The education system is the phenomenon of social life that changes constantly. Old approaches of education are being forgotten and the new ones, which are effective and beneficial for students and society, on the whole, are being adopted. The problem of prayers in school is one of the most debatable issues in the system of education.
The problem of prayer in school
By reason of its connection with moral, ethical questions and political speculations, there are lots of different problems on the aspect. Some experts argue that the introduction of prayers into the school system is a step to the moral development of children. They are sure that if a child believes in God, he/she should be in constant communication with his/her religion and God. It is not a secret that children may be very cruel. That is why prayer in school could be a beneficial step to teach students to behave according to the general human moral system. Moreover, in many aspects school system comes closer and closer to the criminal world: guns and knives are not unusual things in school nowadays. Other people admit that separation of state and church is another step to freedom of speech violation. According to them, all people have a right to profess a religion they want. It is a fact that some religions imply prayer at a certain time. It is obvious that prayers coincide with school time.
Others admit that prayers in school are a step back in the aspect of social and ethical progress. “When organized school prayer or other religious exercises occur in public schools, those are in the religious minority and those who oppose the religious activity frequently become the focus of discrimination, harassment, and even physical violence” (Ravitch, 2001, p. 4). Moreover, school is the place for gaining new knowledge and skills which would be beneficial in future life. It is not a secret that many students nowadays do not believe in God and do not profess any religion. That is why their parents do not see any reasons for introducing prayer into the school system.
The problem of introduction prayer in school and separation of church and state became political speculation. If one party supports the school prayer, another one is far against it. For example, Conservative Party is inclined to support the church and school prayers. Still, it does not express any active step toward bringing its idea into reality. Another, Democratic Party, is not optimistic about prayers in school. Still, its members realize that many possible voters might not appreciate such an approach of the party. That is why both parties are rather careful about the issue of prayer in school. In other words, the problem is still unsolved because of the ambiguity of governmental position.
The problem of prayer in school is as controversial as the whole multi-national American society. A diverse, varied, and multi-religious American nation does not mixed state and church since its separation. Nobody can choose for you your religion. There are three main religions: Christianity, Judaism and Islam, and many small religious groups which follow other beliefs. At the same time, many Americans stick to atheism. All this mixture of people should live calmly and peacefully in one country, staying away from religious conflicts and efficiently interacting with each other. Taking into account the principles of social, cultural and religious equality, the American government cannot enable choosing one main religion between others.
Still, the search for compromise is rather controversial in the above-mentioned conditions. Some religions have strict conditions of praying which cannot be broken with impunity. That is why, some religious acts in schools are allowed for those pupils, who have to fulfill them according to their cultural requirements. For example, Muslims have some special time for praying in some schools. Though, there are certain time constraints according to which they should pray. If they would not be allowed to fulfill their religious duties it would be a violation of their rights. At the same time, this approach causes waves of protest on the hand of representatives of other religions.
At the same time, Catholics, Christians and representatives of other religions are not prohibited from praying. They should only do it silently, without preaching or forcing. It means that religious acts are voluntary, which corresponds to both the civil and religious liberties of a person. Public prayer may lead to intolerance by accentuating various religious and cultural (as long as religion and culture are highly connected) differences. Those pupils, who decline to pray, may become social outcasts.
In fact, public schools are open for all students of all religious stripes so there should not be any religious segregation. Schools should keep a neutral position and maintain their main aim: education. At the same time, a school prayer also takes the role of a live instructor for pupils and his policy may differ from the general school policy. At the same time, no school prayer may content the religious needs of all pupils. A choice of one religion may offend the feelings of representatives of other religious groups.
In fact, no social group, as well as one representative, may force you to change your religious principles. Though, “ironically, even as religion has been separated from politics, politics has become, in a sense, religious” (Hamburger, 2004, p. 491).
There are many cases of religious manipulations, which also initiate various religious biases (Hamburger, 2004, p. 491). The phenomenon may be observed in all layers of our social and political life, including, of course, the school prayer aspect. Many parents want their children to have enough religious and moral support. Though, the majority of Americans should understand the multi-national and multi-religious nature of the United States. As long as we teach our children to respect other races, outlooks, traditions, we also should respect other faiths even if it means taking a child to a church by ourselves.
Even if attending a school prayer is not obligatory, but optional it also may influence one’s mind. The simple fact, that there is a prayer for one religious group, and there is no one for another, would initiate a wave of misunderstanding, conflicts, bias, etc. Our society is still intolerant; many people cannot calmly accept and understand cultural and religious differences. It is a rare gift: the ability to take a detached view and independently value a controversial situation.
All in all, nowadays we can observe stern arguments between people who support prayer in school and those who are against its introduction. The fact itself should be a thing to reflect upon: the question of religion is the cause of constant discord. However, the possibility of introducing prayer into the school system is still a problem to deal with by school administration and parents.
Hamburger, P. (2004). Separation of Church and State. Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
Ravitch, F. S. (2001). School Prayer and Discrimination: The Civil Rights of Religious Minorities and Dissenters. Holliston: Northeastern.