On “Transports ofnPower”nThe article by Momcilo Selic on MilovannDjilas {Chronicles, Septembern1985) is a piece of rare quality. Thenlanguage has the descriptive power ofnpoetry while still obeying the disciplinenof knowledge. The author cannconvey the Montenegrin atmospherento us outsiders and thus throw light onnthe enigmatic figure of Djilas. Mynchief praise, however, is that the piecenis not subject to any party line, right ornleft, regarding what should be foundnblack and what white. Refreshing,nthat, in our day and age.nGerhart NiemeyernUniversity of Notre DamenOn ”Leave the KidsnAlone”nI read with interest your essay “Leaventhe Kids Alone” in the Septembernissue oi Chronicles. Concerning prayernin public schools, I wonder whethernthe dispute might be less a question ofn”religious liberty” than of “thoughtncontrol.” I have therefore devised anninexpensive experiment which mightnclarify the issues.nThe problem is that many of thosenparents who are religiously inclinednclaim that their offspring ought to benable to pray in school, while those whonare not religiously inclined argue thatninstitutionalized moments of prayer ornsilence in the classroom would, via thenvery real power of peer pressure, undulyninfluence their children. Whatnwould happen, then, if schools innwhich this problem is particularly apparentnwere to designate a special timenand place for a moment of prayer ornsilence? If school begins at 8:30 a.m.,nthose children feeling it necessary ton341 CHRONICLES OF CULTUREnPOLEMICS & EXCHANGESnbegin the academic day with communalnprayer might be permitted to do sonin some temporarily assigned space,nperhaps a music room or cafeteria, atn8:25 or so, joining the nonprayingnstudents in homeroom a few minutesnlater. Children wishing to pray communallynin school can do so; childrennnot wishing to pray are not subjectednto the discomfort of being immersed,nhowever temporarily, in someonenelse’s religion at taxpayer expense.nSuch an experiment would permitnus to identify the real motives of thenopposing sides in the school prayerncontroversy. If agitators against prayernin public schools are simply interestednin the “right” of their children to enjoynfreedom from religious peer pressure atntaxpayer expense, they should benpleased to learn of an officially sanctionednsequestration of religion fromnthe “learning environment.” On thenother hand, those opposing even thenuse of empty school time and space forna moment’s prayer or silence mightnlogically be presumed to be againstnreligion per se; they would appear innthis case to be primarily interested inndenying prayer to religious students.nSimilarly, if agitators for prayer innpublic schools are simply interested innthe “right” of their children to enjoy anmoment’s communal silence ornprayer, they should be pleased to learnnof the setting aside of a special timenand space for that moment. Pro-prayernforces opposing the relegation of communalnpublic-school prayer to a specialntime and place might logically benpresumed to be primarily interested innsubjecting nonpraying students to religiousnpeer pressure.nIf this experiment were to succeednin bringing about a stable detente betweennpro- and anti-public-schoolprayernforces, we might satisfactorilynconclude that the issue has actuallynbeen one of “religious liberty” allnalong, as both sides claim. If, however,nit were to fail, or if its trial were tonbe denied in advance, we might satis­nnnfactorily conclude that the issue isnactually one of “thought control,” neithernside wishing to give up access tonthe minds of the children of the opposingncamp. In such a ease, my ownnsuspicion is that American publicnschools will remain an ideological battlegroundnfor years to come.nMost of us dislike the idea of sendingnour youngsters to battlegrounds;nwe’d rather that they be schooled in anmanner appropriate to our own culturalninclinations. Small wonder, then,nthat so many of us feel cheated notnonly by the disparate philosophies ofnschooltime religion, but by the naturenof modern taxpayer-supported schoolingnitself.nJohn C. McLaughlinnTesuque, New MexiconThe Editor RepHes:nYour suggestion has the very greatnmerit of clarifying the issues at stake.nIts implementation would be almostnimpossible for the very reasons younindicate. Many believers, looking intontheir own hearts, would admit to anhidden agenda; the desire to re-nChristianize the schools.nFor all the attractions of fairness andnimpartiality, serious controversies arenmore often settled by an appeal—nonmatter how veiled—to the principle ofnpower. The case of prayer in schools isnno different. What it comes down to,nin the end, is the simple question ofnwhose values are to prevail. The failurento take a stand on that issue wouldnbe moral suicide.nStill, your idea should be put on thentable of every school board meeting. Ifnit proves to be impractical, that wouldnraise the unpleasant question of whynwe continue to pay taxes to supportngovernment schooling. ccn