OXFORD, England — Findings from a meta-study presented at the University of Oxford in a talk by Professor William Jeynes are leading researchers to take a broader look at the benefits of student prayer in public schools. His meta-analyses combined the results of 13 studies on the effects of student prayer on academic and behavioral achievement. The results of the meta-analysis indicated that student prayer in schools was associated with both better academic achievement and better behavior among young people in the school. William Jeynes, a Harvard graduate and principal investigator at the Witherspoon Institute in Princeton, New Jersey, led the study. For twenty-five years, Jeynes has been conducting meta-analyses and examining national data sets, with the goal of determining what factors improve student academic and behavioral outcomes. Jeynes notes, “The results are particularly intriguing, due to the low number of schools that practice giving students the opportunity to pray, reflect or have a moment of silence in schools. With all the stress that many children and teenagers are going through due to COVID, death rates, military uproar in Europe and personal isolation, you would think that most countries would increase their allocation to set aside time for students. to collect their thoughts, reflect and pray.
Jeynes goes on to add, “One of the results of the COVID pandemic is that there has arisen among many others a new respect for the unseen realm. People seem to understand more than at any time in recent history that some of the most powerful forces in the world are largely invisible, such as wind, electricity and viruses. Students begin to make some of the most important decisions of their lives while in school. If there’s a time when they need to calm and quiet their souls and ask for guidance, now is the time. When we raised our children, we often told them to make sure they walked the right path, especially in high school and early adulthood, because that’s when they’ll take some the most important decisions of their lives.
Jeynes offers historical context to his findings by stating, “Before the United States Supreme Court rulings of 1962 and 1963, which removed prayer from public schools, quiet time was allowed in schools. In 1995, Bill Clinton gave a speech in Vienna, Virginia, just outside Washington DC, in which he criticized public schools for not allowing moments of silence used for reflection in a manner consistent with the child’s personal belief system. Such exercises can help a student overcome stress, better manage their emotions, and give them a sense of peace. As a result, acts of violence will be less likely to occur. Robert Leahy (2008, p. 1) makes a very poignant observation when he states: “The average high school student today has the same level of anxiety as the average psychiatric patient in the early 1950s.” today need greater peace, not a higher level of anxiety. The results of the meta-analysis support the place of prayer and a moment of silence in schools to foster a classroom attitude of love, peace and joy. The results encourage schools and society to take advantage of these benefits.
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