Talk about stating the obvious—and “coming late to the table,” as goes an old saying. Wilmington StarNews editorial editors proclaim: “Young adults need more than technical skills; the need life skills, too.” Really? That’s not news to generations of traditional Americans taught to be morally literate. But, sadly, it’s lacking in segments of our modern culture. The usual excuse for bad behavior is being “poor.” (link)
Editors say that “too many” young adults lack what they euphemistically refer to as “soft skills”; something obvious to those of us brought up prior to the 1960s. They list some of those, formerly known as virtues or values—dare I say “family values”?
For decades those values were taught to children so that they would grow up understanding right from wrong, able to function in a civil society and be morally literate individuals. That was systematically ridiculed, even denounced, by many progressives—rejected as out-of-touch-with-the-times— especially in our educational institutions that once upheld and reinforced traditional social values. The result?
In a word, failure to teach virtuous behavior has led to incivility. We can observe it everywhere: in malls, schools, fast-food stores, sports events and other public places. Based on soft skills offered by the editors, and my observations, the lack shows up rude, crude and tattooed with foul language, disrespect for others, slovenliness and failure to communicate in proper English. Some children with no adult role models and no home schooling end their lives in civil society with violent acts.
For example, the Wilmington-Six (or was it five?) recently charged by police with plotting to rob and kill a food deliveryman. They ruined their lives and will be removed from society to protect others from their predatory nature. Does anyone believe they can be taught “soft skills”?
Progressives continue to avoid the root problem and come up with programs to fix ingrained social dysfunctions. Editors cite a 12-year old non-profit effort in Boston called “Year Up.” The group uses social justice jargon. The mission: “close the Opportunity Divide” with urban youths.
There is no “opportunity” divide in America, but wide self-inflicted cultural divides now exist. On the one side, “personal accountability, honesty and respect for others,” a Year Up focus, according to editors. Obviously, then, on the other side of the chasm are those who are unaccountable, dishonest and lack respect for others.
The mission reads like another jargonized enabling program with handouts: “high support, high expectation model that combines marketable job skills, stipends, internships and college credits.”
Yet editors seem to understand “stark reality”: “… normal habits of hard work, punctuality and the ability to function in a workplace are foreign to teenagers and young adults (from) chaotic homes where those traits are rare.”
Editors recognize another undeniably truth of life. It’s “up to the individual to make leading a productive life a priority.” However, this situation is so desperate—“If something isn’t done….”—(and hopeless) that our editors can’t think of any solutions except that all community colleges should “teach behavior.” Civil behavior is not something that can be learned in college; by that time it’s too late. However, it can be reinforced, if it’s been taught in the home. But our education institutions are busy, instead, with race, gender and sexual indoctrination.
After two or three generations of institutional meddling and sabotage of traditional values by progressives, social dysfunction has taken deep root in the urban subculture. Much of it can be traced to misguided feel-good programs such as the Great Society “War on Poverty.” Promoters will continue to fertilize this diseased tree with calls for more funding, but it has to be ripped up. Many from recent generations are lost, but future generations of children can be taught morality.
A generation ago, William J. Bennett edited an 800-page book titled, “The Book of Virtues” subtitled “A Treasury of Great Moral Stories.” Dr. Bennett intended this anthology “to aid in the time-honored task of the moral education of the young.” He defined moral education as “the training of heart and mind toward the good.” It includes the “dos and don’ts of life”—that must include training in good habits. Bennett reminded us that for children to take morality seriously they must associate with adults who do likewise—they must see examples from adults and the world of literature.
Bennett’s book is filled with tales, poems, essays and other writings passed down for centuries in Western Civilization to teach self-discipline, compassion, responsibility, friendship, work, courage, perseverance, honesty, loyalty and faith—“material that virtually all schools and homes and churches once taught to students for the sake of shaping character”; writings Dr. Bennett calls “moral literature.”
In the introduction the author explains the importance of this literature. It gives children “specific reference points”; they must have examples of right and wrong. The “Once upon a time” beginning fascinates children. The stories “help anchor” children in our culture, history and traditions. Teaching these “shared ideals” brings children into “the community of moral persons.”
If responsible adults expect young American children to become moral people they should start by teaching the virtues (and vices) found in William Bennett’s wonderful and valuable book. The question is: How can this be done without dramatic changes in “chaotic” homes?
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