Sunday, November 18, 2007


I like silence. The Illinois Legislature does too, and passed a law that would mandate a moment of silence at the start of every public school day. A federal judge, however, has ordered the Illinois State Board of Education to put a stop to the practice. Why, you ask? I, too, was curious.

At first I thought it was because the name of the state included the word “noise” (the “E” is silent, so they dropped it to save ink on their official documents). It makes no sense to have a moment of silence in the IlliNOISE public schools. On the contrary, they should start their day with noise, maybe a joyous “Halleluyah!” or “Om Nama Shivaya.”

No, that would violate the separation of church and state since both shouts speak of gods (Yah and Shiva, respectively), which, as it turns out, is what’s wrong with a mandatory moment of silence as well.

Leading the attack on mandatory silence is Rob Sherman, atheist provocateur. The godless Mr. Sherman has a daughter who is a freshman in an Illinois high school, and dad worries that forcing her to be quite violates her First Amendment rights.

He is right, of course, and that saddens me. I would love to see each school day begin with thirty minutes of contemplative silence, not the fifteen seconds Illinois is talking about. It would have to be optional, of course. I would even go so far as to teach kids different ways to use that silence such as contemplative reading and meditation (prayer they should learn outside of school).

And I wouldn’t stop with schools. I would like to see meditative silence at the start of everyone’s day. If nothing else, just sit and breathe. Or do what I do every morning and repeat the phrase, “Has it been thirty minutes yet? Has it been thirty minutes yet?”

I support voluntary prayer in school and did a lot of it myself (“Dear God, please make Ms. Jacobs sick today, I didn’t study for her Algebra II test.”). I support voluntary silence as well, and not just in the morning (it isn’t fair that teachers call on you for answers without your permission). Hell, if it were up to me I’d bring Thich Nhat Han into every school to teach kids how to walk the halls mindfully, and chew their lunch with full attention.

So I am asking the Illinois Legislature, its Governor, and its atheist provocateurs to work together to find a way to combat the “ill” of “nois(e)” and find a way to bring some silence to our mornings and some sanity to our lives.

1 comment:

Zahalsky said...

I agree completely and I thank you for the big smile on my face. Since I live in California my opinion probably will not matter to the legislators of IlliNOISE or Illinois,