Tuesday, August 30, 2005

Daily dose of bumper sticker

I don't normally pay attention to bumper stickers, personalized license plates, stuffed animals in back windows or the myriad other pleas for attention that adorn automobiles, but on the drive to work today, while waiting for the light at Middlefield and University in Palo Alto, I saw an unassuming vehicle with one inconspicuous sticker on the rear bumper, one that read:

    Don't pray in my school
    And I won't think in your church

When I got to work I googled the above and found at least one outfit that sells tee shirts emblazoned with those words, so I take it the remark is by no means new. But it was new to me (the nifty turn on the word "think", at least), and it made me wonder how many churches would begin their Sunday service with five minutes to respectfully acknowlege -- to participate in, even -- the worship of local Satanists, to use an extreme example. If you find that notion abhorrent you should know that I and many other reasonable, well-meaning people are equally put off by the idea of prayer in public schools.

Now, I'm not hostile to religion -- several of the most important people in my life are deeply religious -- but I do believe the practice of religion through prayer, however thinly veiled as "quiet time" or "time for reflection," has no place in public schools. Personal feelings aside, I've never understood the objectives of those who push for prayer in public schools -- there's no evidence I know of to suggest that prayer makes for better, more focused, more respectful students, or for a less violent student body. In fact, the only anecdotal evidence I have would seem to suggest the opposite: The children who attended the Catholic K-8 school in my hometown were, generally speaking, some the most troublesome students in high school.

Perhaps those who would have children pray in our public schools are simply in need of validation; need to see their understanding of control and conformance extend beyond their church into the classroom, no matter how awkward and unproductive the routine of five minutes silence at the beginning of each school day, where some number of students will bow their heads in earnest prayer, and the remainder will stare blankly out the window or at the ceiling, fully aware that this morning ritual is not theirs, no matter how civil or secular its outward structure.

But so much for generalizations, which are often neither fair nor accurate. I'll only add that in the continuing struggle over faith as a public concern, people of reason will stand resolute in defense of that line that fronts our public schools.

Now, if I could just find my underpants ...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Ditto on your thoughts about prayer in school. Can't help you with your underpants, though, and not sure that you'd want me to.

4:45 PM  

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