Summertime, and the livin' ain't moral in public schools

Monday, August 27, 2001 at 1:00am

As summer winds down, America finds itself in a rather dubious place. The economy is terrible, and the public school system isn't much better.

Let's start at the top with President Bush. The polls show that most Americans who are not intoxicated with liberal ideology want Bush to succeed. That's because he comes off as a nice guy.

But I also believe that most Americans are not fully confident that the president will be effective because he is not exactly a George Patton-type leader. He doesn't look you in the eye and make you want to charge machine gun nests. He looks you in the eye, grins, and the golf cart pulls up. So can Bush and his people stave off a long, debilitating recession? Nobody knows.

The shaky economy is, by far, the most important issue in America today, but the collapsing public school system is second. And it's not all about poor academic skills. According to a study by the Josephson Institute of Ethics in California, 68 percent of the 8,600 students surveyed said they had punched somebody within the past year. And girls are equally represented in that group!

The author of the study, Michael Josephson, says that in addition to being violent, students are lying, stealing and cheating in record numbers. According to Josephson, the public school system has completely abdicated its responsibility to teach "moral" behavior. But in addition to that, I think there is another significant contributing factor to the moral relativism that permeates many school systems.

Students constantly see bad behavior being rewarded. The more conniving you are in the Survivor TV series, the more chance you have of winning a million bucks. And the sexier you are on Dawson's Creek, the more in demand you become both on and off the air. The words of a few teachers and parents cannot counter the shoddy behavior blitz kids experience every day.

Few of our elected leaders will this trend, preferring instead to jack up taxes by spending more and more money on "education." That sounds good, of course, but money can't buy love or a conscience. The public school system needs mandatory courses in Judeo-Christian ethics, the principles on which this country was founded.

But don't let the ACLU hear that. They'll sue.

America is still a great country, but if a long-term recession kicks in, watch out. We are used to having it our way, materially speaking, and if that is threatened, our society will not react well.

As for the kids, I feel bad for them. They are living in a time when powerful forces are eroding traditional values. They all know who Monica Lewinsky is, who Gary Condit is, who Eminem is. But don't ask about Mother Teresa in your civics class. There may be a bit of religious philosophy in her profile. And that's far too controversial for our public school system to handle. For as the song says, "Don't know much about history

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