or non-religious beliefs — rather than completely pulling the discussion off the table and pretending like it doesn’t exist? That’s just obliterating opportunities to interact, understand, and appreciate other faith walks, which they’ll have to do in the big, grownup world anyway.

We talk about pushing diversity and tolerance — Celebrate the GLBT community! Embrace all races and ethnicities! Learn foreign languages! — but religion and prayer are a big part of many cultures, so pretending like we can study the food, language, dance, dress, history, art, and music of a people and glaze over religion like it’s a forbidden topic of discussion is doing a disservice to that lesson. If kids can learn about war and violence, both historic and contemporary, they can darn sure learn about the religious background at the center of much of that unrest and the beliefs that sometimes (though not often enough) resolve them.

Outside of the curriculum, I’m all for religious clubs and prayer groups. With all of the issues kids have with bullying and hypersexuality, peer pressure and drugs, I think a place to find religious refuge is as healthy as having a counselor for them to confide in. I’m not talking about Tebowing in the hallway. (Though if Tim Tebow is the guy kids want to emulate, I’ll take that over most celebs and athletes any day.) I just think a lot of schools are dodging the fallout from being too heavily representative of one faith or another or any at all by carefully tiptoeing over religious affiliation altogether.

In my cousin’s school, kids are no longer making Christmas crafts or ornaments, which is interesting because I not only remember doing that, but making latkes in home ec and playing with dreidels in social studies. But hey, I guess that’s just a memory.

Is including prayer and religion in public schools a good idea?


Image via Fibonacci Blue/Flickr

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