Letter: Schools need to teach morality

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Editor’s Note: The following is a open letter written to the Kennett Consolidated School Board. It’s author has asked that we publish it to offer a public perspective on the recent issue about books in the Kennett High School library. We welcome concurring and opposing viewpoints, of course, to better foster a public conversation on the matter.

Dear members of the KCSD school board,

Letters1I’m sure you have heard more than you wish about the book “Nineteen Minutes”.  However after the meeting the other night I must express some observations.  First, let me state that I have not read the book and have no desire to do so.  My comments and observations are more about the events and statements made at the meeting than the content of the book.

The presentations made from the school personnel and students misrepresented the request of the concerned parent.   The comments about book banning and attacks on the first amendment were greatly exaggerated and false.  My understanding is that the parent merely wanted the book moved from the library to the guidance office.  I might have personally suggested a parental permission slip obtained from the guidance office for the student to read the book, along with a statement such as “This novel contains obscene language and graphic sexual descriptions.” It seems to me an approach such as that would have enabled sufficient access while allowing parental discretion.  I have suspicions that any resolution other than the status quo would have been rejected by the school staff.  I base that suspicion on the vehemency of the objection voiced at the meeting.  The adult speakers seemed outraged that they had their authority questioned by a parent.

But even given the public remarks as they were, I am more disappointed by the comments of the board members who echoed the exaggerations even when they should have known better.  I was particularly disturbed by three points.  The first is the comparison of the parent’s request of restricted access to Hitler’s banning of all Bibles and other religious books.  That was way over the top and is frankly a ridiculous comparison.  The second issue I had was regarding the book restriction as being anti-American, counter to our founding principles and a dishonor to our veterans. I have attached several quotes from our Founding Fathers and famous veterans at the end of this note for your consideration.  The final point is the most disturbing.  Several members stated that the teaching of morality is not the responsibility of the school, but belongs solely to parents.  This point is truly counter to our founding and the quotes also reinforce that point.

I also found it bizarre and ironic that all of the focus of the “merits” of the book concerned the topics of rape and bullying.  Numerous people commented about how these are real current issues and should be addressed.  The ironic point is that everyone totally missed the fact that these behaviors are the result and symptoms of immorality and amorality, which the school apparently refuses to teach.  If the public education system seeks to treat only the symptoms, they have little chance of succeeding.  Schools must get back to teaching the fundamentals of morality and virtue (see quotes again).  Thank you, Doug Stirling for not joining the hysteria.

In conclusion, I must reflect on my experience with the school system over the last year or two.  Although school officials and faculty are more than willing to listen to input from parents or concerned citizens, there is little or no willingness to make any changes.  I’ve experienced faculty who accept and are willing to teach without objection from a World History textbook that is blatantly biased pro-Islam / anti-Christian and pro-socialism/anti-capitalism.  I’ve observed the refusal to remove, or even correct, an elementary level reading comprehension book that misstates the purpose of the US Constitution and even gets the steps wrong on how it is to be amended.  Now I’ve seen an aggressive attack on a concerned parent and staunch support to keep wide open access to a book some or many might consider vulgar.  These experiences have moved me to be a strong supporter of alternative education, such as parochial schools and home schooling.  I find it sad that this is the case and I fear that our public education system will continue its downward spiral as long as such attitudes prevail.

George Washington (Farewell Address)

“Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.  In vain would that man claim the tribute of patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of men and citizens….Let it simply be asked, where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths  which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice?  And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion.  Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education…reason and experience both forbid us to expect the national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”

Benjamin Franklin

“…. I think with you, that nothing is more important for the public weal, than to form and train up youth in wisdom and virtue. ….I think also that general virtue is more probably to be obtained from the education of youth, than from the exhortations of adult persons; bad habits and vices of the mind more easily prevented [in youth] than cured [in adults].”

1787 Northwest Ordinance (same year the US Constitution was written and passed)

Article 3:  Religion, morality and knowledge being necessary to good government and the happiness of mankind, schools and the means of education shall forever be encouraged.

Theodore Roosevelt

To educate a person in mind and not in morals is to educate a menace to society.

Noah Webster (preface to The American Dictionary of the English Language, 1828.)

“The education of youth should be watched with the most scrupulous attention.  It is much easier to introduce and establish an effectual system…than to correct by penal statutes the ill effects of a bad system.  The education of youth…lays the foundations on which both law and gospel rest for success.”“The moral principles and precepts contained in the Scriptures ought to form the basis of all our civil constitutions and laws…All the miseries and evils which men suffer from vice, crime, ambition, injustice, oppression, slavery and war, proceed from their despising or neglecting the precepts contained in the Bible.”


Glen Simmonds

New Garden

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