Praying To The Test

Via Religion Clause, a WTF moment that makes you genuinely wonder if the thought has even occurred to these people that, y'know, not everybody around them is or wants to be Christian...?

A flyer advertising the school-sponsored prayer service

Forget "teaching to the test", the premier strategy of US education thanks to Bush's No Child Left Untested Behind and an increasing culture of emphasis on standardized testing to measure schools' efficacy.  No, in a Baltimore elementary/middle school, they're praying to the test.  The school is holding optional Saturday classes to help kids prepare for the tests, and this prayer service marks the end of those weekend prep classes.

The principal says parents asked her to hold the classes and prayer service.  You know?  If the parents want a prayer service for their kids, and think that will help them on the tests, fine.  They can organize whatever they want at their churches or homes or whatever.  But that's a totally different animal from this, an official school-sponsored prayer service explicitly referencing Christian belief and citing a bible verse.

You have to wonder how a teacher or student or parent opting out would be received.  Peer pressure can be an enormous influence.  Do you want to be known as the teacher who wouldn't show the kids zie cared by being at their prayer group - especially with that fine print reading "Teachers, we would love to see you at the celebration and prayer!"?  Tell me how that doesn't imply a culture wherein Christian religious affiliation is preferred and potentially necessary to advance.  Or the kid who was noticed not to be there, or the parents who might be assumed to be disconnected from their kid's success and well-being because zie chose not to be there?

The president of the local principal's union is being a douche about the whole thing, saying the problem isn't the principal who arranged this, or the parents who requested it, but "the narrow-minded politicians from some 50 years ago, for removing prayer from our schools."  Really?  Enforcing the Constitution's provision of separation of church and state is narrow-minded, but holding a clearly sectarian gathering that makes broad assumptions about the religious choices of the students, parents, and teachers, and subtly implying that a particular religious choice is superior in that it is what makes the children succeed, that's, what?  The very definition of open-minded and tolerant, right?

Two different parents are quoted in the Baltimore Sun article as saying basically that this is what their children need to succeed.  Well, if that's what you believe, fine.  But that's something you provide for them, on your own time, sponsored by a church or family group, not something the school should be promoting and sponsoring and managing!  Can you imagine the flaming uproar if a non-Christian religious group, say Muslim or Pagan, had wanted the school to hold a prayer or ritual service to enhance the kids' performance on the test? 

Ugh.  My sympathy to any students, families, or teachers at the school who are of religious persuasions other than Christian and felt pressured or bullied by this stupid, blatantly unconstitutional act.  And seriously, if the standardized test is something that so frightens a school that they will go to these lengths...that's just a bad goddamn sign, and something needs to change that won't be fixed by at-school prayer rallies.


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