Shhhh. It’s quiet. Too quiet. If this were an action adventure script now would be the time the bad guys would attack. But this isn’t a movie, it’s a moment of legalized silence in Texas public schools.
This week a federal appeals court upheld a 2003 Texas law mandating a moment of silence in its public schools. Students can pray, meditate, think (OK, who am I kidding?), or use the time any way they wish that doesn’t violate the silence.
To the surprise of many, I love this law. Mandating prayer is unconstitutional and I am opposed to it, but a moment of silence is different. Silence is a crucial aspect of life that is becoming more and more rare. To begin a school day with silence can begin a life-long appreciation of the art of being still, inside and out. Unfortunately just mandating a moment of silence won’t bring this about. But it might just entice some kids to explore this more deeply later in life.
Here is what I would like to see happen. 1. Texas upholds its moment of silence. 2. Student clubs are founded to learn how to most effectively use this moment of silence. 3. The students invite secular meditation teachers to speak to their club about the art of meditation. I stress secular to avoid church/state issues, but it may be possible to invite more spiritually based meditation teachers to the club. If it is, I would like to see that happen as well. 4. Students would learn the art of being still, explore what Dr. Herbert Benson calls the Relaxation Response and how to use it throughout the day to enhance their well-being and effectiveness. 5. These students would grow their appreciation of silence into a contemplative practice that would stay with them throughout their lives.
Will this happen? I doubt it. I imagine that the people who voted for silence weren’t particularly interested in silence. They were trying to create a place for prayer, most likely Christian prayer of the Southern Baptist variety, and figured that most kids would use the silence to pray. I think they are correct, and here are some of the prayers likely to be said at the beginning of the school day:
“Dear God, Please don’t let me fail my math test today. If You help me to pass I promise next time I will study.”
“Dear Jesus, Please don’t let anyone notice I’m wearing two different socks.”
“Dear Lord, please don’t let that bully beat me up again today.”
“Dear God, please don’t let my girlfriend be pregnant.”
“Dear God, it would be really great if You could send Jesus back to us before fourth period. There is no way I’m going to pass that math test. If You already planned to help me pass because of my earlier prayer, however, please disregard this current prayer. You can still send Jesus back to us today if You wish, though it would be great if You could give me a heads-up so I can have a few days to get ready. Amen.”