Wednesday, April 14, 2010

A teachable moment of silence in a Metro Nashville Public School

I have developed a habit of walking my 6-year-old daughter to her Kindergarten classroom several mornings a week. We both seem to enjoy it. I get to interact with both her classmates and her teacher, which gives me a better feel of what goes on for her each weekday while I'm at work.

One morning last week we exercised our ritual a little later than usual and got there just as the "tardy bell" rang. The teacher was in the middle of reminding a small group of kids about when and where to use punctuation in sentences when we arrived. She naturally got distracted with that and did not pay attention to an invitation over the loudspeaker for a moment of silence, which I suppose is deference to those conservative political forces outside that demand prayer be "put back" in public schools. As if kids ever did a lot of praying when it was promoted (that's a discussion for another day).

The teacher caught herself and apologized to the class for missing the moment of silence. I immediately said to myself, "She's got absolutely nothing to apologize to those kids for." Let's assume for the sake of argument that the conservatives are correct and time should be allotted for whatever spiritual expression children might have at 8:00 in the morning. (Such an assumption is bend-over-backwards charitable to many conservatives who would insist on exclusively Christian expressions over any other; but again, I digress). Is not seizing a teachable moment to reinforce basic grammar skills, which these Kindergarteners will one day need in the real world, a benign, yet great alternative during a moment of silence?

There is no secular attack on religion in helping children understand when to use a question mark or a period, even if that help occurs during a moment of silence. If she had done it knowingly, I still would defend her. I believe my child's teacher deserves kudos for doing exactly what we pay teachers to do: instruct our children on how to become functional citizens in a democratic republic. It should be enough that we parents tend to those thornier matters of the spirit.

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