A couple of centuries ago, religious beliefs were not a question to start debates around—a person was either a believer, or others would squint at them. Nowadays, it has become possible to profess any beliefs, including atheism, Scientology, or Rastafarianism. Still, since the U.S. remains a rather conservative and religious country, from time to time different communities concerned about morality and the ethical education of children raise the question of whether there should be a time for silent prayer in public schools. Although many opponents tend to see it as an offence and an act of imposing religion, there are rational reasons why there should be such a time in public schools.
The approach in which it is done can be different. If a teacher says, “Alright, now you have five minutes to say your prayers to God, and then we start the class,” then it can be seen as imposing religious beliefs; some children might not believe in God, some might believe in many gods, so such a phrase could be fairly called intrusive. However, this “prayer time” can be introduced in a different way. A teacher might say, “Alright, children, now you have five free minutes. You can say your prayers, or meditate, or simply think about something good, and then we begin class. But no talking!” In this case, there is no inculcation, since children have a number of alternatives of what to do in the allotted time (FRU).
In connection with this, it is important to mention why this “prayer time” (or meditation time, or positive thinking time—call it as you will) is valuable. Any prayer is a set of positive affirmations and images; the same refers to meditation or imagining something pleasant. Researchers have long ago proved the fact that positive thinking has invigorating effects on the human body; in particular, positive thinkers enjoy an increased life span, lower rates of stress, a better psychological condition, physical well-being, better coping skills, and so on (Mayo Clinic). Considering this, it is unclear how it would harm children’s’ mental condition or cognitive capabilities if they had regular short sessions of positive thinking—in any of its forms.
Moreover, modern public schools in the U.S. provide education to children belonging to numerous religious confessions, ideological systems, and with different cultural backgrounds. The discussed time before classes would be a chance to show children what tolerance is in practice; children would learn how to respect the views of people surrounding them. This would also help to make children in classes more closely-knit, respecting, and friendly to each other (IFR).
Although there are numerous opponents of so called “prayer time” in public schools, in fact there is nothing bad about it. When introduced properly, and children have alternatives to what to do during this time (for example, meditate or think about something pleasant), such sessions can positively affect them. Children would learn to respect beliefs other than theirs, and would learn what tolerance is in practice. Besides, they would enjoy all the benefits of positive thinking, such as an increased life span, a better psychological and physical condition, better coping skills, and so on.
Friedkin, Sam. “Surviving in Pluralistic Environment: How to Not Offend Anyone.” FRU. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 May 2015.
“Positive Thinking: Reduce Stress by Eliminating Negative Self-talk.” Mayo Clinic. N.p., n.d. Web. 26 May 2015.
“Teaching Tolerance on Practice.” IFR. N.p., 12 July 2012. Web. 26 May 2015.