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Endangered Ideas. Endangered Minds.

The minimizing of communication is no accident. It comes as a consequence of minimal thinking, lethargy, and indifference. To some this is the death knell of American and Western civilization, the end of democracy as we know it (which requires active and informed participation by all citizens), the end of the broadest literacy rate in the history of mankind, and the end of equality of opportunity (for this too, takes an active, watchful, and observant eye). If it is, it is hardly surprising. Before the fall of every civilization came a period of fattening, of loosening, and finally, of decay.

In response to my last blog, a clergyman I know wrote to tell me a story about an experience he had teaching a group of teenagers (ranging from 13 to 16) at summer camp.

They were all gathered at a round table discussion on the general concept of “Important Teen Issues.” Everyone had a chance to write down what was important to him or her. Someone had written the verboten theme: “Sexual Immorality.”

One of the counselors (a young woman in her early 20’s) immediately raised her hand and asked with all innocence: “What’s sexual immorality? I’ve never heard of it before.”

Mind you, this was at a summer camp sponsored by a local church.

The clergyman monitoring the group was at an honest loss for words. Where to start? He wrote to me that the saddest part from his point of view was that she had honestly never been taught anything whatsoever about it. Sex and morality were separated by a deep cultural chasm and, as she explained to him, “Whatever two consenting adults do is fine, right?”

He shared another similar story:  A teacher of middle-advanced years began working in a local school. Part of her routine was to ask her students to line up every morning, look her in the eye, greet her with manners and warmth, turn in their homework and finally take a seat.

The principal, who was young and new to the job, was alerted to this breach in standard protocol and confronted the teacher, demanding to know what made her do such an unusual thing.

The teacher simple explained, “To teach them respect, discipline, courtesy, and accountability.”

The principal promptly and in no uncertain terms ordered the teacher to cease and desist. “We only teach reading, writing, and arithmetic. And the time you’re taking on your ritual is taking time away from the school’s directives.”

The teacher stood motionless, disbelieving.

“We don’t teach respect, discipline, courtesy, and accountability,” the principal added as she walked away. “We don’t have an approved curriculum for it and it is not in the government’s standard testing.”

Is it any wonder that our language is shrinking? It’s only a reflection of our thinking.

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