Sunday, November 30, 2008

God Help Us

I just read a very distressing article about the downward ethical trends among our nation's youth. According to the article:

The Josephson Institute, a Los Angeles-based ethics institute, surveyed 29,760 students at 100 randomly selected high schools nationwide, both public and private. All students in the selected schools were given the survey in class; their anonymity was assured.

Michael Josephson, the institute's founder and president, said he was most dismayed by the findings about theft. The survey found that 35 percent of boys and 26 percent of girls — 30 percent overall — acknowledged stealing from a store within the past year. One-fifth said they stole something from a friend; 23 percent said they stole something from a parent or other relative.

...Cheating in school is rampant and getting worse. Sixty-four percent of students cheated on a test in the past year and 38 percent did so two or more times, up from 60 percent and 35 percent in a 2006 survey.

Thirty-six percent said they used the Internet to plagiarize an assignment, up from 33 percent in 2004.

Forty-two percent said they sometimes lie to save money — 49 percent of the boys and 36 percent of the girls.

Despite such responses, 93 percent of the students said they were satisfied with their personal ethics and character, and 77 percent affirmed that "when it comes to doing what is right, I am better than most people I know."

Is it just me or does anyone else detect a disconnect between the data in the first part of this quote and the statement in the last paragraph? This is utterly appalling to me. Such a discrepancy would either indicate to me that there are some really bad people not accounted for in this survey or that a whole bunch of people have absolutely not clue about what is moral or ethical.

Just as scary as the results of this survey is the responses that the article reported from educators that were presented the results. A typical response came from Peter Anderson the principal of Andover High School in Andover, Massachusetts. He said, "This generation is leading incredibly busy lives — involved in athletics, clubs, so many with part-time jobs, and — for seniors — an incredibly demanding and anxiety-producing college search."

Another "educator" said, "We have to create situations where it's easy for kids to do the right things," he added. "We need to create classrooms where learning takes on more importance than having the right answer."

I think though that Michael Josephson hit the nail on the head when he "contended that most Americans are too blase about ethical shortcomings among young people and in society at large. 'Adults are not taking this very seriously,' he said. 'The schools are not doing even the most moderate thing. ... They don't want to know. There's a pervasive apathy.'"

Why are many adults not taking this seriously? I would suggest that a similar survey given to adults about the age of the kids' parents would find that they are no better than the kids surveyed. The apple doesn't fall too far from the tree. Whether we want to acknowledge it or not, America is in a serious moral crisis.

Good grief! The guys I quoted above made excuses instead of even acknowledging that these behaviors are wrong. I wonder if the tone of these individuals would have been different if the survey showed that intolerance, ethnocentrism, or conservatism were on the rise. And one suggested that if we make it easy enough then they won't have to cheat! These people are morally bankrupt! It is a classic case of the blind leading the blind. No wonder we're so screwed up!

Information like this just convinces me that a reckoning is coming and coming soon. God help us.

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