Moment of silence rule should be muted

By Daily Illini Editorial Board

While Gov. Blagojevich has received harsh criticism for many of his vetoes to the belated state budget, his vetoes on other matters stand up to scrutiny. A bill passed by both houses of the state legislature would require all Illinois public schools to observe a moment of silence at the start of every day. The governor rejected the measure last spring, but it is close to becoming law despite the governor’s objections after the state senate voted 42-9 to override him. The House, if it can’t bring itself to vote to sustain the veto, should appropriately remain silent on the matter and let the bill die.

The governor has indicated his opposition to a mandated silence stems from his belief that it would be a violation of the separation between church and state. Of course, proponents of the bill dispute this and merely point to the statutory language that offers prayer as only one possible use for the time.

Putting aside the fact that the governor is correct in his assertions that this a back door way to encourage religion observance in school, the manner in which lawmakers are trying to insert themselves into the classroom is shameful.

The obvious question is how you mandate anybody to stay silent for any period of time, never mind children in public schools. And if that was possible, mandating silent reflection will in the end, trivialize it.

The solemn events in which such behavior is called for will no longer hold the same meaning if it merely becomes part of a daily routine.

Teachers need to be focused on helping their students to the best of their abilities. By forcing them to adhere to one more silly mandate just for the sake of uniformity, Illinois is undermining the effectiveness of the educational system one minute at a time.

While teachers’ time should be spent on instruction, the time of state lawmakers should be spent on measures that will actually help schools educate children instead of deciding how they should behave.

As the law stands now, there is nothing that stops individual students from thinking about whatever they want in those down moments during the day that everyone has. Most sensible students take this opportunity anyway without being forced to by teachers or administrators.

Instructors should be allowed to run their classrooms in the manner they think is most effective. And since there is no concrete benefit to be gained from this mandatory silence, there’s little reason to have it.

Unless lawmakers would be willing to require a moment of silence before each bill they consider, they should be quiet.