Just a few years ago, the principal problems on the college campuses and in the schools were demonstrations, sit-ins, and property destruction of the burn-down-the-ROTC-building variety. Today, the principal problem is violent crime: murder, rape, aggravated assault, armed robbery, burglary, and other non-ideological crime.
For example, in the last three weeks in St. Louis there has been a murder at each of two different city high schools, an exchange of gunfire outside a third, an armed robbery at a fourth: a beating of the principal at an elementary school, the molestation of an 8-year old boy at another, and the beating of an honor student by a group of youths using a metal pipe.
Such crime and terror in the schools area fairly recent innovation. As recently as eight years ago, the St. Louis school system did not employ a single security guard. Now, the School Board must cancel certain classes in order to greatly increase the number of additional security guards. It’s the same in many other big cities.
In New York, the City Council recently received a report that crime and violence are up in the city’s junior high and elementary schools. The city school system is described by some as a “jungle.”
On college campuses, the plight of women students is especially acute. On some campuses, women are advised to carry a shrill whistle, and not to go out alone at night.
With all the money we’ve spent in this country on education, it seems that we’ve missed the most important subject. We expect our schools to teach reading, writing and ‘rithmetic; but they have neglected the most important “R” of all: right or wrong. Somehow when religion and released time were banned from the schools, the teaching of right or wrong was lost in the shuffle.
Moral education should be taught from the earliest grades. This includes the moral precepts of the Ten Commandments, especially thou shalt not steal and thou shalt not covet they neighbor’s goods, as well as other rules of good conduct such as honesty is the best policy. Our students should be taught that lying, stealing, cheating and murder are both crimes and sins which cannot be excused by past economic, geographic or racial injustices, no matter how grievous.
The First Amendment merely forbids “an establishment of religion.” It certainly does not forbid teaching the fundamentals of morality. Moral education is a basic necessity for civilized living. To abdicate this obligation is to resign our schools and our cities to the law of the jungle, and to allow ourselves to be terrorized by young savages who have never been taught the difference between right and wrong.