Changes in Training and Conduct of Youth
A once-dominant goal of American education—shaping of the moral character of the young—is gaining prominence in educational planning again after a period of relative neglect. The reason is not hard to find. What has been happening in the “youth culture” during the past few years has brought home a painful message. The nation's schools have not been effectively inculcating in their pupils the traditional virtues of the good citizen: honesty, sobriety, industriousness, sense of duty, regard for the rights of others, respect for constituted authority, and so forth.
The same could be said also of the two other chief agents of moral instruction: the family and the church. But modern society has come to rely mainly on the school to handle a major share of the job of “civilizing” its young. Extension of the years of schooling and proliferation of school-connected activities keep younger members of the family out of parental sight for most of their waking hours. The American child is beyond reach of the school only during his infant years, and he may be well into his third decade of life before the schools are through with him.
Rise of School as Leader in Teaching of Morals
The diminishing influence of the church over the morals of the young has been the subject of many sermons. Although the church until comparatively recent years exerted a major influence over character education in the officially secular public schools, it is now totally excluded from their classrooms. A Supreme Court decision in 1963 outlawing compulsory reading of the Bible or recital of the Lord's Prayer in tax-supported schools put an end to use of religion there as a basis of moral instruction.