Sandy Hook and School Prayer: The Good Old Days Are Getting Old
Have you heard that the Good Old Days were perfect? Nothing bad ever happened back then. People respected others and all was peaceful.
News flash! The Good Old Days never happened. I've had this discussion with many people who claimed they did, and while I have respect for them and their experience, I protest. It's normal to only remember the pleasant things. We must, however, not make the mistake of making only our good memories historical fact.
The other night, we attended a wonderful Christmas concert for the middle school. We paused at the beginning with a moment of silence for the victims of Friday's shooting at Sandy Hook. The principal, who is a nice guy and cares about the kids in his charge, said that this happened because we took God out of our schools. Most of the crowd clapped for him. I did not clap. I may have irreverently rolled my eyes, actually. Not out of disrespect for him, but at the fallacy that kids saying a generic prayer every day at school was going to make sure that a shooter would not make it in the school building. The Good Old Days of school prayer were not perfect, and I wish people would remember that.
A memorial outside the Saint Rose of Lima Roman Catholic Church on Saturday, December 15, 2012. (Image: © Nicolaus Czarnecki/ZUMAPRESS.com)
I must disclose that I am a Christian. I pray. I teach my kids to pray. I have a prayer I say every day when my kids go off to school that includes a plea to bring them home safely to me. I am also happy that my kids can pray at school. Yes, they can pray at school. They can pray silently; they can pray out loud. They can hold a Bible study before and after school. They can say a prayer at an event or graduation. Student-led prayer is allowed. Government-led prayer is not allowed.
Back to the Good Old Days. In 1962, the Supreme Court stopped school-sanctioned prayer. Let's look at a few things that were going on during the years we had school prayer:
Up until 1954, it was legal to racially segregate schools. Two of my children would have had to go to different schools than my other two children -- not because of age, but because of skin color. Those same two children? We wouldn't have been allowed to adopt them at that time, because of race. Those same two children would have had to use the back door and a different bathroom and water fountain in parts of this country. This did not please God, I am sure of that.
What happened when high school girls became pregnant? They were socially stigmatized (unlike the boys who fathered the babes in most circumstances), and either coerced into surrendering their babies to closed adoption and urged to never think about their babies again, or forced to marry the father even if it wasn't the best situation for them. This did not please God. I am sure of that.
Were there drug abusers in our schools back then? Yes. Did kids participate in underage drinking back then? Yes. Was there inequality between the sexes back then? Yes. Until the '60s, my girls would not have school sports to join. Were there bullies back then? Yes. Were there ineffective teachers back then? Yes. Did all kids have the same opportunity to go to college back then? No. Hmmmm. All of these things were happening with prayer in schools. We just didn't acknowledge it as a society, or we had the old boys will be boys attitude that wasn't so helpful if you were a girl.
There have always been psychologically imbalanced people who harm others. There has always been that evil in the world. What has changed is not that prayer was taken out of schools. What has changed is technology.
We now know of all the bad things that happen as soon as they happen. It is in our faces constantly on the TV, in our phones and on our computers. We have a larger population, which leads to more people who do horrific acts. We glorify violence in our entertainment, as humans always have, but now have handheld machines with amazing graphics to play out our pretend violence. We have newer modes of acting out. We have guns that we didn't have 50 years ago because of advances in technology. Technology, like all things, can be used in good and bad ways. The gun that protects our country also can also kill our country's children. The TV that tells us to prepare for a bad storm can also spew propaganda and trashy tabloid news.
I will not go into the discussion of how we can prevent another Sandy Hook in this post. I will not talk about mental health care or First and Second Amendment issues. I feel one brewing, but right now I just want to provoke people to think past the rhetoric of school prayer's removal being the cause of all bad things that now happen in the United States. Our nation is not perfect now, just as it wasn't then. We must push through this wave of whimsy, of the Good Old Days and Prayer in Schools, and come up with real solutions.