Readers’ Forum: 2/11/20

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Separating secularism from schools

The movement for universal ideological acceptance has become strong. However, many Americans still fear beliefs different than their own. This has caused many public schools to adopt secularism in order to avoid offending anyone, closing the conversation between differing beliefs. Others see and recognize the inherent problem, hence Trump’s push for prayer in schools. As BYU students, we must understand these issues as we “enter to learn.”

The promotion of secularism — separation between public and religious life — limits students’ understanding of and respect for unfamiliar beliefs. When students try to live their faith, they encounter opposition from both their peers and school officials. This happened to me throughout high school. For example, books I was required to read promoted or discussed topics in violation of my beliefs. My parents and I fought school officials for alternate assignments. Some peers disapproved, spreading harsh words both behind my back and to my face.

If the conversation of people practicing different religions was open and students could practice disagreeing agreeably — not forcing religion into schools but also not forcing it out — this situation would not have been so painful. If students were allowed more open environments that encouraged controlled discussion of religion and ideas, conversation would not turn so quickly into fighting. Students would be able to accept that people disagree with them on some issues and that this is part of life.

If conversation of religion were more open in schools, students would be able to cope
better with conflicting views. This issue is crucial because the problem never goes away. Students will deal with it even throughout adulthood. With our nation being so polarized, people must learn how to coexist despite their differences, or tensions will rise due to fear of others’ unknown beliefs. Therefore, as BYU students who respect religious liberty, as we “go forth to serve” we must help make this unknown issue known.

Megan Palmer
Lebanon, OH

The third parent

For the longest time, the typical family has consisted of two parents. In the last 400 years or so, however, a third parent has been climbing their way into the picture. Slowly at first, so nobody would notice, but now they have taken the lead in teaching children all over the United States. Do you know who they are?

Schools.

Schools are teaching more than parents, removing the relationship we value so much between a parent and child. However, teaching values in a public school is impossible to avoid. It is easy to see why the public school systems would want to include some amount of values in their curriculum. They help influence students to become honest, hardworking, law-abiding adults, who in turn help them create a better country for tomorrow.

However, the question we face is when is the school’s role as the third parent overstepping by indoctrinating answers to moral questions instead of just teaching basic values?

Sex education is one of the third parent’s main attack points. From pride clubs to teaching about abortion and emergency contraceptives, the third parent has decided they are going to change the direction of every child’s life. A Harvard study suggested “many overworked, frayed parents, doubting their capacities as moral mentors, are looking to schools to take on a larger role in their children’s moral growth.” But is Utah? With the nation’s highest percentage of married citizens, it’s obvious that Utah has a different focus than other states. Will we let the third parent rule?

Sterling Bennion
Bountiful, UT

Communicating through cell phones

Technology shapes the world we live in. While technology certainly has its benefits, there are several downsides as well. For example, texting or communicating through social media provides an easy substitute for face-to-face interaction for all cell phone users. This communication through a screen is convenient and, for many people, less intimidating.

Conversations through a cell phone allow people to escape in-person conversations that require vulnerability and may cause anxiety. This vulnerability, however, is what connects people on a deeper level. Additionally, the perpetual use of cell phones prevents people from getting to know each other when they are together. For instance, instead of starting a conversation while standing in line or sitting at the dinner table, many people choose to stare at their phones.

One reason that people both young and old prefer communication over a cell phone rather than in person is because it allows them to have more control over the conversation. Many people view texting as a simple way to avoid the stress of saying the wrong thing in a difficult conversation. Becoming too reliant on communicating through a cell phone can, however, cause people to lose the skills necessary to carry a conversation and it becomes stressful to communicate face-to-face.

Cell phones can be a huge distraction in a number of circumstances. It is difficult to listen effectively or have a meaningful conversation when individuals are distracted by their devices. While cell phones can provide much good, excessive use does inhibit individuals from effective communication and distracts them from the things that matter most.

Rebecca Ostler
El Segundo, CA

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