I’ve heard for a long time from evangelical christians the revised version of american history that says that everything went to shit the second prayer was taken out of public schools. It’s worth mentioning that prayer isn’t actually forbidden in public schools, just forced or institutionalized prayer – as someone once said, as long as there are math tests there will always be prayer in public schools.
But according to these evangelists, taking institutionalized prayer and bible readings out of public schools is the cause of school shootings, sexual promiscuity, teen pregnancy, corporate greed and anything else they don’t like that happened after the 1962 court ruling.
A few problems with this. One is that school shootings were actually fairly common before that court ruling – here is the wikipedia list for the 1950’s when there was school prayer:
- April 25, 1950: Peru, Nebraska Dr. William Nicholas, 48, president of Peru State College and Dr. Paul Maxwell, 56, education department head, were shot to death at their desks by Dr. Barney Baker, 54-year-old psychology professor. Baker was found dead of a self-inflicted gunshot at his home on campus.
- July 22, 1950: New York City, New York A 16-year-old boy was shot in the wrist and abdomen at the Public School 141 dance during an argument with a former classmate.
- March 12, 1951: Union Mills, North Carolina Professor W. E. Sweatt, superintendent and teacher at the Alexander School, was shot to death by students Billy Ray Powell, 16, and Hugh Justice, 19. The assailants had been reprimanded by Sweatt, and they waited for him as he locked his office door.
- June 4, 1951: New York City, New York Carl Arch, a 50-year-old intruder to a girl’s gym class, was shot and killed by a police officer at Manhattan’s Central Commercial High School.
- November 27, 1951: New York City, New York David Brooks, a 15-year-old student, was fatally shot as fellow pupils looked on in a grade school.
- April 9, 1952: New York City, New York A 15-year-old boarding school student shot a dean rather than relinquish pin-up pictures of girls in bathing suits.
- July 14, 1952: New York City, New York Bayard Peakes walked in to the offices of the American Physical Society (APS) at Columbia University and shot and killed secretary Eileen Fahey with a .22 caliber pistol. Peakes was reportedly upset that the APS had rejected a pamphlet he had written.
- September 3, 1952: in Lawrenceville, Illinois After Georgine Lyon, 25, ended her engagement with Charles Petrach, Petrach shot and killed Lyon in a classroom at Lawrenceville High School where she worked as a librarian.
- November 20, 1952: New York City, New York Rear Admiral E. E. Herrmann, 56, superintendent of the Naval Postgraduate School, was found dead in his office with a bullet in his head. A service revolver was found by his side.
- October 2, 1953: Chicago, Illinois Patrick Colletta,14, was shot to death by Bernice Turner,14, in a classroom of Kelly High School. It was reported that after Turner refused to date Colletta he handed her the gun and dared her to pull the trigger, telling her that the gun was “only a toy.” A coroner’s jury later ruled that the shooting was an accident.
- October 8, 1953: New York City, New York Larry Licitra, 17-year-old student at the Machine and Metal Trades High School, was shot and slightly wounded in the right shoulder in the lobby of the school while inspecting a handmade pistol owned by one of several students.
- March 31, 1954: Newton, Massachusetts John Frankenberger, 14, was accidentally shot to death in a classroom at Day Junior High School when a pistol being held by a classmate discharged.
- May 15, 1954: Chapel Hill, North Carolina Putnam Davis Jr. was shot and killed during a fraternity house carnival at the Phi Delta Theta house at the University of North Carolina. William Joyner and Allen Long were shot and wounded during the exchange of gunfire in their fraternity bedroom. The incident took place after an all-night beer party. Mr. Long reported to the police that, while the three were drinking beer at 7 a.m., Davis pulled out a gun and started shooting with a gun he had obtained from the car of a former roommate.
- January 11, 1955: Swarthmore, Pennsylvania After some of his dormmates urinated on his mattress, Bob Bechtel, a 20-year-old student at Swarthmore College, returned to his dorm with a shotgun and used it to shoot and kill fellow student Holmes Strozier.
- May 4, 1956: Prince George’s County, Maryland 15-year-old student Billy Prevatte fatally shot one teacher and injured two others at Maryland Park Junior High School after he had been reprimanded from the school.
- October 20, 1956: New York City, New York A Booker T. Washington Junior High School student was wounded in the forearm by another student armed with a home-made weapon.
- October 2, 1957: New York City, New York A 16-year old student was shot in the leg by a 15-year old classmate at a city high school.
- March 4, 1958: New York City, New York A 17-year-old student shot a boy in the Manual Training High School.
- May 1, 1958: Massapequa, New York A 15-year-old high Massapequa High School freshman was shot and killed by a classmate in a washroom.
- September 24, 1959: New York City, New York Twenty-seven men and boys and an arsenal were seized in the Bronx as the police headed off a gang war resulting from the fatal shooting of a teenager at Morris High School.
Wikipedia also lists school shootings in the united states going back to the 1700’s (the united states didn’t exist in the 1600’s). What seems to have changed is not the fact that students occasionally kill people, or even how often they tend to do so, but how many people they actually kill – and the increase coincides perfectly with the invention and availability of semi-automatic and automatic weapons. After all in the 1700’s muzzle loading musket type guns required training to use and even then you could only kill one person before having to begin an extensive reloading process, during which time the other students, teachers etc would apprehend you. The only advantage was being able to kill someone at a distance – a knife would be deadlier in close quarters. But with guns that fire multiple rounds you can kill five, ten, 20, 30 people before being stopped. And of course explosives are even worse, which is why to date the deadliest school shooting involved bombs and took place in the 1920’s.
Other problems in society such as sexual promiscuity are a necessary evil, you can either oppress women and keep them in burkas or you can have a free society and ads with tits in them every five feet. You can’t have freedom without some people using that freedom to do things you find distasteful.
Like with most things evangelists claim, I’d actually agree with them if the premise of their argument was sound. If saying a prayer in schools every day would solve all the world’s problems and the world had systematically gone to shit since we stopped doing that, I’d be tempted to say “screw separation of church and state, lets get kids praying!” But both assertions are dead wrong – society didn’t go to shit with one court ruling. Greed and corruption and dicks in asses and all the things evangelists don’t like existed for thousands of years prior to that court ruling. The runaway greed of banks and corporations? Do you think this is anything new? Look into the gilded age and the depression that followed, or the causes of the black friday stock market crash. It’s the same cycle economies have followed for ages. Like the 2012 myan calendar nonsense it’s not the end of the world, just the end of a cycle. Do you think we’re more decadent than ancient rome? We’ve got game shows that humiliate people, they fed people to lions as a form of entertainment. I can’t think of any sexually deviant behavior that is actually new. Vibrators were invented in the 1800’s, dildos are found among the ruins of pretty much every ancient civilization (the oldest one ever discovered is 28,000 years old and carved from “highly polished” stone).
“What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”
– Ecclesiastes 1:9
Speaking of dildos and doing things again:
“Thou hast also taken thy fair jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given thee, and madest to thyself images of men, and didst commit whoredom with them…”
– Ezekiel 16:17
So as it so often does it comes down to the age old question – do you want to accept some of the actual wisdom and insight in your religion’s founding text, or the ignorant fear-mongering nonsense of the jackasses who promote it?