Councilman Lew Fidler. Photo by Erica Sherman

For decades a battle has raged between parents, religious leaders and politicians over the question of allowing prayer in schools. Councilman Lew Fidler may have come up with a solution that attempts to bridge the gap between those who believe and those who don’t.

According to CBS New York, Fidler has put forward a resolution that calls for students to observe a mandatory, albeit non-denominational moment of silence, either before or after the recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance.

Like most attempts to legislate the behavior of children, Fidler’s idea has split critics and divided parents.

TriBeCa resident Christi Wood spoke to the seemingly benign nature of the proposed resolution. She told CBS New York that she thinks “it’s a good idea. They can kind of think about whatever they want. We live in a crazy, fast-paced city, so a moment of silence, I think it is a good idea. I’d like to have one.”

Julie Antoinette thought the measure was a waste of time.

“I disagree with it. I just think that if they need to have a moment of silence [do it] at their own time. How many hours in a school day? They have 12 other hours to do it on their own private time.”

While a resolution from the City Council can’t force the Department of Education to enact a mandatory moment of silence, Fidler hopes that a near-unanimous council resolution puts pressure on them to do so.

“Hopefully, if it passes the council and it passes unanimously, or close to unanimously, the Department of Education will understand that there is a school of thought out there that believes that this should be policy,” Fidler told CBS.

We were wondering what our readers think of making children observe a mandatory moment of silence everyday at school.

Do you think it’s good for children to have a moment to silently meditate, pray or just relax quietly? Do you think the idea is too rooted in a religious mind-frame and has no place in public schools? Or do you think the idea is just dumb and a waste of time?

Let us know.

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  • Tinman

    A moment of silence is a moment of lost education.

  • levp

    OK, I take back whatever nice things I may have said about Mr. Fidler in the past!

    The “bridge” that Councilman may have come up with is rotten, just like the rest of our bridges.

  • Lew from Brooklyn

    Despite the fact that my proposal is down zero to three, let me just stick my nose in for a sec. There is nothing rooted in prayer here…unless that child and/or his parents want it to be. I am sure that many students would use the thirty seconds—and that is all we are talking about here—-to think about what they need to get accomplished that day and just collect their thoughts. When something more momentous happens in the world–for example the atrocity in Boston, it might be used for a “teachable” moment, perhaps thought of the first responders who ran into unknown danger and do so every day. I realize that this won’t be popular with the DOE because they cannot test for it, but every body ought to take a moment in his or her day to stop, take a breath and reflect. Second graders won’t know to do this unless someone tells them to.
    Please do not make this into some sort of religious fanatacism on my part. It is not.
    Lew from Brooklyn
    PS There are several jurisdictions that do this and proponents argue that there is empirical data to show that it is useful for student learning. Honestly, I have not reviewed that data other than the bold assertion, but anecdotally it would seem to be good for both learning and mental health.

    • burntoutteacher

      We parents and teachers fought hard against this in District 18 some years ago, even getting the NY branch of the ACLU involved. The School Board at that time first proposed “non-denominational prayer”, then tried to backtrack (by renaming it a “moment of silence”) when the ACLU and parents objected. In our culture, a moment of silence is understood to be prayer. Fortunately, the parents and teachers prevailed.

      That Mr. Fidler would propose this is shocking, considering that our school system is in such horrible shape precisely because of Tyrant Bloomberg’s mandating across the board of unproven ideas that have no teacher input in their design. For Mr Fidler to propose yet another time-wasting mandate, shows an utter lack of respect for the classroom teacher, as well as for students and parents whose belief systems make them uncomfortable with government-mandated prayer.

      As for your reference to pledging allegiance — if you have been in most middle or high school classrooms lately, you will note that having students pledge is not as it was when we were kids. Most of the students I have taught over the years, not being citizens, refuse to pledge and many refuse to even stay silent for the duration. I have known teachers to continue teaching, take noisy attendance, have students work on materials, etc. during the pledge. In the modern classroom of the Bloomberg failed experiment in edcuation, a teacher must make every single second count, all in preparation for that ridiculous set of tests that will test nothing except whether or not that teacher can be denied tenure or given that career-destroying U rating.

      Ask some teachers, Mr. Fidler. It is their classroom and never before have they felt as overwhelmed and undersupported as they do right now. Asking, nay DEMANDING, that they now put into their class routine an offensive (it IS prayer whatever you may call it!) and unproven time-waster, is wrong-headed.

      • http://www.chickenunderwear.com Chicken Underwear

        I actually just asked my middle school kids. They said they stopped the pledge. Good. 30 seconds more time to learn or test prep.

      • Brightonresident

        Mr. Fidler. This is a ridiculous thing to do. Why don’t you get the City Council to place the Board of Education back in charge of Education and get the Mayor and his schemes to reward private enterprise out of the schools! Let educators educate!

        • Lew from Brooklyn

          I only wish we had the power. The gentleman running to fill my seat at the end of my term, Assemblyman Alan Maisel, had the courage to be one of the handful of state legislators to have voted against giving the Mayor absolute control over the schools. Had his side only prevailed…..
          BTW, to Chicken Underwear, I am sorry that you feel that taking a moment to say the Pledge of Allegiance to our country is a waste of time. I consider that point of view quite sad.
          To others who disagree with me, I appreciate all of your opinions, except the ones that are little more than name calling.
          Lew from Brooklyn

          • FidlerSupporter

            Stick with it, Mr. Fidler, from the quality and cynicism of the objections, you must be doing the right thing if such people are against you.

          • levp

            Speaking for myself: some people, who grew up in places like Soviet Union, have a “thing” about pledges of any kind – because we have made a lot of them (to the Leaders, to the Party, to the Motherland).

            People like that prefer to show their allegiance by defending their country, participating in the social process and paying their taxes (among other things), rather than just saying a certain phrase.

            In other words, “Deed Over Creed“.

          • http://www.chickenunderwear.com Chicken Underwear

            How is it useful?

          • http://www.facebook.com/annmarie.hughes.5855 Ann Marie Hughes

            You think that is sad? So, you think Quakers are sad? There are legitimate religious as well as other reasons to object to the pledge in schools. Thankfully, schools respect our religious faith and never bothered my children about it. Could you leave the insults out of it, though? Or is it do as I say, not as I do?

      • Supporter of LeftHand Rule

        Students are not better off trying to avoid reciting The Pledge of Allegience, but patriotism was lost years ago to the flood of immigration from despotic nations. As for Lew and Lew from Brooklyn, I think his idea has no merit and should be gently withdrawn.

  • Ladyday

    Good idea if it gets them off the cellphone for 30 seconds.

    • levp

      NYC public schools do not allow cell phones at all.

      • http://www.facebook.com/annmarie.hughes.5855 Ann Marie Hughes

        Another pointless rule that has nothing to do with education. Moment of silence, no cell phones…and yet all over the USA, schools have cell phones, no moment of silence, and do substantially better all around. The lack of educators in the decision making arm of the board of education really shows. This is just another idea from someone uneducated about education wasting time, but trying to make it look as if they are doing something important for the kids. Less nonsense, more education. You know what helps more? RECESS. Try that.

        • Lew from Brooklyn

          First of all, there was nothing disrespectful about my saying that the idea of the pledge of allegiance being said was a waste of time as being sad in my view. I think it is. And I do not believe it is fair to compare the US government to a former totalitarian regime.
          I understand the cultural reluctance but….
          I have not name called anyone Ann Marie. That is what I was “doing and saying”.
          Not to open a new can of worms, but I am the author of the law–which DOE is ignoring—that says DOE may not interfere with a child’s right to bring a cell phone to the doors of the school and take it home from the doors of the school. The world my kids and I live in is not always safe. My kids took two busses to get to school. I would not even think of sending them there without a cell phone for emergencies. If we can tach people proper cell phone conduct in theaters, we can teach them in schools where we actually have the power to confiscate etc.
          There is nothing magical about keeping one’s mouth shut for 430 seconds—-there is some value to asking people to reflect for 30 seconds on a topic of importance to them before drilling them for the next standardized test.
          Again, I am happy to engage anyone who wishes to discuss the substance of this proposal…..but for name callers, I would urge a lengthier moment of silence.
          Lew from Brooklyn

  • Andrew Kent

    Courts have been examining (or declining to examine) this issue since 1985, and the consensus and stare decisis is that a secular moment of silence is not inherently unconstitutional. Of course, this opportunity could be open to abuse in bible belt school districts where they consider creationism as science, but, here in NYC, a moment of silence at the beginning of the school day could be a good thing for both students and their teachers, as it may be the only silence they experience for the rest of the day.

  • Anonymous

    Fucking idiots. You think there’s something magical about keeping your mouth shut for 30 seconds? Waste of time for idiots.

  • FidlerSupporter

    I suggest a Pledge of Allegiance to Obama, followed by 30 seconds of anti-American thought. This will surely be supported in NY.

    • levp

      Excellent proposal! But:
      1. What happens after 2016, when President Obama leaves office?
      2. How will the government enforce anti-American thought?

      Please provide more details.

  • Old Sheepshead Hand

    Sorry to be cynical and sorry to offend those who support this measure but:

    These are tired token gestures. They do not instill patriotism or a sense of “values” in any child. And anything that even remotely resembles a religious-style practice should be banished (cold but that’s how it has to be, the First Part of the First Amendment is First for a reason).

    I was a patriotic little whippersnapper. And I was cornball. I paid for it by the bullies who hated me. Then I got older, became a radicalized token lefty in college, took the Howard Zinn route. Then I chilled out after that and now I’m just cynical. I don’t decry legitimate authentic love of a country as long as you accept the warts. But these token gestures don’t contribute anything. Not one iota of anything. They just make a few people feel better at themselves. What does that really contribute to anything?

    If you want kids to really understand civic virtues, which is really what all of this should accomplish, teach them actual civics. Teach ‘em young, early and often, that the world is a cold, cynical place that is probably impossible to change but it doesn’t mean society shouldn’t try. Tell them that most politicians are corrupt and unethical because of the nature of the beast. Tell them said politicians keep getting elected because the only people who seem to be most passionate about politics are the least informed voters who are just rooting for their team and don’t care about actual facts. When tragedies and atrocities happen, talk about the actual roots of those events. Don’t sugarcoat. Don’t make it a dimensional good vs. evil affair. Tell them the plain truth: very few if any people except some truly deranged lunatics think they are the bad guys in a fight. Talk about why someone would think doing awful things makes them the good guy. And why they are wrong.

    And as for those actual deranged maniacs, that’s probably the most important thing to talk to children about. Especially because we can help cut off future maniacs but trying to get them help early. We have to acknowledge a scary world out there and not hide behind symbolisms.

    • Andy

      teaching actual civics ended when fidlers and bloombergs started teaching political correctness instead

  • J.P. Zenger

    Leave the schools alone. Prayer or any compromise is inappropriate. Stop the Pledge of Allegiance. We are still fighting for Liberty and Justice for all.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/lisanne001 Lisanne!

    It’s not a awful idea, but it doesn’t accomplish anything. There would have to be a context, and perhaps providing one crosses the line of separation between church and state, and indeed, could be a back door way of placing prayer back in the public schools, even though it is being done somewhat benign fashion.