Moment of silence is golden

Last Friday's news:
SPRINGFIELD — Sparking a debate over school prayer, Illinois lawmakers voted Thursday to require students to observe a moment of silence at the beginning of each school day.

By a 74-37 vote, the House set aside Gov. Blagojevich’s veto of the legislation, which he and others said promoted prayer in public schools.

“It may not mandate prayer, but that’s what it’s about,” said Rep. Lou Lang (D-Skokie), who voted against the plan.

But supporters of the legislation, backed by Concerned Christian Americans and the Illinois Family Institute, said it would help young people come to terms with the everyday stresses in their lives.

“Our children deserve . . . a moment of silence,” said Rep. Monique Davis (D-Chicago). She said it would enable students to “listen to the rustling of leaves, to listen to the chirping of a bird, to listen to the tip-tap of a kid walking.

“Maybe we don’t have that to give. Maybe we love having this rushed, exciting world in which they live that helps to create the violence.”

Rep. Will Davis (D-Homewood), the bill’s chief sponsor, denied he was promoting school prayer but instead said a moment of silence possibly could avert tragedies like the recent school shooting in Cleveland, where a troubled 14-year-old shot two students and two teachers before killing himself.

“Just think if that student had an opportunity maybe to sit and reflect,” Davis said.
-- Chicago Sun-Times, October 12, 2007.

News of the Future, one year from now:

When Illinois lawmakers mandated in 2007 that a moment of silence be observed at the start of every school day, few people predicted the magnitude of positive changes that would result.

"Before the moment of silence, I used to smoke crack all day behind the Dumpsters because school was the best place to buy it," said Flookie Williams, a senior at Fillmore High. "After a year of listening to birdsong for one minute every day, I have renounced illicit drugs and acquired a new outlook on life." Williams, his counselor noted, used to communicate solely through American Gang Sign Language, but has since become proficient in English at a college level of understanding.

"I used the moment of silence to exchange text messages with my study buddies," Wendy Thames chimed in. Thames, also a Fillmore student, said that by using the moment of reflection with classmates to quiz each other on trigonometry concepts, she raised her grade in Math from a C to an A.

Heartening as these anecdotes may be, many teachers and parents say the greatest benefit from the moment of silence was the resulting elimination of violent behavior in schools statewide. Said Governor Blagojevich Monday, "I am proud to have pushed this legislation through, for all the lives it has saved."

Observers of Illinois politics expect easy passage of a proposed bill to expand the "moment" of silence to an "interval."