Presentación preparada por: Eliezer Shemtov
Montevideo, 20/1/11

Resumen Ejecutivo



La calidad de la educación está preocupando actualmente a muchos sectores de la sociedad, empezando por el mismo Sr. Presidente de la República, Sr. José Mujica, quien se expresó recientemente diciendo que “El gobierno tiene que aceptar sin excusas que tenemos problemas en la enseñanza”. (El País, 9/1/11, pág. A9)
Los jóvenes tienen cada vez menos capacitación para insertarse en el mundo laboral, cada vez hay más delincuencia juvenil. Los jóvenes de esta época, en inmensa mayoría, resultan víctimas de las demandas abusivas del consumo, de la masificación indiscriminada, de la falta de orientaciones firmes y de objetivos; son menos libres para afrontar su lugar en el mundo. 


Las causas de los problemas se tiende a atribuir a dos factores: 1) la falta de motivación por parte del alumnado; 2) la falta de involucramiento por parte de los padres. No sería ilógico decir que el primero es consecuencia del segundo. 


La idea del Minuto de Reflexión es introducir en el sistema de educación pública la obligación de empezar cada día de clase con un minuto de reflexión en el cual cada alumno reflexiona – en el contexto de una sala de alumnos, cada uno pensando en silencio - sobre el por qué y para qué de la vida, cómo ser una mejor persona para sí y para sus semejantes, y cómo mejorar a la sociedad y al mundo en el cual vive.
Respetando la laicidad de la enseñanza, ni el gobierno ni el docente pueden dictaminar qué es lo que el alumno debe pensar en ese minuto (para eso deberán recurrir a sus padres o tutores); sí pueden y deben imponer la idea que es importante dedicar tiempo – por más mínimo que sea – para pensar sobre el tema. 

Beneficios esperados:

El Minuto de Reflexión diaria ayuda al alumno a “aterrizarse” antes de empezar la clase, focalizarse y tener claro la razón por la cual está estudiando y motivarse por ella. Darle esa oportunidad para pensar en sus objetivos personales sirve también como reconocimiento y valoración de su individualidad. Obliga a los padres a tomar un papel más activo en la educación de sus hijos al tener que ayudarlos a determinar el contenido de ese minuto privado y personal diario. 


Hay estadísticas que indican que en las comunidades en las que se haya implementado dicha propuesta, hubo un descenso medible en el índice de delincuencia juvenil. Los docentes y directores de las escuelas en las que se ha implementado la propuesta atestiguan en cuanto a su beneficio y efecto positivo. 

La educación no debe ser limitada a la adquisición de conocimiento y preparación para una carrera; el sistema educativo debe prestar atención, de hecho la atención principal a la formación del carácter, con énfasis en los valores morales y éticos.

Rabino Menachem M. Schneerson, 
el Rebe de Lubavitch 
Brooklyn, 18 de abril de 1978 

Hay sobreabundancia de información; hay mucha computadora pero falta formación. Da la impresión que amontonar conocimiento no está sirviendo de mucho.

Presidente de la República Oriental del Uruguay, 
José Mujica. 
Montevideo, 19 de enero de 2011


Information About Moment of Silence

A wholesome breakfast, a signed homework sheet and warm clothes can help your children start each school day right and can set them off in a positive frame of mind.

But how will you be guaranteed that your child will become an ethical person? How will your boys and girls relate to the laws of justice and morality?

That’s why we're strongly advocating a Moment of Silence each morning, in every classroom across the state of New York. It’s a time when kids of all ages can contemplate – with their parents’ guidance – about their own contribution as responsible citizens. Unlike organized prayer, this Moment of Silence (already a mandate in 14 states and a requirement before each session of the New York State Legislature) creates an opportunity for reflection and introspection on a deeply personal level. It’s a small thing, but it can make a big difference.

There is a great opportunity to bring a new law to New York State called “Moment of Silence.” This would require a public school teacher, at the opening of every school day to conduct a moment of silent meditation with the pupils. The children should take this moment to think as instructed by his or her parent or legal guardian. This law would bring great moral change to our beloved state.

The justification is that parents nowadays do not have the time and patience to properly educate their children, for they are bogged down with problems of making a living and other worries. They therefore leave their child's upbringing, including their moral and ethical behavior, on the shoulders of the school. The moment of silence will encourage parents to spend time with their children, teaching them to be good and upright people, through the children asking their parents what to think about the next day. This is especially important in light of the recent increase of violence in our public schools.

We have seen in our history, that math and science alone is not enough to bring morality into our education. There must be a focus to instill moral and ethics, which will be accomplished through the moment of silence. With this inculcation of true morality, the child will think how to use the subjects learned in school to make the world a better place.

In a time of increasing threats of terrorism, a moment of reflection will allow our children to, among many things, appreciate the freedom that the United States provides.

This is also a time to collect their thoughts and reflect on their upcoming day, when their minds are the most fresh. This brief period of time has been proven by psychological testing to be a most rewarding and profitable time which lasts throughout the day.

Due to the foresight of the lawmakers of TX, VA, OK, OH, AL, IN, LA, CT, GA, MA, NH, NJ, RI, SC, TN, WV and KY, this law has already been in practice for a number of years in those states.

In October 2000, US District Judge Claude Hilton ruled this practice to be constitutional: “Students may think as they wish, and this thinking can be purely religious in nature or purely secular in nature. All that is required is that they sit silently.” Since the substance of this reflection time would depend on the free will of each individual, without teacher or government intervention, it does not represent an incursion of the state into the free exercise of religion by the individual.

We are a non-sectarian alliance of concerned parents and citizens of New York State.

We propose that New York's Public School children be permitted to observe a moment of silence (Bill Numbers A4371, S2030) at the beginning of the school day.

We bring no sectarian agenda to this, what we are suggesting is that children take a moment for silent, private meditation. What each student chooses to meditate on is entirely up to them, we are not proposing that the schools establish any particular religion.

A moment of silence would allow students with religious beliefs as diverse as Atheism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, etc. to participate together; some would pray; others would reflect on the upcoming day; others would meditate. There would be provision for all. A moment of silence could contribute to acceptance of diversity within the student body, and eventually lead to less violence on campus.


Silencing Juvenile Crime


The Relationship between Juvenile Crime Rates and Mandatory ‘Moment of Silence’ Legislation


Juvenile Crime – A Growing Problem

A Mandatory Moment of Silence Offers an Inexpensive, Effective Response to Juvenile Crime

There is a bitter battle over how to combat the nation's fastest-growing crime problem — juvenile offenders. While overall crime statistics in America's largest cities has dropped, there is one category where it has skyrocketed. That category is homicides committed by youths under the age of 17. Between 1984 and 1994, murders committed by youths under 17 tripled. Demographic studies show that there will be a surge in the teen population in the coming years and experts believe that 25 percent of all murders committed by the year 2005 will be committed by juveniles.

Violence (i.e. Aggravated assaults) committed with guns by youths has also increased at roughly the same pace as homicides. After years of statistical decline, drug use by teens is also on the rise. None of these statistics would appear to bode well for future.

It now seems that everyday we are hearing about horrendous violent crimes being committed by juveniles. The most famous of late was the 6-year-old in northern California who almost beat to death a small baby. The baby was just released from the hospital on Thursday and has suffered brain damage from the attack by the 6-year-old.

A 15-year-old New York boy tried to steal a pair of earrings from a woman. During the attack, the young woman fell to her death under a New York subway train.

Indeed, according to the annual FBI publication Crime in the United States the juvenile crime rate per 100,000 population for the State of New York increased from 2002-2004 from 4468 to 5577 or a 24.82% increase in juvenile crime[1]

According to the same FBI publication, in the year 2000 New York had an estimated population of 18,976,457 which ranked the state 3rd in population. For that year the State of New York had a total Crime Index of 3,099.6 reported incidents per 100,000 people with a juvenile crime rate of 5945.1 reported incidents. This ranked the state as having the 40th highest total Crime Index and 41st for juvenile crime. For Violent Crime New York had a reported incident rate of 553.9 per 100,000 people. This ranked the state as having the 12th highest occurrence for Violent Crime among the states[2]

The current New York State Education law allows for a moment of silence in public schools at the opening of every school day. Nineteen states have a similar discretionary moment of silence (AZ, AR, CT, DE, FL, IL, IN, KS, KY, ME, MD, MI, MO, MT,  NY, NC, ND, OH, PA and UT), while fourteen states have made it a mandatory part of the school day (AL, GA, LA, MA, NE, NH, NJ, OK, RI, SC, TN, TX, VA and WV).

New York Governor and later President Theodore Roosevelt once said, "To educate a person in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society." In this time of increase in threats of worldwide terror, and especially with the rise of violence in Public Schools, it is evident that academic subjects alone are not enough to produce upright and responsible citizens. There must be a focus on character building, with an emphasis on values. The moment of silence is a time for the children to contemplate and reflect, in the beginning of the school day, on the moral values of freedom that make America unique. With this inculcation of true morality, the child will think how to use the subjects learned in school to make the world a better place. This will also encourage parents to spend time with their children, teaching them to be good and upright people, through the children asking their parents what to think about the next day. It is also a time to collect their thoughts and reflect on their upcoming day, when their minds are the most fresh.

A New Response Modality – Key Findings

New York, like most other states, has implemented a wide variety of violence prevention modalities in her public schools. Diversity, tolerance and cross-cultural education have been tried with varying degrees of success. Two of the flag ship programs implemented by New York State to curb juvenile crime are The Communities That Care (CTC) model and the federal Targeted Community Action Planning (TCAP) model.

The Communities That Care (CTC) model incorporates a phase during which localities “Develop a profile of community strengths and challenges; collect data, inventory resources, identify overlap or gaps, analyze data and prioritize areas of focus.” The other is the federal Targeted Community Action Planning (TCAP) model “includes readily available crime and delinquency data; risk factor data; information on past and current Federal, State, and local initiatives; existing community plans; State juvenile justice priorities (i.e., legislative mandates); and information on weaknesses and/or gaps in a community’s comprehensive continuum of services for youth, from neonatal care to intensive juvenile aftercare services.”

Despite these well-intentioned reforms, New York’s juvenile crime problem continues to worsen in the post-9/11 environment.

However, other states such as neighboring New Jersey have attempted an additional modality that has caused their juvenile crime rate to decrease from 7469.8 reported juvenile crimes per 100,000 population to 7159.3 in the period of 2002-2004,[iii] a 4.16% decrease compared to New York’s 24.82% increase in juvenile crime in the same time period.

Both New York and New Jersey have taken aggressive steps to deter and punish juvenile crime. Both states have fully implemented the federal ‘Gun Free Schools Act’, both have complied with the ‘No Child Left Behind Act’. New York’s schools, particularly those in major urban areas have established good working relationships between education professionals and law enforcement.

Indeed, New York’s overall crime rate remained stable in the period 2000-2004, increasing only 0.01% (see table 2). While New Jersey’s overall crime rate fell, it decreased only 1.32%, this doesn’t account for the more significant drop in juvenile crime, especially when contrasted with the huge increase in New York’s juvenile crime rate even as compared to New York’s overall crime rate. The demographics of New York and New Jersey are not terribly different, so what could account for the vastly different outcomes?

The main difference in New Jersey’s approach and New York’s is that New Jersey has mandated a moment of silence in her public schools at the start of each school day since 2000. From 2000, when New Jersey enacted a mandatory moment of silence, to 2004 (the most recent year for which complete figures are available), New Jersey’s juvenile crime rate decreased 11.17%. [iv]

Massachusetts, another neighboring state, has seen a 14.65% decrease in juvenile crime since enacting a mandatory moment of silence in her public schools. [v]

Massachusetts’ and New Jersey’s experiences are not unique. Of the 17 States that mandate a moment of silence, 14 have seen a no increase or a decrease in juvenile crime. On average, those states with a mandatory moment of silence report 76.63% of the juvenile crime rate when compared to the nation as a whole. [vi]

Compare these results to those states that merely permit individual school districts to allow a moment of silence tend to have juvenile crime rates on par with the national average while those states that forbid moments of silence altogether report average juvenile crime rates of 119.42% of the national average. [vii]

Table 1: New York Compared to Neighboring States for Juvenile Crime Rates 2002-2004


MoS Status[i]





Change in Juvenile Crime Rate






































Table 2: New York Compared to Neighboring States for Overall Crime Rates 2002-2004


MoS Status[v]





Change in Overall Crime Rate






































As is obvious from the data on a regional level, only those states which mandate a moment of silence in the public schools have seen a decrease in juvenile crime post-9/11 whereas those that merely make it an option for the local school district have not seen any benefit from the legislation.

These trends are mirrored on a national level. Those states that mandate a moment of silence, as a whole, report lower juvenile crime rates than the nation as a whole.


Table 3:  National Trends for Juvenile Crime Rates 2002-2004


2002 Incidents per 100,000 population

2002 percent of national average

2003 Incidents per 100,000 population

2003 percent of national average

2004 Incidents per 100,000 population

2004 percent of national average

States Mandating Moment of Silence








States Permitting Moment of Silence








States w/o Moment of Silence







All States









The average juvenile crime rate of those states with a mandatory moment of silence in 2004 was 6441.44 reported incidents per 100,000 population compared to 8053.05 for all states – this works out to 79.99% of the national average. States that merely permit individual school districts to allow a moment of silence reported an average of 8233.29 per 100,000 population (102.24% of the national average) whereas states that have no moment of silence legislation at all reported an average of 9361.16 incidents per 100,000 population – 116.24% of the national average. These trends have held steady over time as can be seen on table 3 above.

Public Reaction to Mandatory Moment of Silence Legislation

Public Agenda, a research and polling organization that tracks public opinion on issues ranging from education to foreign policy to immigration to religion and civility in American life, conducted a comprehensive study on public attitudes towards moment of silence legislation. This study entitled For Goodness' Sake: Why So Many Want Religion to Play a Greater Role in American Life was conducted with the support of The Pew Charitable Trusts. It was be presented January 10, 2001 at a panel discussion convening at the Brookings Institution in Washington, DC, sponsored by the newly established Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life.

According to that study, 73% of respondents favored a moment of silence in the public schools, 19% were opposed and 6% favored sectarian prayer. More specifically, when pitting explicitly religious choices against a moment of silence, just 6% of the general public supports a Christian prayer that refers to Jesus. One in five (20%) of the general public prefers a prayer that refers to God but no specific religion. In contrast, 53% of Americans think a moment of silence is the "best" way approach the issue.[xvi]

Nonpartisan and nonprofit, Public Agenda was founded by social scientist and author Daniel Yankelovich and former Secretary of State Cyrus Vance in 1975.

In every study conducted on the issue, large majorities voiced support for mandatory moment of silence legislation.


With such a drastic increase in New York’s juvenile crime rate (as well as Connecticut’s, which also permits but does not mandate a moment of silence) in recent years, especially when contrasted with more positive developments in neighboring states that have mandatory moment of silence legislation on the books it seems clear that there is a strong policy case for amending New York’s statute to require a moment of silence.

Of course, there is a separation of church and state. Then Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley said in June of 1998 “Public schools can neither foster religion nor preclude it. Our public schools must treat religion with fairness and respect and vigorously protect religious expression as well as the freedom of conscience of all other students. In so doing our public schools reaffirm the First Amendment and enrich the lives of their students.”

Former Secretary of State Gen. Colin Powell (USA Ret.) has recommended a simple moment of silence at the start of each school day. Students could use this interval to pray, meditate, contemplate or study.

In her best selling book "An Outrageous Idea: Natural Prayer", Patty Jo Cornish pointed out "We have forgotten that we are all in this together. And, we keep separating ourselves from ourselves, by color, by football teams, by clothes, by money, by creed, by greed, by boundaries, by age, and so on and on. We need something to pull us all together. [Moment of Silence] could be that miracle. It includes everyone, even the non-believers."

A moment of silence would allow students with religious beliefs as diverse as Atheism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Neopaganism, etc. to participate together; some would pray; others would reflect on the upcoming day; others would meditate. There would be provision for all. A moment of silence could contribute to acceptance of diversity within the student body, and eventually lead to less violence on campus, as the juvenile crime statistics presented here seem to attest.

There is no constitutional bar to such laws as they have been held to be constitutional in many other states and U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton ruled in a 15 page decision in favor of a similar law in the Commonwealth of Virginia. He wrote, in part: "The court finds that the Commonwealth's daily observance of one minute of silence act is constitutional. The act was enacted for a secular purpose, does not advance or inhibit religion, nor is there excessive entanglement with religion...Students may think as they wish — and this thinking can be purely religious in nature or purely secular in nature. All that is required is that they sit silently"

Such legislation would go a long way toward silencing juvenile crime.



[1] Federal Bureau of Investigation Crime in the United States 2002, 2003, 2004 editions

[2] Ibid, 2000 edition

[iii] Ibid 2002, 2003, 2004 editions

[iv] Puzzanchera, C., Adams, B., Snyder, H., and Kang, W. (2006). "Easy Access to FBI Arrest Statistics 1994-2004"

[v] Ibid

[vi] Ibid

[vii] Statistical Analysis of FBI arrest statistics; Federal Bureau of Investigation Crime in the United States 2000-2004 & Puzzanchera, C., Adams, B., Snyder, H., and Kang, W. (2006). "Easy Access to FBI Arrest Statistics 1994-2004"

[viii] Anna West, The Education Commission of the States (2000), “School Prayer, Moment of Silence, Other Policies Concerning Religion”

[ix] Statistical Analysis of FBI arrest statistics; Federal Bureau of Investigation Crime in the United States 2002-2004 & Puzzanchera, C., Adams, B., Snyder, H., and Kang, W. (2006). "Easy Access to FBI Arrest Statistics 1994-2004"

[x] Ibid

[xi] Statistical Analysis of FBI arrest statistics; Federal Bureau of Investigation Crime in the United States 2000-2004 & Puzzanchera, C., Adams, B., Snyder, H., and Kang, W. (2006). "Easy Access to FBI Arrest Statistics 1994-2004"

[xii] Anna West, The Education Commission of the States (2000), “School Prayer, Moment of Silence, Other Policies Concerning Religion”

[xiii] Statistical Analysis of FBI arrest statistics; Federal Bureau of Investigation Crime in the United States 2002-2004 & Puzzanchera, C., Adams, B., Snyder, H., and Kang, W. (2006). "Easy Access to FBI Arrest Statistics 1994-2004"

[xiv] Ibid

[xv] Statistical Analysis of FBI arrest statistics; Federal Bureau of Investigation Crime in the United States 2000-2004 & Puzzanchera, C., Adams, B., Snyder, H., and Kang, W. (2006). "Easy Access to FBI Arrest Statistics 1994-2004"

[xvi] Public Agenda (2001), For Goodness' Sake: Why So Many Want Religion to Play a Greater Role in American Life


Answering Objections to the Moment of Silence



Objection: This violates the separation of Church and State.

Answer: No, because the district is taking no religious position. There is no mandate to pray or to think about any pre-defined topic. The purpose of the exercise is to allow a sixty second period where students and faculty can mentally prepare for the coming day. The sole mandate of the program is that the students and staff be silent. No one can regulate what goes on in the privacy of another’s thoughts.

Objection: This takes time out of the day and infringes on time available for instruction.

Answer: No one is asking for a long period of time, sixty seconds cannot reasonably be construed as a burden on the instructional portion of the school day. More importantly, the moment of silence itself is part and parcel of the school’s educational mission. Just as a football coach might invoke a moment of silence before a game to allow the players to focus on the coming competition or an office worker might take a quiet moment with a cup of coffee to ready themselves to tackle the day so to does the moment of silence allow students to transition from ‘off time’ to ‘school time’ in an orderly fashion. This teaches a valuable life skill to the student body as well as promoting a state of mind more conducive to learning

Question: This infringes on the first amendment rights of atheist students

Answer: Hardly, since there is no mandate to pray or even to contemplate the divine. As has been previously noted, no one can police another’s private thoughts. An atheist needs to collect their thoughts just as much as a devout believer. Nothing in the proposal before the NYS legislature requires religious belief nor does it mandate any particular subject be considered by the student and faculty during the exercise. All that is required is the class remain quiet for sixty seconds.

Question: Can a student opt out?

Answer: Of course! If you wish to simply stare into space or consider one’s plans for after school or think about last night’s baseball game, no one can stop you. As an added bonus, unlike opting out of such exercises as the Pledge of Allegiance which requires those who opt out to leave the room, remain seated or otherwise distinguish themselves (and thus open themselves up to social retaliation) opting out of the moment of silence requires no action on the student’s part. It cannot be stressed enough that the sole mandate here is that the student remain silent.

Question: Isn’t this just a backdoor to get prayer back in the schools?

Answer: How could it be? No mandate as to content exists in the proposal.

No student is required to pray, or engage in any specific meditation of any sort. The sole mandate is for silence. What the student chooses to think about in that 1 minute period is entirely up to that individual. A state organized prayer is clearly unconstitutional, but a moment of silent reflection to gather one’s thoughts prior to beginning the work or school day, without state mandate as to how or what to think about, is an important life skill and well within the school’s educational mission.

Question: Doesn’t this tend to single out atheist students?

Answer: No, since no one can possibly know what is going on in another’s private thoughts no one can be singled out on account of their religious faith or lack thereof.

Question: Don’t leading experts oppose the moment of silence?

Answer: Gen. Colin Powell (USA, ret.), Dr. C. Everett Coop (USG, ret.), William Bennet (former U.S. Secretary of Education) and other leading experts have all endorsed the moment of silence both as an educational tool and a tolerance building measure that can unite students of all religious and philosophical persuasions (including atheists) in an exercise that not only improves the learning environment but also promotes civility and tolerance among diverse segments of the school community.

Question: Is there any tangible benefit to the moment of silence?

Answer: Without question. Whereas juvenile crime has remained flat over the past decade nationwide, it has increased in those states without a moment of silence in the schools and decreased in those which do. NY, for example has seen overall crime rates fall but juvenile crime rates increase by 24% whereas both Connecticut and New Jersey which mandate moments of silence has seen decreases in the juvenile crime rate. Interestingly enough, New Jersey’s decrease comes at a time when the state saw a slight increase in the overall crime rate.

Question: Won’t implementing a moment of silence invite litigation by the ACLU?

Answer: NYCLU (the NY branch of the ACLU) has stated for the record that a moment of silence that doesn’t mandate any particular meditation or topic and that has as it’s sole mandate that there be silence and nothing more is not constitutionally objectionable. The director of NYCLU said this publicly and to the press, the comments being published in the Schenectady Gazette in August 2007.



Texto de Legislación del Estado de Tennessee, EEUU 


49-6-1004. Period of silence or prayer.

(a)  In order for all students and teachers to prepare themselves for the activities of the day, a period of silence of approximately one (1) minute in duration shall be maintained in each grade in public schools at the beginning of each school day. At the opening of the first class each day, it is the responsibility of each teacher in charge of each class to call the students to order and announce that a moment of silence is to be observed. The teacher shall not indicate or suggest to the students any action to be taken by them during this time, but shall maintain silence for the full time. At the end of this time, the teacher shall indicate resumption of the class in an appropriate fashion, and may at that time make school announcements or conduct any other class business before commencing instruction. 
(b)  It is lawful for any teacher in any of the schools of the state which are supported, in whole or in part, by the public funds of the state, to permit the voluntary participation by students or others in prayer. Nothing contained in this section shall authorize any teacher or other school authority to prescribe the form or content of any prayer. 
(c)  Notwithstanding the provisions of subsections (a) and (b), nonsectarian and nonproselytizing voluntary benedictions, invocations or prayers, which are initiated and given by a student volunteer or student volunteers may be permitted on public school property during school-related noncompulsory student assemblies, school-related student sporting events and school-related commencement ceremonies. Such permission shall not be construed to indicate any support, approval or sanction by the state or any governmental personnel or official of the contents of any such benedictions, invocations or prayers or to be the promotion or establishment of any religion, religious belief or sect. 
[Acts 1968, ch. 492, § 1; 1976, ch. 463, § 1; 1982, ch. 899, § 1; 1983, ch. 18, § 1; T.C.A., §§ 49-1922, 49-1923; Acts 1993, ch. 534, § 1.]


The Daily Gazette, (Schenectady, NY)

 “If it's just a moment of silence to think serious thoughts, by all means. I don't see why there's anything wrong with a moment of silence.” STEPHEN GOTTLEIB, Capital Region chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union


Is Silence Golden in Curbing Violence?

By Sara Foss

Gazette Reporter

April 29, 2007

In New York, schools are allowed to observe a moment of silence each day, but it's not mandatory. That would change under a bill, introduced in both the state Assembly and Senate, that would require schoolchildren to observe a moment of silence at the beginning of each school day.

Supporters, such as Rabbi Yaakov Weiss of Chabad of Colonie, believe a moment of silence could reduce juvenile violence. In an e-mail earlier this year, he asked people to support the bill.

"We are constantly hearing about the rise of violence in the public schools and the immorality which soars," he wrote. "Our schools are spending millions of dollars to teach math, science and history but are doing nothing to educate our children to be moral and ethical citizens."

"The moment of silence is preventive medicine. It will prevent violence by allowing the children to think about being a good person everyday. Imagine what that could accomplish! Every school day, to think about what I can do to make this world a better place. We would live in a different world."

Weiss became interested in the bill after talking to his friend, Brooklyn resident Abraham Frank. Frank began working to get a moment of silence passed in New York several years ago after reading newspaper editorials chastising the New York City Department of Education for not allowing a moment of silence in the city's schools. "I was attracted to [the moment of silence] and I decided to pursue it," Frank recalled.

Frank works for the New York City Department of Social Services, where he provides child care for parents who work for the city in order to receive public assistance. "I talked to the parents about this issue," he said. "Everyone was very interested. Most of them didn't need an explanation. As soon as they heard 'moment of silence,' they jumped on it. ... By and large, people understand that society needs something like this."

Frank said a moment of silence would have a "focusing effect" and that teachers, students and parents would benefit. "It's not valued as much as it used to be, silence," he said. "There are so many distractions, but you can't keep going and going and going."

Numbers telling

Weiss asked Andrew Gelbman, owner of Internet Wizards, a web design shop in Albany, to research whether moments of silence have an impact on juvenile behavior. Gelbman said he did a statistical analysis, using FBI crime statistics from 2000 to 2004, that showed that states requiring a moment of silence saw a drop in youth violence — even states, such as New Jersey, where the overall crime rate increased.

States that allow a moment of silence but do not mandate it, such as New York and Connecticut, saw an increase in juvenile violence, he said

Gelbman said he didn't have a strong opinion on the law when Weiss approached him. "I looked at this as a general statistic project," he said. "My interest was more academic than anything else."

"Obviously now, looking at the figures, I think it's a good idea," Gelbman continued. "I didn't come in with an agenda. I was intrigued by what I discovered. It didn't seem to matter what we were talking about, whether it was a rich state or a poor state, rural or urban."

Weiss said friends who work in the public school system have told him students are becoming more violent. "The increase in school violence bothered me," he said.

Like Weiss, Frank believes a mandatory moment of silence will help reduce juvenile violence. He said the idea isn't to promote religion, and students who don't want to observe a moment of silence can find a quiet activity, such as homework, to do instead. "The child can think anything he wants," he said. "The only job of the teacher is to signal when the moment of silence begins and ends."

Weiss agreed. "It's a moment of silence," he said. "It's not a religious thing."

The Web site that promotes the bill emphasizes that teaching religion is not the goal.

"We bring no sectarian agenda to this, what we are suggesting is that children take a moment for silent, private meditation. What each student chooses to meditate on is entirely up to them, we are not proposing that schools establish any particular religion. A moment of silence would allow students with religion beliefs as diverse as Atheism, Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Neopaganism, etc. to participate together; some would pray; others would reflect on the upcoming day; others would meditate."

Stephen Gottlieb, president of the Capital Region chapter of the New York Civil Liberties Union's board of directors, said there's nothing wrong with a moment of silence, as long as students are not told what to think or believe. "If it's just a moment of silence to think serious thoughts, by all means," he said. "I don't see why there's anything wrong with a moment of silence."

Right now, 17 states, including Texas, Virginia, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, West Virginia and Kentucky, have similar laws.

There is a petition on the Web site, www.nymomentofsilence.org.

Frank said it's important that the moment of silence be mandatory. "We find in states where it's optional, they don't do it at all," he said.

"I'm not saying this will solve all the world's problems," Frank said. "We are saying that this is an important first step in trying to meet those challenges."

Frank has six children. "I understand what it is to educate a child," he said. "It's not the easiest thing."


Reach Gazette reporter Sara Foss at 395-3193 or [email protected].

Copyright (c) 2007 The Daily Gazette Co. All Rights Reserved.

Section: B
Edition: Schenectady/Albany; Final
Page: B1


Published on Psychology Today (http://www.psychologytoday.com)

A Moment of Silence: A Simple Way to Improve Schools and Society

By Izzy Kalman

Created Feb 27 2012 - 5:24pm

I am a lover of simple solutions. While we tend to think that solutions are difficult, this is usually wrong. It is problems that are difficult. When we have problems, we are working hard to solve them and whatever we are doing isn't working, so it seems like the solution must be something very difficult. But usually when we find a solution that works, it turns out to be something very simple.

Before I continue, a few caveats. I am writing strictly as a social scientist. Please don't make any assumptions about my religious beliefs based on this article. What I'm writing here is irrelevant to a belief in a higher being. I am a staunch proponent of separation of church and state. And what I am presenting here is not meant to be a comprehensive solution to bullying (though I suspect it may be at least as effective as the time consuming anti-bullying programs that are proud to reduce bullying by twenty percent). Rather, it is a way to improve the school environment, home life and society in general with a minimal investment of time and effort.

Several years ago, a man in the audience of my Anger Control Made Easy seminar in Manhattan stood out to me like a sore thumb. He sported a long gray beard and wore a white shirt, black suit and the particular style of black hat that comprise the unofficial uniform of the Lubavitch sect of Chassidim, also known as Chabad Chassidim. I am intimately familiar with Lubavitcher Chassidim because I had attended the Lubavitcher Yeshiva (religious school) of the Bronx from first through eighth grades, my wife has several siblings who became Lubavitcher Chassidim, and a Chabad synagogue opened near my house a few years ago, becoming the synagogue I attend. I was, in fact, very surprised that a Lubavitcher Chassid would attend my secular seminar, as they believe the answers to all life's questions can be found within their own sect's teachings.

I was even more surprised to see that this man wanted to stay afterwards to talk to me. He introduced himself as Avraham Frank, and he wanted more advice on how to apply my teachings in his work. We ended up keeping up sporadic phone contact ever since.

A couple of years ago he told me about a mission he had taken upon himself. On his own time and expense, he'd been promoting a school program called A Moment of Silence. (In fact, it is so simple I am not even sure the world "program" is applicable). He tries to convince schools to implement a minute or two of silence every morning. This is not a new idea. There are, in fact, several states in the U.S. that have mandated A Moment of Silence for schools. (When presented as a secular activity, these mandates have been deemed Constiutional by the Supreme Court.) But Mr. Frank's version has a particular twist to it. The students are requested to discuss with their parents what they should be contemplating during the moment of silence in school. I will be discussing shortly, this may make all the difference.

Mr. Frank told me the results have been amazing. I was initially skeptical, but when I looked at dozens of letters from kids and the video testimonials from teachers, principals and parents, I couldn't help but be greatly impressed–and curious.

Mr. Frank explained that he promotes the program because the late Lubavitcher Rebbe ('rebbe' is an endearing term Chassidic groups use for their leader), Rabbi Menachem Mendel Schneerson, had expressed the desire to see all schools implementing A Moment of Silence. Frank took it upon himself to make his Rebbe's wish a reality.

Regardless of one's religious beliefs or lack of such, when a man like the Lubavitcher Rebbe makes a recommendation for society, it would be smart to give it consideration. In addition to being a Jewish scholar, Rabbi Schneerson was a true genius and a profoundly wise man–and wisdom is the solution to life's problems. In 1995 the U.S. Congress posthumously awarded him a Gold Medal in honor of his contribution to education and designated his birthday as Education and Sharing Day, U.S.A.

So I gave A Moment of Silence some consideration and for the past year or so, have been mentioning it in my monthly Bullies to Buddies newsletters. As a result, many schools throughout the world have adopted A Moment of Silence and they love the results.

Why does A Moment of Silence work? I will do my best to offer some explanations.

One, it is a powerful experience. If you have ever participated in a memorial service in which everyone is silent for a minute or two, you probably know what it is like. Time seems to pass more slowly, as everyone is united in a communal ceremony of thoughtful silence.

Two, it promotes self-control. It is not easy to be silent and still for a full minute or two, and the younger the child is, the more difficult it is. So when children practice silence for a minute or two every school day, they attain self-control that can be available to them at any time. The development of the ability to stay silent is probably enhanced by the fact that everyone else is doing it, too. Even kids with generally poor control are more likely to try to be still when they see everyone else around them doing it.

Three, when the Moment of Silence is conducted at the beginning of the school day, it sets the mood for the rest of the day.

Four, it can serve as a form of meditation for kids. The benefits of meditation have already well established by scientific research.

And the fifth factor I will present is the one that has to do with the particular component Rabbi Schneerson added: instructing kids to discuss with their parents what they should think about. This factor is perhaps the one most crucial for the success of the program.

The effectiveness of A Moment of Silence in the states that do implement it is debatable. My most recent seminar tour was in Texas, one such state. But seminar participants informed me that it's just another activity the schools are doing simply because it's mandated. They are quiet for a minute to comply with the mandate but it is not taken seriously. Thus, the minute becomes essentially meaningless.

Many people today, particularly people who want to see bullying reduced, are bemoaning that schools no longer teach values, that they have become amoral places that try to prepare kids for acceptance into college but don't instill any meaning into their lives. And another thing many people decry, especially experts in violence, is the progressively weakening bond between children and parents. This bond may be weakening for a number of reasons. One of them is the replacement of human interactions with electronic media, a process whose greatest giant-step was the introduction of television into the home.

A second cause is the importance that parents themselves place on school. Most parents treat school demands as more important than their own. They make sure that their children attend daily and do their homework and projects in the evening and on weekends. How many parents would dare tell their children, "Forget your homework. I need you to do the laundry" or "You're skipping school today cause we're going to the movies"? Moreover, many schools assign homework during summer vacation as well so that kids and their parents should never be free of their obligations to the school.

A third major cause of the weakened child/parent bond is the wholesale entrance of women into the workforce. For families to survive economically in the modern world, most women need to put in a full workweek (not to mention that many women prefer having a career to being a housekeeper). Thus, school has been slowly but surely taking over children's lives. Many kids not only get lunch in school but breakfast as well. Many schools have what amount to babysitting services so that working parents can drop off their children long before school begins and pick them up a few hours after it is over. "No Child Left Behind" laws effectively reduce parents' responsibility for children's academic success and place it squarely on the school's shoulders. The expectation that schools be responsible for children round-the-clock has become so normal that most parents demand that the school be held responsible for kids' bullying not only during school but afterwards, including in cyberspace.

Thus, the more dominant schools become in the lives of children, the less significant the parents become in their minds.

Furthermore, many parents do not want their schools teaching their children "values." Who is to decide what values the school should try to inculcate into their children? To avoid fighting with parents over the appropriate values to teach, it is easier to avoid teaching values at all. "Anti-bullying" has become the most universally accepted values teaching that schools have come up with, but it turns out that even here there are some vehement areas of disagreement among parent groups about what should be included.

As a result, students are largely in a moral/spiritual limbo. Their home lives revolve around homework and electronic devices, schools are teach-to-the-test college preparation factories, and parents are the servants that are expected to work hard to pay the bills, drive the kids around, bring them play dates, make sure they do their homework, etc.

And that is where the Lubavitcher Rebbe's brilliance comes in. With his version of the Moment of Silence, schools can restore to parents their rightful role as the moral/spiritual authorities for their children. The schools are in essence declaring to students, "Yes, you do spend a good chunk of your day here and work for us at home, too, but your parents are the ones you need to look to for meaning in life."

It only takes minutes, but the children need to discuss with their parents what they should be thinking about during the powerful Moment of Silence in school. The kids are now expected to look up to their parents as their moral/spiritual authorities. But consider also what it does for the parents' self-esteem when the school officially recognizes them as moral/spiritual authorities! Furthermore, there is a good chance that many parents today, with all the pressures of work and the hectic pace of modern society, don't even devote time to considering what's truly important. In order to help their children think of topics for Moment of Silence contemplation, the parents need to think about it as well! And because parents care about their children more than anyone else, they tend to take their role in A Moment of Silence seriously.

This simple activity completely avoids problems of conflicts between school and parent over values because the parents are relied on for the values–as they should be. The values can be religious or secular. And if the kids prefer to spend their Moment of Silence fantasing about pleasures, thinking about how their parents' values are wrong, or thinking about nothing at all, that is fine, too. No one knows the better.

Regardless of what any individual child is thinking during A Moment of Silence, the majority are thinking positive things, and doing so at the same time. Children are less likely to behave badly when they have begun the day together silently contemplating, each in their own way, how to improve their lives and the world. It should not be surprising that A Moment of Silence is profoundly powerful and is almost universally loved by the parents, staff and students of the schools that practice it seriously.

I therefore give A Moment of Silence my strongest endorsement. I think it just may be the single most effective way to improve schools and society, and at essentially no expense. The small amount of time invested pays for itself many times over. For one or two effortless minutes per day, school atmosphere improves, kids and staff become happier, aggression declines, staff waste less time trying to keep students on task and dealing with discipline problems, and academic achievement goes up. And, last but not least, the parents come to appreciate their children's schools like never before.

Avraham Frank has created a website for A Moment of Silence. It contains the simple instructions for implementing it effectively, and if you wish, he will give you his personal guidance free of charge. Moreover, he will even get on the phone to try to convince your school administration to give it a try.

To learn more, go to Mr. Frank's website, http://momentofsilence.info/
Best Wishes,
Izzy Kalman
[Defending someone’s right to speak doesn’t mean you agree with what they say. Recognizing that others have different views about art, politics, literature and religion, and that their views are entitled to the same respect and protection as your own, is a form of tolerance required of all in a pluralistic society. – National Coalition Against Censorship]

Source URL: http://www.psychologytoday.com/node/88898