As summer winds down, America finds itself in a rather dubious place. The economy is terrible, the public-school system isn’t much better, and Gary Condit is a household name.

It is morning in America; can I go back to sleep?

Let’s start at the top with President Bush. The polls show that most Americans who are not intoxicated with liberal ideology want Mr. 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 Mr. Bush and his people stave off a long, debilitating recession? Nobody knows.

Much was made of the president taking a month-long vacation, but have you noticed that Vice President Cheney has simply vanished? Where is this guy? Is he home on the range in Wyoming? Is he at a spa with Al Gore? Won’t you come home, Dick Cheney, won’t you come home? (Sung to the tune of “Bill Bailey.”)

Meantime, Alan Greenspan is in charge of the economy, and every time he leaves his house the stock market goes down another hundred points. Is it time for Alan to retire? Yes, as a matter of fact, it is.

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. And many don’t feel bad about it.

According to Josephson, the public school system has completely abdicated its responsibility to teach “moral” behavior. He believes the fear of lawsuits and the absence of a moral consensus by faculty members has sent a message of permissiveness to many students. But 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 brutal you are in the professional wrestling ring, the more popular and wealthy you become. 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.

Bad behavior is rewarded all throughout the media, and the words of a few teachers and parents cannot counter the shoddy behavior blitz the kids experience every day.

Why should students not cheat? Why restrain from hitting someone? Where is the incentive to behave?

Few of our elected leaders will address those questions, preferring to jack up your taxes by spending more and more money on “education.” That sounds good, of course, but money can’t buy love or a conscience.

What the public school system needs are 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 we are in a bit of trouble in the summer of 2001. 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 the works of Mother Teresa in your civics class. There may be a bit of religious philosophy in her profile. And that’s far too much controversy for our public school system to handle. For as the song says, “don’t know much about history, don’t know much morality. …”

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