It has come to my attention that the little public school my daughter attends has a “school prayer” which is recited at the weekly assembly.
It only fell onto my radar when a friend mentioned it, as usually I am too busy talking, yelling (or loudly hissing) at my boys to behave during assembly, or just avoiding the event altogether. Being a public school, it begs the question; does prayer or religion have any place in public schools?
Contrary to popular belief, Australia has no official state-endorsed religion, although the conservative right wing types like to cite us as being a Christian country for the purpose of justifying their anti-Islam stance. It strikes me as odd that this weekly prayer ritual has gone on for so long uncontested; after all, I would imagine that if a public school introduced a prayer thanking Allah before assembly, the loudest in the nation would be outraged. With no official state religion, a seemingly benign Christian prayer is just as misplaced as an Islamic one.
It appears the prayer has been continued out of tradition. Let’s face it; tradition is really the only reason for any religion to still exist in our modern society. My daughter’s last school was a private Anglican school, and although I respected their weekly chapel visit knowing it was my choice to send her there, it made me cringe a little when she would come home and tell me that God created the world. But as I said, it was a choice to send her to an Anglican school, and therefore we had to accept the religious aspect. However, I expected an inner-city public school to be a lot more progressive than that.
When my daughter asks me if I believe in God, or if God created the world, I simply tell her “well, no, but that’s what some people believe”. I can imagine however that it would make a lot of people who are either atheist or from a different cultural or religious background uncomfortable to have their children coming home from a supposedly secular school asking these questions.