Silence in Public School: Will It Work?

5 years ago Hannah Butcher 0

My high school is forty minutes away from Marjory Stoneman Douglas. After the tragedy, my school’s administration hastily reacted by enacting a confusing string of new rules: our IDs are required to be visible, the front doors to all buildings are locked, teachers are doubly employed as hall monitors, and cameras are mantled to the side of all office buildings. While these precautions are justified, it is debatable whether they are truly effective.

Douglas survivors joined the International Shabbaton in February, Baruch Hashem, in order to celebrate life through Judaism. There, Rabbi Shimon Rivkin officially announced that CTeen had launched its own initiative to prevent gun violence in public schools: moments of silence before each day begins.

I asked a few public school students, kids from diverse religious backgrounds, what they thought about the moment of silence proposal.

“Students are always stressed with everything,” junior Zach D. said. “Whether it be self-consciousness, school work, or lack of sleep… [A moment of silence] would really give them a calmness before walking into the rest of the day.”

While most supported a moment of silence, some of the kids I interviewed were strongly against the movement, saying that it violated the Constitution and the separation of church and state. However, as of 2014, state legislations in a total of thirty four states permit public schools to hold moments of silence. It is already legalized in places like Florida, Massachusetts, New York, Maryland, and Virginia because congressmen recognize its educational value.

If you encounter someone who may be against moments of silence in public schools, explain to them that a “moment of silence” has multiple definitions depending on the student. They will then realize the beauty of the idea. For instance, a moment of silence isn’t strictly religious, nor is it strictly secular. Unobservant students can use reflection time to contemplate what they want to achieve, what they want to learn, or their goals for the month ahead. Jewish students, though, can choose to internally daven at this time, whisper to themselves the Modeh Ani prayer, or simply reflect on what G-d would want them to accomplish that day. The overall goal, no matter your religious background, is to consciously and unconsciously acknowledge a higher power and a greater purpose. It is meant to take the focus away from the self and place it on the universe.

Still not convinced? Evidence highlights the positive impact of a moment of silence on public schools. In the words of the administration of P.S. 191, The Paul Robeson Elementary School in Brooklyn, N.Y, adopting a moment of silence in the beginning of every day has made a drastic impact on their school climate. Students transformed from being uncaring to empathetic simply by being given the chance to think at the start of the day: “Before we introduced [a moment of silence] several years ago, overall student attendance was down, parent participation was low, and student achievement was climbing but not at the rate that everyone was hoping for,” read a 2013 report. “Our students required, and still require, a greater need to be listened to. Our students required new ways of dealing with emotion and crisis. Our students needed the time and an outlet that would provide an opportunity to understand the ‘whys’ and ‘hows’ of their experiences. They needed to become more contemplative . . . The moment of silence provided the students an opportunity to become more mindful and reflective of their experiences inside and outside the classroom. The students have become more introspective in their writing and have a greater appreciation, empathy, and understanding of their peers . . . Students have also gained a greater understanding of educational objectives.”

Clearly, the benefits of implementing a moment of silence before each school day are astounding. Students who reflect before the day starts (and not in the middle of the day when they are exhausted and apathetic) contemplate the time ahead of them, embrace their empathy, and are thankful for the day they are given. They not only become better students by doing this; they also become better human beings.

For six years, the Rebbe spoke about a Moment of Silence during the satellite broadcasted Farbrengens.

“The only healthy and true foundation for a child’s education is to know that, G-d Himself created this world, and He is aware of and directs everything that occurs in this world. And He wants this world to be governed by righteousness, morality, kindness and justice – light, purity, and holiness; for it to be obvious that G-d dwells here.”

This CTeen initiative is sweeping the nation; in a few easy steps, you can join the movement too. If you are interested in petitioning your own school, local legislation, or fellow students to execute daily moments of silence, feel free to contact Leigh Hershkovich at [email protected] for resources. Kindly compiled for you by CTeen, the resources Leigh may offer include sample letters and petitions that you can use so that time is not a challenge. Everything is given to you right here to help you make a difference, so what are you waiting for? Help bring Moshiach now by encouraging your school to reflect before the start of every single day.