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Author Topic: Ala. House Education Committee passes bill requiring teachers to pray in school  (Read 1679 times)

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Offline Sabby

I do agree that conversing with these kinds of people is pointless, but only if your intention is to sway them. I consider that extremely unlikely, but it's usually not my intention anyway. Whenever I engage a shouting lunatic, it's not to make him consider the possibility that Hell don't exist, it's the people at the bus stop who are on the fence I'm more interested in. They are the ones who will remember that conversation and take it into consideration when evolving their opinion.

They're the ones that matter.

Apologies for the rather robotic post. I am very tired.

Offline chaoslord29

But then there is the regrettable distinction that one is not permitted to poison the fundamentalists. Perhaps, though, a loophole may be found.... 

The point is not to debate them; it is to prevent them from manipulating the levers of temporal power to impose their own religious agenda through the public institutions of what is supposed to be a secular democracy. And, however pigeon-like the fundamentalists may be intellectually, they have demonstrated considerable political aptitude when it comes to getting states and municipalities, and sometimes the federal government, to enact statutes and regulations which suit their agenda. Witness, for example, the spread of state laws restricting abortion access and permitting pharmacists to decline to fill birth control prescriptions, the Bush administration's ban on stem cell research with new stem cell lines, school boards which have attempted to get creation "science" into textbooks, and, most recently, the Arizona bill which would grant a defense to lawlessness based on religious scruple (contrary to media spin, the defense is not limited to those who would refuse the custom of gays which, I believe, is legal in most jurisdictions).

I am entirely with IO on this. These people are not harmless. They will not retire to their caves if we ignore them. And, I see no evidence to make me believe that moderate Christians, progressive Christians, and intellectual Christians are able or willing to keep the fruitcake Christians, the terrorist Christians and the learning disabled Christians (or similar types of other faiths) in line through gentle persuasion. 

I will overlook the knock on masturbation.

Their political clout is a product of the Party at large which patronizes them because they continue to serve as an easily mobilized and manipulated bloc of voters. Ignore them, and you strike at the heart of their power: Their ability to get noticed. I'm not saying their harmless, I'm saying their power persists because the Democrats and the Republicans are content with the status quo. Both sides perpetuate 'shouting match' politics because it allows them to preserve their hold on their respective constituencies (more traditional or more progressively minded folks) without actually having to engage the other or fix anything. By shouting back and engaging with them, we perepetuate their perceived power, when they are truly only a vocal minority.

I'm not suggesting that they'll "retire to their caves", I'm suggesting the truly long term solution: We facilitate their death by "natural" causes. Cut the dead weight, focus on saving the generation of children they might possibly indoctrinate with their misguided ideals by providing them an outlet for faith and community that doesn't involve burning crosses and persecuting gays. It's not about moderate Christians keeping the more radical in-line, it's about them providing an alternative for people who want to keep the faith, but aren't comfortable with the sort of prejudice and ignorance perpetuated by the fundies (fundamentalists). Statistically speaking, Right-Wing Conservative Christians are the perfect example of a vocal minority, and in addition, they are old. Old enough that they have to rely on something other than raising their own kids in order to perpetuate their believes and in a very big way that's what motivates them to focus so heavily on school curriculum and school prayer (and to my way of thinking, abortion and gay marriage too). Their problem is that as much as they might try to indoctrinate the next generation, brainwash their own kids and their relatives kids, it's not %100. I know a few studies that suggest it's not even %50 effective, as kids seem invariably, across demographics to want to rebel, in whatever small way against their parents.

That doesn't mean that half the kids raised by fundies will grow up to be atheists, but if they see the "Old Guard" as embittered, overly-vocal, prejudiced fools (because that's how we treat them), they'll seek an outlet which is familiar to them, but different from their parents way of church. That's where Moderate Christians come in. Or even better, that's where Christian intellectuals and apologists come in. Imagine if all these folks actually studied theologists like CS Lewis and Thomas Aquinas; the kind of Christians who better the whole world not in-spite of their faith, but because of it.

My point is that you're not going to win over anyone's kids by calling their parents idiots. The truly machiavellian solution to the problem of religious conservatism, is to change the terms of the debate so that they favor us, and not them, so that victory is ultimately assured without the fundies ever realizing it. The best way to do that, is to treat like firecrackers instead of hand-grenades; noisy, but only really harmful if you're trying to juggle them as they go off.

Offline Sabby

If only politics were run by informed committees representing groups of people, reviewing and discussing information... instead of this necessity driven herding of sheep.

Offline chaoslord29

If only politics were run by informed committees representing groups of people, reviewing and discussing information... instead of this necessity driven herding of sheep.

While we're dreaming, I'd like to throw out the idea of aristocracies founded on highest level of education obtained.

Offline Oniya

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My point is that you're not going to win over anyone's kids by calling their parents idiots.

At least, not until they hit about 15-16.  I think it's in the teen rules that anyone over 30 doesn't know anything.

;)

Offline TheGlyphstone

At least, not until they hit about 15-16.  I think it's in the teen rules that anyone over 30 doesn't know anything.

;)

So if you tell a teenager that you know for a fact they are the smartest person alive, does their head explode?

Offline Oniya

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Nah - just their ego.

Offline HairyHeretic

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So, hypothetical situation .. what happens if the teacher isn't Christian. What does the law say about forcing someone to pray to a deity they don't believe in? That sounds like definite lawsuit territory to me.

Offline Sabby

So, hypothetical situation .. what happens if the teacher isn't Christian. What does the law say about forcing someone to pray to a deity they don't believe in? That sounds like definite lawsuit territory to me.

This applies to many of the students as well.

Offline Trieste

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Maybe I'm Alabama-brainwashed and don't know it, but stay with me, here.

There are some parents who feel that being exposed to prayer in schools will brainwash their kids (or something) and that religion is the purview of the parents.

There are some parents who feel that being exposed to sex education in schools will brainwash their kids (or something) and that sex ed is the purview of the parents.

It seems to me that it's the purpose of an education to expose kids to things they may or may not be exposed to at home.

I think probably both religion and sex ed are fair topics for coverage in schools. I don't think reading a prayer aloud is forcing someone to pray any more than teaching a kid to use a condom is going to force them to have sex. But if they do choose to do it, they'll have an idea of how.

My take.

Offline Sabby

This isn't the same as sex education Trieste. Schools already have Religious studies, just like they have Sex Ed. This isn't Religious studies, this is forced prayer. They are not even remotely the same thing.


Offline Trieste

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It's possible that in Australia, public schools do have religious studies. I have yet to encounter a public school in the US that has religious studies classes.

Moreover, no one can force you to pray, especially not a teacher reciting a prayer at the front of the class. Just ask bazillions of parochial school students.

Furthermore, schools expose students to more than just what's taught in the classroom. Socialization, lateral thinking, and other useful things are also learned in the school environment without being part of the classroom syllabus. Edit: To clarify, I'm saying here that just because there is a class in something doesn't mean that there shouldn't be more education in it and exposure to it elsewhere, also. Learning at school is not limited to classroom learning.

The way in which it was passed? Not cool. On the other hand, it might inspire more parents to be active in school board elections and meetings. I'm okay with that, too.
« Last Edit: February 27, 2014, 09:46:47 AM by Trieste »

Offline Valthazar

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It's possible that in Australia, public schools do have religious studies. I have yet to encounter a public school in the US that has religious studies classes.

Under US law, religious education (akin to Sunday school) is forbidden in public schools, except from a neutral, academic perspective.  So in other words, a Bible study class is permitted, "without violating constitutional limits, if the class would have to include critical rather than devotional readings and allow open inquiry into the history and content of biblical passages." (Source)

Offline Trieste

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Under US law, religious education (akin to Sunday school) is forbidden in public schools, except from a neutral, academic perspective.  So in other words, a Bible study class is permitted, "without violating constitutional limits, if the class would have to include critical rather than devotional readings and allow open inquiry into the history and content of biblical passages." (Source)

Thanks, Valthazar.

It should possibly be clarified for international members, however, that rather than having a critical religious studies class or something of the sort, it is my experience that public schools just skip it altogether.

Offline Sabby

Forcing a student to verbally pray and having a class or assembly group prayer that you can simply remain silent on are almost the same thing. The former would no doubt generate more friction from students who don't wish to pray, and I doubt it would be enforceable in any public school, but both scenarios are a clear statement from the school which endorses one religion over all others. That's not cool.

If I had been in such a school, I would feel equally angry at being given the option to opt out and remain silent while the rest of the students drone their prayer.

By all means, educate students about cultures and holy books, but do it from an academic stand point. We have history class. That's where the Bible belongs, as a part of history.

Offline chaoslord29

Thanks, Valthazar.

It should possibly be clarified for international members, however, that rather than having a critical religious studies class or something of the sort, it is my experience that public schools just skip it altogether.

Sex education is relevant to everyone who will have sex, thus why it is usually mandatory subject matter for public education. By contrast, critical religious studies is . . . well, as someone who studied philosophy I can make a compelling argument that religion is relevant to everyone in their daily lives too, but that's largely academic. Frankly, I think best case scenario would be to include some sort of fundamental philosophy course in public education and include in it a chapter or two on theology and philosophy of religion.

Problem is, prayer isn't theology. Prayer is ritual, meditative practice which conditions faithful individuals with the precepts of their religion. So, if you're not already faithful, prayer doesn't really make you think. Even kids who grow up their whole lives saying the prayers don't necessarily believe in them at any given time; just ask anyone who has rushed through grace before every meal since they were old enough to talk. I don't think there's a danger here about brain washing or the like, either way.

The greater point though is that a Religious Studies or Theology course is well outside the bounds of what most of the conservative religious right wants. What they really want is Sunday School six days a week, with a new lesson about the bible and why Jesus Christ is Lord and their god is the one true God, perhaps not to brainwash, but definitely to validate. It just makes sense from their perspective, since their faith requires that they be right, that what they believe is right should be treated as such by all other people, whether they believe it or not. A religious studies or theology course is one that treats their faith and their religion academically, that is to say, with skepticism; exactly what they don't want.

Offline Sabby

I've been crying out for philosophy and critical thinking classes since High School. It's just as important as Math and English.

Offline IniquitousTopic starter

Maybe I'm Alabama-brainwashed and don't know it, but stay with me, here.

There are some parents who feel that being exposed to prayer in schools will brainwash their kids (or something) and that religion is the purview of the parents.

There are some parents who feel that being exposed to sex education in schools will brainwash their kids (or something) and that sex ed is the purview of the parents.

It seems to me that it's the purpose of an education to expose kids to things they may or may not be exposed to at home.

I think probably both religion and sex ed are fair topics for coverage in schools. I don't think reading a prayer aloud is forcing someone to pray any more than teaching a kid to use a condom is going to force them to have sex. But if they do choose to do it, they'll have an idea of how.

My take.

Exposure to religion is not the purview of the public school system because it is run by the state. It violates that amendment we have (and I’m so very glad for that amendment). The suggestion of a religions studies class - done not only as academic but inclusive of ALL religions - I could get behind. This BS of “teaching” (I use this word lightly) a christian prayer at the start of every day and call it religious studies? Hell no. I certainly did not send my kids to a public school to have a teacher (who is most assuredly NOT educated/trained/ordained to preach/teach religion) try and cram one specific belief system down my children’s throats. I worked damn hard to make sure my children had exposure to many different faiths on regular basis so they could make their own choices. I wouldn’t have appreciated someone not even blood related to my children taking it upon themselves to dictate what faith my child should have while they were at school and without an option to opt out.

I can certainly see where you are coming from. But what I also see is a very slippery slope. “OH hey, we aren’t actually forcing your children to pray to the christian god. We are just “teaching” them HOW to pray.” It wouldn’t take long before that nice line in the sand that says “STOP. NO MORE.” Gets pushed back further and further till all the sudden we have states (lookin at the southern states here) that have full blown religion in the classroom and our rights to not have a religion shoved on us and our children is gone.

Offline Valthazar

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If I had been in such a school, I would feel equally angry at being given the option to opt out and remain silent while the rest of the students drone their prayer.

Like I said earlier, my public school in England made us sing Christian hymns and prayers.  At the time, I don't think I even knew what I was doing, it was just an awesome break from schoolwork.  I remember one of my Muslim friends would go to another room and read some books instead of coming with the rest of us, and at the time, I had no idea why. 

Afterwards, we'd all play together during recess. 

Obviously this kind of legislation isn't desirable, but kids aren't as fragile about these things as we think.  Being asked to recite a prayer is very different from preaching a religion.

Clearly unconstitutional, but largely benign.

Offline kylie

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        I'm just guessing from breezing through that language in the bill again...  I think what the proponents might say is, this is not even religious studies.  It's a sort of civics class that describes how we do use prayer in Congress.  That's it.  It happens to give an example.  No one is making anyone pray per se; it's just a recitation for the sake of teaching civics or political organization.  Or I suppose they could try saying that.

        Of course what it actually does, is a daily rubbing in that the supposed separation of church and state has sometimes failed and no one has managed to undo it, nyah nyah now hear more of it.  It's more about saying prayer 'belongs' in government (because it's already tucked in), or at least it is there haha so you best talk as if it should be too... 

(Or so they hope...  I wonder how many critical remarks could pop up about how awkward or improper those prayers may be relative to what Congress actually does on many days...  It's all supposed to be a study of Congress, after all!) 

    ... Nagging people more to actually pray, or to talk in terms of the Congressional prayer as some kind of discursive compass for other things they might or should pursue, only trails in down the road after such a bill.  Not that it's very subtle.
 

Offline Sabby

Good old Wedge strategy.

Offline Callie Del Noire

I've been crying out for philosophy and critical thinking classes since High School. It's just as important as Math and English.

Don't know about the philosphy but I can promise you EVERYONE needs critical thinking. I head desked a LOT as a senior petty officer who had junior airmen with no ability to think outside the obvious in a troubleshooting enviorment.. or even balance their checkbooks.

Offline vtboy

Like I said earlier, my public school in England made us sing Christian hymns and prayers.  At the time, I don't think I even knew what I was doing, it was just an awesome break from schoolwork.  I remember one of my Muslim friends would go to another room and read some books instead of coming with the rest of us, and at the time, I had no idea why. 

Afterwards, we'd all play together during recess. 

Obviously this kind of legislation isn't desirable, but kids aren't as fragile about these things as we think.  Being asked to recite a prayer is very different from preaching a religion.

Clearly unconstitutional, but largely benign.

I am unable to conceive a distinction between the required reading of prayer to  students at the start of each and every school day and the preaching of religion. Isn't the required ritual an endorsement of belief in a deity and of the value of prayer? How is that not preaching? 

In fact, this strikes me as the most pernicious form of preaching, since the congregants seem not to have the right to get up and walk out. The law doesn't say anything about "asking" students to participate, and contains no exemption for those who might be offended by the ritual. Even if an objecting student might be excused, in an environment that can be as cliquish and ostracizing as the classroom, there may be oppressive consequences, whether real or only feared, for the student who would exercise the right.

I am old enough that my time in the early grades of public school preceded judicial prohibition of school prayer. But, my recollections of school prayer are different from yours.

I was raised in a non-Christian religious tradition, but lived in a predominantly
Christian community. At a tender age, I had already acquired an uncomfortable sense of being different from most of my classmates who, unlike me, attended church on Sunday, could not eat meat on Fridays, celebrated Christmas, dyed Easter eggs, made the sign of the cross at lunch, and frequently wore crucifixes (which I vaguely understood to be reminders of someone's hideous death). I can recall quite vividly how my feelings of religious otherness were aggravated at weekly assembly where I was required to sit through prayers and readings of scripture drawn largely from Christian traditions. 

People have plenty of opportunity to force their kids to pray -- on rising, at dinner, at bedtime, in church, in summer bible camp, and god knows where and when else. And, if that is not enough, they can send their kids to religiously affiliated schools. Let public schools provide a respite from the brainwashing and an asylum where differences in belief are entirely irrelevant to the business of education.   

Offline Sabby

VT has said it much better then I have (though I've been treading extremely carefully). Thank you, +1 to that.

Offline Pumpkin Seeds

I just don’t understand what would take 15 minutes in terms of prayer.  That is a fourth of the time a standard Catholic mass goes for and that includes the procession of the priest walking down the aisle twice and communion.  So at a time when our education system is considering doing away with physical education and art so that there is more time allotted for other course work, I don’t think there is 15 minutes to spare.  So this seems a bit silly and detrimental to the students in that regard. 

I agree with Trieste that a prayer recited in school does not guarantee a child will become Christian or Catholic or even religious.  A large part of their influence still derives from peer influence and parental guidance.  Still, the prayer has a unifying effect on those children that are Christian and identify themselves as so.  Essentially by having the prayer mandated by the state, tied to the American government since this is the prayer before Congress and forcefully recited by an authority figure in the form of the teacher there is a reassurance to those students that they are correct in their religious belief and lifestyle.  Everyone in power from their parents to their teacher agrees with the teachings of Christ so to speak, therefore they must be correct and those that disagree are wrong.  Now do I think a simple prayer will make bullies of children, certainly not.  Still the ground work is laid for one group to feel ostracized and made to appear weaker by not being protected by authority, while another is supported and reaffirmed. 

Lastly I do want to say that there is humor that those so desiring religion in schools are fearful of a true religion class being taught.  One of the best experiences of my highschool curriculum, which was a Catholic highschool, was senior year when a teacher working on his PhD in philosophy came to teach a course called Philosophy of God.  He truly challenged people in what they believed and knew about God, no matter their faith.  He challenged Christians to uphold their beliefs even in contradiction to their American values and challenged non-Christians in regard to their own thoughts and values about God.  Was very well done and he brought in other teachers such as one of the nuns, a Jesuit priest, a psychologist and a biologist to also sit down with us.  There were also “round table” discussions where he would sponsor discussion between us and encourage debate.  This was meant to be a critical thinking view on God and honestly I do think children would benefit from a critical analysis of their own beliefs and values.  Yet, that is a no.  Reading the Bible and dogma is a yes.