School Prayer is about Cultural Hegemony not Piety

Not specifically about Sen. Kruse or Indiana’s situation, but Fred Clark has a post entitled Your lips say ‘school prayer,’ but your eyes tell me ‘desegregation’

He has a Venn diagram suggesting an overlap between people upset about the Supreme Court’s 1962 Engel v. Vitale decision concerning school prayer and those upset about its Brown v. Board of Education decision in 1954.

In any event, school prayer advocacy isn’t really about piety and prayer so much as it is about asserting cultural hegemony. (In my prior posts, I’ve frequently used the concept of marking territory). That’s also what the “we want to take our country back” business is about.


  1. Soapbox0916 says

    I don’t think this can pass for several reasons, but unfortunately it will take away exposure of more potentially harmful bills that I fear will slide under the radar because they seem so innocent on the surface.

    The one that really worries me the most is one that will impose a punitive “incentive” on students to graduate in four years or less with the Frank O’Bannon scholarship fund. Who could be against incentivizing students to graduate in four years or less? That is why this bill has me petrified, because it difficult to explain quickly why this bill is going about it entirely the wrong way and is potentially devastating to students that need the aid the most.

    Unless I am overlooking it, I have not seen it posted yet on the Indiana General Assembly bill site, but expecting it anytime. I am hoping that news articles that I have read have really mislead me, but I have seen enough to make me really worried.

    I think what is potentially the most devastating is a complete misunderstanding of why students don’t graduate in four years or less. The barriers that students are facing that keep them from graduating in four or less years won’t be magically fixed by punitive “incentives” that take away aid if the student is not taking “enough” hours or graduates on a tight time frame. There is almost an underlying assumption that these poor students are simply goofing off and/or just not trying hard enough to finish on the traditional four year schedule. That there could be legitimate reasons for extending beyond four years such as internships, short term job opportunities, work studies, change in majors, family/personal issues, military service, missions, or that a four year traditional education is not the best fit for every student is not being considered accurately. Yes, I acknowledge that there might be some students out there that could benefit from a push, but why punish all the students that legitimately are better off taking a longer time.

    There is also a denial that what was best for the generations in power is no longer true for current college students. I can almost see this bill being almost being tolerable maybe 20 years ago, where completion of a degree in of itself had a direct immediate effect on a person’s income. Now, it is much more complicated. There is an enormous amount of recent college graduates that are underemployed or still working at the jobs that they had before they completed their college degree. Poor people without the right connections may be the least helped by the credentials, but impacted the most by the enormous college debt of today, poor college students today especially could really benefit from combined work experience and education to give them connections, but that adds time.

    So what is the point of a getting a college degree? There is the credential. There is a hopefully a gain in skills and training. Hopefully a gain in critical thinking skills. Hopefully a gain in knowledge. Hopefully a benefit to employers. So instead if I have read the news correctly, we will incentivize students to take 39 credit hours or more per year, either cramming 18-19 credit hours per semester or forcing students to take summer classes, incentivize them potentially to give up internships/jobs that would slow down their graduation rate, incentives them to take easier courses, incentives them to graduate with majors that offer more flexible class schedules.

    It will also incentivize the message that these college courses are not about maximizing knowledge and taking time to learn new skills, but that these courses are really just a credential to get through as quickly as possible. Plus incentivize that graduation rate in four years is about having an easy target to measure instead of the harder to measure goal of what is best for each individual student.

  2. Stu Swenson says

    Of all the possible prayers one could choose, it is interesting, and probably very significant, that they would choose The Lord’s Prayer. While it is said almost universally in Christian churches on a weekly basis, few people have actually studied it’s context and meaning enough to understand its purpose and, more specifically what the supplicant is actually praying for. That means The Lord’s Prayer takes on multifarious symbolic meanings for most, which would include the representation of cultural hegemony among other things. I would like to see a serious discussion about those various meanings, and what people think that saying The Lord’s Prayer actually accomplishes, because that would provide insight into what this proposed law is really about. Once that is understood, the law would not be so benign as the author might like to think.

  3. says

    Lord knows I don’t have much patience with Republican shibboleths these days, but the accusation that ostensible concerns about secularization are veiled concerns about racial integration have always struck me, ironically, as rank bigotry. Drawing some overlapping circles of sets and subsets doesn’t change that one iota.
    Even Fred tacitly admits that Christian school didn’t start blooming until after 1962. Only uncharitable speculation appears to back his suspicions, which no doubt some people will credit all too credulously.

    • Doug says

      I think what Fred was suggesting is that a lot of opponents of Brown v. Board of Education weren’t racists either. They didn’t have antipathy toward non-whites because they hated blacks; rather they just had tribal affiliations of which black people weren’t included. Brown messed with their cultural hegemony by reducing the privileges of their tribe – and that’s what rankled. It was maybe incidental to them that the perceived assault on their tribe was in favor of someone of a different race.

      He suggests a similar thing is going on with prayer. Our tribe prays this way, and our kids get to do it in school. We don’t care what you other people do so long as it doesn’t infringe on the privileges of our tribe.

      • says

        I have considered your point, and have reread Fred’s blog.
        Perhaps I was mistaken in reading an imputation of racism into Fred’s effort to trace things back from 1962 to 1954. Or perhaps Fred was being deliberately equivocal, insinuating racism by citing Brown v. Board of Education while maintaining deniability.
        While I find the loss of hegemony explanation more plausible than the racism explanation, I’m not sure it’s much better founded except in intuition.

  4. says

    Your last paragraph, by and large, could describe the opponents of school prayer as well as its proponents. Both are trying to exert cultural hegemony. And both wish to assert it because we need something more substantial than Mel Simon’s Temples of Mammon to bind us together, though that’s about all we’ve got now that ABC, CBS and NBC have given way to a TV tower of Babel while parents take their children from public school for private or home schooling.

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