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Eric Zorn of the Chicago Tribune illuminates a pointless law that was recently approved by the Illinois Senate in today’s column.

This legislation “requires public school students to start each day with a moment of silence.” Right now, teachers may choose this option if they want, but it’s not mandatory. (By the way, if you didn’t click on that link, please do. Scroll to the bottom to see the revision. It’s even more infuriating than just reading about it.)

The law is understandable, of course, because all the other problems in Illinois have already been solved…

I understand the importance of moments of silence in instances where a student was in a fatal accident or when there’s a national tragedy. But to force it every day? It seems like a thinly-veiled attempt to bring mandatory prayer back into the classroom.

Only one person in the state Senate voted against the bill. And he was a Republican (Dan Rutherford). The law was introduced by Kimberly Lightford (D-Maywood).

In Illinois, Sen. Lightford said Monday her proposal is about “requiring children to have a moment of reflection for the day’s activities and whatever they might have to deal with. There are a lot of behavior issues, overcrowded classrooms and so on. This gives teachers an extra incentive to gather the class and get the students focused.”

It might help. But of course maybe, depending on the kids, they’d get a better start to the day if they spent that moment singing a happy song, stretching, listening to a good poem, or, hey, here’s an idea, getting right to work learning the material.

Zorn also spoke to Lightford about this law:

I asked Lightford: Why should the legislature make this educational decision instead of the teachers?

“It will allow for more uniformity,” she said. “Here in the General Assembly we open every day with a prayer and Pledge of Allegiance. I don’t get a choice about that. I don’t see why students should have a choice.”

The sad thing is, I believe Lightford absolutely when she says she doesn’t see. Almost no one in Springfield seems to.

“I don’t get a choice about that. I don’t see why students should have a choice”???

You’re a legislator! Go fix your own Senate policies before forcing your incorrect ways onto everyone else.

And I highly doubt they’ll punish state senators if they don’t say the prayer and Pledge.

Some readers of Zorn’s blog have some enlightening comments as well:

The difference is that Sen. Lightford chose to run for her position as a senator (and presumably knew a bit about what she was getting herself into). Children by the very virtue of being children do not have a choice but to be at school everyday.

There is one way in which this craven, unconstitutional act of unwarranted interference in our public schools might do some good: if teachers ask their students to use their moment of silence to reflect on why it is that the State legislature passes laughable legislation such as this bill instead of taking action that might actually help kids in Illinois – like fixing our school funding mess, for instance.

The thing is they took a perfectly good statute which said that the schools MAY offer a moment of silence and maimed it by changing it to SHOULD so that all schools must even if local circumstances are not apt for it. If we value diversity in this state, then what’s wrong with the MAY approach?

On a side note, this does bring to mind the entertaining “Moment of Bedlam” one finds at some atheist events 🙂

[tags]atheist, atheism, Eric Zorn, Chicago Tribune, Illinois, Senate, moment of silence, Republican, Dan Rutherford, Kimberly Lightford, Democrat, Maywood, Pledge of Allegiance, Springfield, Moment of Bedlam[/tags]