The standards set up by the founding fathers in the Declaration, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, represent the core tenets of Judeo-Christian culture, but distilled in secular fashion so that everyone, believers or non-believers, have the same standard of ethics and morality. Common sense dictates decency, because without decency a society unravels. The last seven commandments and the Golden Rule are actually philosophic concepts that have been codified by religious doctrine after they existed for thousands of years, before any of the religions that exist today were even conceived.
Good standards are always based in free will, because without willing participation in the precepts of civilization, there can be no society. Examining, studying, and understanding those principles strengthens citizenship. Consequently, all children should be taught these standards, encouraging good citizenship in the classroom, so that when they grow up they will carry those standards into the world with them, ensuring and maintaining an ethical and peaceful society, generation after generation, securing the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity.
Religions teach rational standards for society by teaching the commandments. But they are not the only way to teach the standards incorporated in those commandments. The principles embodied in the commandments make sense outside the context of a religion. Thou shalt not steal, and Thou shalt not kill, are standards for rational and effective society and should be taught to children because they are good standards to follow. But they ought to be taught as philosophic standards, very simply, by explaining why it is wrong to steal or kill. Honoring thy father and thy mother is a good principle that reaches far beyond the dictates of any religion. It encourages observance of good tradition that lends cohesiveness to generations. The Chinese, whose culture is much older than ours, treats the family as a profoundly important unit in society, and elders are revered, as they should be, for their long years of experience. They know much more than children do, and children ought to be told to listen and respect them. Not even Communism was able to destroy the unit of the family in China. It is too strong to destroy once it is deeply rooted in a society.
Children ought to be held to standards of good behavior in the classroom because it is a good model for society. Being polite, peaceable and charitable to one’s classmates is good practice for being polite, peaceable and charitable to one’s neighbors and fellow citizens. Discipline is necessary to maintain order in a classroom, just as it is necessary to maintain order in society. But rules for classroom behavior and laws for civil behavior are not demands for blind obedience to authority. They, too, are a distillation of principles of sane, moral and ethical conduct, consequently the building blocks of good society and good citizenship.
Permissiveness in the classroom does not lead to greater freedom, because without a level of good conduct, no one could focus on learning, which is the purpose of the classroom. Instead, we should return to the traditional classroom, where good conduct and good citizenship are inherent in every class being taught, from arithmetic, to geography, to history.
These principles are not difficult to comprehend, although they may be more difficult to maintain where groups of children, with their natural tendencies toward less controlled conduct is a kind of norm. But they must be maintained, because without them, education is ineffective and the traditions of good citizenship which were once the backbone of American society will disappear.
FJ Rocca is an independent, conservative writer/blogger of fiction and non-fiction, most interested in the philosophy of American conservatism. Clarity is more important than eloquence, but truth is vital to human discourse. You can find out more about FJ over at http://www.candiddiscourse.com/.