Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Texas AG Defends State’s Moment of Silence Law

Well it looks like the Carrolton, Texas couple that sued their school district over Texas’ mandatory Moment of Silence that is observed after pledges of allegiance to both the American and Texas flags at the beginning of each school day have taken their case to the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals.

At issue is whether the law, enacted in 2003 by the 78th legislature, whose origin is SB 83 authored by Senator Jeff Wentworth (R – San Antonio), violates the Establishment Clause of the US Constitution.

AG Greg Abbott has filed a brief for Governor Perry that defends this event that must take place at the beginning of each school day in every classroom in Texas.

In essence, what the AG says is that the law does not violate the Establishment Clause because the mandatory moment of silence was meant for each student in Texas to set aside some time to reflect, meditate, or even pray, if it is their voluntary wish to. Exactly, it says this:

“During the one-minute period, each student may, as the student chooses, reflect, pray, meditate, or engage in any other silent activity that is not likely to interfere with or distract another student.”
In fact, the Texas AG now alleges that the Moment of Silence is indeed not a devious construct to get children to pray in school, but rather an instrument to promote Texas students’ patriotism.

From the AG’s brief:

“Senate Bill 83 is even easier to defend, because the voluntary recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance ensures that the context for the subsequent minute of silence is patriotic and contemplative, not religious. In fact, of the twenty-six States that currently have moment-of-silence laws on the books, only Texas law specifically provides for the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance prior to the minute of silence.”
Now I am going to be very surprised if the 5th Circuit doesn’t smack AG Abbott about the face and head over this one. The Moment of Silence was meant to promote patriotism?

Quite frankly, I don’t give a rodent’s rear end what the Moment of Silence was or is supposed to accomplish. The truth is, as one who knows first hand, the Moment of Silence doesn’t do anything that the 78th Texas Legislature meant it to do, or didn’t mean it to do.

The truth is, the only thing that Texas’ mandatory Moment of Silence does is show just how far out of touch the Republican-dominated Texas legislature of 2003 was to what goes on in Texas classrooms.

Here is proof. Here is the rest of the law, the part that I left out in the citation above:

“Each teacher or other school employee in charge of students during that period shall ensure that each of those students remains silent and does not act in a manner that is likely to interfere with or distract another student.”
That is, this is another thing that the Texas legislature requires teachers to do: keep their kids from talking during the Moment of Silence.

Now, quite frankly, this is not a difficult task given the fact that half of these students have their heads buried in their arms as they try to catch up on the sleep they lost from their previous late evening to early morning waking hours playing Halo or Counterstrike, chatting, or visiting each others’ Facebook pages.

And if there is any violation of the silence stricture, one reminder per semester is usually enough to get the other half to toe the line. Because quite frankly, any teacher worth their salt is more than likely using this minute taking roll, silently, while the state fritters away this minute that would otherwise be devoted to instruction. In short, teachers are busy working during the Moment of Silence.

Taking roll, by the way, is a state- and district-mandated activity that has actual consequences, and teachers are very commonly monitored on the consistency of their roll-taking.

This is because student attendance is a money thing. The district gets money from the state based on how many students attend class that day. Accuracy in attendance-taking is essential.

Keeping the kids quiet during the Moment of Silence is not. Nor is doing this ever monitored in terms of teacher performance issues.

So, yes, during the Moment of Silence at the beginning of the day, that’s when attendance is taken. But to my knowledge, not one ounce of patriotism has been observed entering a student during this state-mandated daily event.

Maybe just one more game of Tetris on a given student’s TI-83 occurs, but patriotism . . . no.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is just another typical move by the neocons to curry favor from the Christian right. This bunch would do anything for a vote. It has nothing to do with religion and is all about the money folks. This is how low the neocons would go to deceive the public so they can steal your tax dollars for their corporate givers projects. They stink!