This is probably some of the best news Jack Chick has heard in a long time.
The George W. Bush administration is threatening to deny federal funding to public schools that do not allow students and teachers to pray outside of class. If they don’t show compliance, they could be denied money.
Bad idea. My big fear is that, in an effort to show compliance, the schools will encourage, subconsciously or otherwise, prayer in public schools. Needless to say, I’m against prayer in public schools. If you’re so anxious to talk to God during school hours, go to a private school. Use a voucher.
The last I heard, public schools were not doing very well. Threatening to withhold funds just so Bush can suck up to the religious right is not a good approach. If you want to make sure the guidelines that are set are being followed, then fine. The Clinton administration allowed prayer along the same lines. They just did not hold back money if they weren’t followed.
Right now, according to the helpful clarification by the Education Department, students can gather together to pray, outside the classroom, as long as students, and not the teachers, initiate it. Teachers can have prayer meetings outside of class as long as they make it clear they are not praying in their official capacities. We, at USF, all know how difficult it is to make it clear that one is not in one’s official capacity. According to CNN.com, students speaking at assemblies cannot have any religious material in speeches but they must be chosen “through neutral, even-handed criteria,” most likely to prevent people from thinking they were chosen specifically for religious speech. Schools can even issue disclaimers saying that the students don’t represent the views of the school. That sounds familiar, as well.
I don’t like the idea of prayer getting its foot in the door like this. Though there are some set guidelines here, I still think there could be moves to take the prayer thing further in some areas. Do we really trust elementary school students to recognize that teachers who pray are doing so outside their official capacity? I’d lose it if I saw one of my teachers at the grocery store. The regulations also say that teachers cannot shape the religious views of their students. But seeing a person in a position of authority praying at school, whether or not they’re acting in that role, is bound to have an impact.
I really do not see the need for prayer in public school, let alone for funding to be contingent upon it. Personally, I think it’s just so people can show off how religious they are and make sure other people see it. Initiatives like this will probably win Bush some votes from those in favor of prayer in schools and may possibly incite proponents of prayer in public schools to take this further.
Public schools are bad enough, especially in Florida. Denying them funding because they may not help Bush cozy up to the further right can only cause more harm. I cannot think of any reason to deny public schools money. There are children who would be affected by such a stupid move. Chastise the schools all you want but do not hold back much needed money. I wonder where the money will go if the schools that are judged noncompliant don’t end up getting it. Wherever it goes, it can’t be more important than schools (unless, of course, they want to give it to me).
I’m hoping the administration will see the folly in this plan. Any plan that involves taking money away from schools is, quite simply, bad.
Chris Ricketts is a junior majoring in English.firstname.lastname@example.org