There has been talk lately of putting religion back in schools. Some of this has been centered around requiring students to say a prayer before school starts to allowing the posting of the Ten Commandments. Let's get one thing straight: putting religion in schools, whether in the form of the Ten Commandments or requiring prayer before school starts will not, in any way shape or form, a) make better students, b) stop the violence which seems to be permeating the schools.
The fact that there are those groups who are pushing hard for this change would seem to indicate the failure of the churches, synagogues, etc at getting their message out. Worse yet, this would seem to indicate that parents are abdicating their responsibilities in favor of letting the government, in this case the school districts, decide how to raise their children.
Some would argue that the removal of religion from schools has caused the current breakdown of the school system and has turned our educational centers into free-fire zones. They would point to the fact that on our currency there are the words, "In God We Trust". But what they would fail to tell you, or would choose to ignore, is that before 1956 those words did not appear on our currency. If you doubt me, go to your local coin dealer and see for yourself.
The lack of religion in schools is not the cause of the problem. Rather, it is the abdication of the parents in teaching correct "values" to their children. As any pediatrician will tell you, the first three years are critical to a childs development. It is during those formative years that the child learns the basic foundations of right and wrong and what it means to be part of a group. Yet, I can't tell you how many times while out and about that I have seen parents essentially walking away from the child, yelling over their shoulders for the kid to catch up to them and getting angry when the child, barely able to walk as it is, doesn't move fast enough.
So what "value" is the parent teaching? That if you don't move fast enough you get punished? Maybe that's something that would serve the kid well in the business world but not at three years of age. What I see is a parent who doesn't really care to take the time to be with their child, to walk with them, to be near them. I can almost guarantee that that child will grow up thinking that not being part of a group is the norm rather than the exception. This is not to say that being alone doesn't have its advantages. Who wants to be in a noisy group while trying to solve that algebra problem? But there is incontrovertible proof that humans both want and need interaction with others to have a healthy life.
The question that I would ask of those who would want to put religion in schools is whose religion would you use? While in some parts of the country there would be no doubt as to what form of religion to use, what about places like New York City or other large cities where there is a large, diverse population? Would you use christian teachings and alienate the jewish, muslim, hindu and other groups? What if there are some athiests who would feel offended by having to listen to a sermon everyday or be forced to say a prayer? They have the right to not be forced to listen to or say something that is against their beliefs just as a someone who is religious has the right to express their beliefs.
What about the various splinter groups of each religion? The christian faith alone has numerous divisions including, but not limited to, catholic, lutheran and baptist to name just a few. The jewish faith is similar with the three main branches being Reform, Orthodox and Conservative. Then you have the muslim, hindu and buddhist faiths with their various permutations. As you can see, simply choosing one religion over another does not solve the problem. It only creates more. You doubt me? Take a look at the power struggle in Israel over who is considered a jew. The Orthodox want one definition, the other two groups another. What about the two main branches of Islam, Shiite and Sunni. One need only look at Iraq to see what happens when the same group of people believes in two different versions of the same faith.
Here is something else to consider. What if, for some obscure reason, it was decided that the religion to be used was Satanic? It is a religion you know. Would you want your child going to that school? If not, why? Because it goes against your beliefs? Remember what I said earlier about the athiest students? The same applies here. Why should your child, whom you are bringing up according to your beliefs, be forced to listen to or say something that goes against those beliefs?
No, religion is not the answer. There is only one broad answer. Parents. Parents must take the responsibility to teach their children right and wrong. They must be there when the child needs help in school. They must encourage their child to participate in activities and interact with others in a group or team environment. While not every child can become a Michael Jordan, probably the greatest example of parents taking an active role in their childs life, they can still participate and offer something. Even someone who chooses to be an artist and work alone can offer something by showing the rest of us how creative they can be.
Let's not forget the stories, seemingly one a month, of someone killing themself or others because they were trying to imitate something they saw in the movies or on television. I distinctly remember several years ago a group of high school football players (I believe from Texas) who laid themselves down in the middle of the road to show how "tough" they could be after they saw the same thing in a movie. They were tough alright. Tough enough not to be torn to shreds when the cars ran over them. Some of them got killed, others severely injured.
Now common sense should have told them not to pull a stunt like that in the first place but obviously they didn't have any or else they wouldn't have tried to imitate the movie. However, the parents should have instilled in them the basic concept that movies, for the most part, are fantasy and not to be taken seriously or imitated. This applies to cartoons as well. I grew up on Road Runner and Coyote, Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Thunderctas (remember them?), and other violent cartoons yet you don't see me or my friends running around dropping stones on other people or trying to blow them up. Why? Because our parents taught us right from wrong and kept our wild ideas in check (well, most of them).
Of course the most infamous example of parental abdication was the fiasco at Columbine High School in Colorado. Apparently at least one of the perpetrators parents saw bomb-making material in their sons room but said and did nothing. Why? As a parent it is your duty to investigate anything your child does which goes against your own beliefs as well as the laws of society. Again, common sense would have dictated that the parent take action but they apparently lacked the resolve to do so. As a result, a dozen people are dead because of their inaction.
Certainly raising a child will be hard. No one ever said that it was going to be easy. There will be times when your child, or children, get on your nerves and you loose your temper. You will feel frustrated and wonder why you even bother. It is at those times that you must remember that you are not looking for the short-term gain but rather what will happen years later. Those will be the reward years as you see your child becoming a productive member of society. The saying that anyone can grow up to be president still holds true. It's not an easy path but nothing worth doing or accomplishing is ever easy.
While religion can be used to guide us in our lives with the basic rules, don't kill, don't steal, etc, it cannot replace the ability of a parent to do their duty and show their children the other rules of life; how to get along with others, how to continue on in the face of adversity, how to solve their problems in a non-violent manner. If more parents would do their duty instead of letting someone else teach their children, most of todays problems wouldn't exist.