Amy Welborn has a piece up today on the decision by a school board to drop all religious holidays from their calendar. This is an interesting situation - as you know, I'm no friend of public schools. (As a matter of fact, I'm not sure you can find too many people who hold public schools in more distain than I do.) And yet Amy provides some perspective on the whole thing:
I believe that schools should, at all costs, deal with religion honestly. They should call Easter, Easter, Christmas, Christmas, allow children to draw pictures of Jesus, allow children to bring Bibles to school, sing Christmas songs as part of choral presentations, allow students giving speeches to mention God all they want. I believe that high schools should offer courses in comparative religions and Bible as literature, if they want. Absences for religious observance should be excused, of course.
But on the other hand, as a Catholic with a keen eye to the history of the origins of the Catholic school system in this country, I am also, while being an absolutist on student freedom of expression, and an honest presentation of religion when it comes up in the curriculum, also very wary of what the government schools themselves present.
So, no, I don't believe that government schools should sanction official prayer - let the students pray on their own, if they want, on school grounds, but keep teachers and administrators and those who would write dull, watered down appeals to Higher Beings out of it.
Now, I'm always open to discussion on issues like this, but what Amy says seems to make a lot of sense to me. Considering how public schools have botched everything else, there's no reason to believe they won't make a hash of religion as well. So don't establish it in the school, but don't deny its existence, and don't prevent students from practicing it on their own.
You have to admit that schools have created much of this problem themselves (with due cooperation from the courts, of course). Their constant hostility to religion, coupled with their abandonment of common sense, have opened the door wide to all kinds of situations. Were they to adopt Amy's suggestions, everything might blow over. But of course, with their lawyers and ACLU toadies in hand, they'll do everything they can to keep it from happening.
Not that "Catholic" schools are always better. But I can dream, can't I?