When I went to elementary school nearly 50 years ago, it was a great feeling to be told by my teacher that it was time to pray. Every morning, the class went silent for several moments while we took the time to pray for ourselves, our family and our friends. I was very happy to do it. It was a very important part of our school day. The teacher endorsed it, and the class went along with it.
When we recited the Pledge of Allegiance, we had no problem using the words, “under God.” Those words were a very special part of the pledge, and we thought nothing to the contrary.
When I lived at the Perkins School for the Blind, we ate three meals a day in a cottage. Prior to every meal, we would say grace, using the same prayer, “God is great, God is good. Let us thank Him for our food. By His hands must all be fed. Give us, Lord, our daily bread. Amen.” As with silent prayer and the use of “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, these words before each meal at Perkins were extremely significant, and were accepted by everyone.
In spite of what we did in school relating to God, and how we felt about it, society has tried very hard to take God away from the schools. As far as I’m concerned, we shouldn’t be told not to pray, and we shouldn’t be asked to consider the elimination of the phrase, “under God” from the Pledge of Allegiance. Why is it so important to those who are against these traditions? If these people don’t want to pray, then we can’t make them pray. Yet at the same time, their wishes are forced upon those of us who have the desire to keep praying. Let the teachers continue to have a moment of silence every day, and if those of us want to use that time to pray, we should be allowed to do it despite these naysayers.
I firmly believe that with each attempt to take God away from the classroom, the environment in school has become more dangerous. There seems to be a lot more disrespect in school today than there was prior to the elimination of prayer. I don’t have to mention all the school shootings. All I need to do is talk about kids who throw chairs and swear at their teachers just because they are asked by their teachers to put their smart phones away. Last week at a local high school, a girl hit a teacher in the head for telling her off about smoking weed. Furthermore, I keep hearing about all the rights that children have today, rights that I didn’t have until I reached the age where I was entitled to them. I didn’t complain or get upset. I was a child, and children follow rules until they reach an age where they have the freedom to do as they please. I accepted this concept gracefully.
I am not a social scientist, so I won’t pretend that I know why these terrible situations are happening in school right now. It may be lack of discipline by the parents, or it may be that parents are passing their responsibilities to the teachers, or it may be as simple as the lack of a religious presence in the classroom. Even though I don’t know the exact cause, I believe it is safe for me to think that if we brought God back into the schools where He belongs, much of what’s going on may not happen. These people who are protesting prayer and the language in the Pledge of Allegiance have no basis for their protest. It may be that they have a problem with God. This doesn’t mean that they have to take it out on the rest of society, and force us to comply with their way of thinking.
Robert Branco is a resident of New Bedford, a graduate of UMass Dartmouth, an author of several books, including his most recent, “My Home Away From Home: Life at Perkins School for the Blind,” and a columnist and media liaison for several publications for the blind.
If anyone has a comment, please email him at email@example.com.