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McDonald’s and McGuffey

An ethics-burger is what’s missing from today’s education menu

McDonald’s and McGuffey

(Krieg Barrie)

I’ve raised the issue before in this space, but the continued collapse of our culture suggests it’s appropriate to mention it again.

Imagine for a few minutes, if you will, that you’re the manager of a local McDonald’s restaurant. For the third straight day, as you seek to reconcile your registers, your cash record is off. But now, as you reflect on what might be happening, and think about the various members of your youthful staff, you puzzle over a strange pair of possible explanations. Are you dealing with computational incompetence—or with day-to-day dishonesty?

For you, and for thousands of other employers like you, the answer is critical. Because now it appears that many of America’s schools, after increasingly (if unintentionally) having left you in jeopardy in terms of their graduates’ raw skills, now are also—quite deliberately—leaving you vulnerable in terms of their ethics.

So just how much morality (or how much by the way of traditional ethics) would you say is the right amount for our nation’s schools to be feeding to their students? How much honesty? How much respect for life? How much compassion for the down and out? How much even of the Golden Rule?

Well, no matter how little you’ve come to expect these days on that score, your hopes are probably too high. Published reports suggest that a majority of public school teachers think all such expectations are outside their job descriptions.

How much morality would you say is the right amount for our nation’s schools to be feeding to their students?

Almost 30 years ago, Sonia Nazario wrote in The Wall Street Journal: “About 84 percent of public school parents want moral values taught in school, and 68 percent want educators to develop strict standards of ‘right and wrong,’ according to a Gallup Poll. … But polls also show that most teachers object to the concept of morality education on philosophical or practical grounds; many fear that such programs will stir up controversy in classrooms where diverse student bodies already cause plenty of headaches.”

If that was true in 1990, can anyone imagine what such surveys might show today? Ms. Nazario noted: “After a decades-long drive for teachers to be value-neutral, some say they can’t adjust to openly teaching right and wrong. McGuffey Readers, with their strong moral messages, have long been shunned for value-neutral texts and teacher-training courses. Texts describe the Pilgrims not as seekers of religious freedom but as ‘people who take long trips.’”

So now, if you’re a consumer of the typical products of American education, you face a double deficiency. The graduates you’re expected to hire lack both (1) the raw skills and (2) the integrity you need to run your business. And what you find missing in your workplace is also increasingly missing in society at large.

Let’s not be overly pious about the matter. Teaching our children to be scrupulously honest isn’t the easiest thing in the world even when you can bring the full force of Biblical precept to bear on the issue.

But what we’re talking about here is a situation where most of the teachers involved say they want nothing to do with the subject. It’s no longer an issue of trying and falling a little short. It’s a case of ignoring the challenge from the very beginning.

Nor are we focusing on a little minority of faithless teachers and educational administrators. These are not isolated radicals. A majority of the nation’s educators say this is their position.

It’s possible, if difficult, to imagine McDonald’s and all its corporate counterparts engaging in a mammoth repair job for the damage inflicted by the failure of our schools to give their graduates the basic skills they need.

To ask them, however, to rebuild empty hearts and souls is something else again. The catch-22 is that the very teacher who doesn’t desperately want to teach such things is absolutely the last one you want to teach them. Honesty and integrity that don’t flow from deep within a person have little to do with the real thing.


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  • Midwest preacher
    Posted: Tue, 10/16/2018 06:37 am

    Interesting how it has progressed:  We were told we can't allow God to tell us to be honest so we removed the Ten Commandments.  We were told we could be honest on our own. (That basic "inner light" that makes all men basically honest)  Now, since honesty is part of those Commandments and we don't seem to have much "inner light"  we may just have to deny that we need it at all.  Makes it very difficult to run a McDonald's.  

  • Cmakowski
    Posted: Tue, 10/16/2018 08:19 am

    I am sorry. I must push back. With all due respect to Mr. Belz, this article reflects a fundamental flaw in the existence of public schools: expecting more than they can or should deliver. I’ve been in the public school system either as a student or teacher for the majority of my 6 decade life. I’ve watched schools gradually deteriorate in their mission to educate because they’ve been expected to make up for the ills of society, from all sides...which is not possible. Not. Possible. Please get that. 

    When we no longer have an ethically challenged society, McDonald’s will no longer have an ethics problem. The public schools could definitely be a help and not a hindrance, but keep in mind, for all the good people in education, they’re also drawing from the same ethically challenged society as McDonald’s, as well as being hamstrung by whatever politically correct winds blow the government. Our government has abandoned truth, reality and morality. These are government run schools. Teachers are the frontline soldiers, answerable to the system. Quit blaming teachers. Fix the system. It begins with re-embracing personal responsibility. 

  •  Cdh's picture
    Posted: Tue, 10/16/2018 10:06 am

    I do not want ethics taught in the schools. I want ethics demonstrated. Ethics taught without morals is subjective. Morals come from the Word. I'll teach (and demonstrate) that from home. 

  • KP
    Posted: Tue, 10/16/2018 06:20 pm

    Maybe the problem isn't teaching of morals but of standards. There used to be a standard. That standard, for example, was to tell the truth.  We used to agree on such matters. This is probably neither here nor there but I used it as a cultural example (not to stir the pot) with the whole supreme court scandal, wearn't we told over and over that each person involved, "Told their truth." Told his truth or told her truth. But we have no idea what exactly what that truth (in that situation) is. We believe whatever we are inclined to believe about that "truth." As believers we know that truth can't be anything and have to measure those kinds of situations with wisdom and humility. We also know what truth is and that it comes from the Word of Truth from our God of Truth. We have now as a society, on the whole, abandoned this idea of truth. Truth is subjective and feelings based. It doesn't really matter what actually happened, what matters is that we feel validated and heard. Everyone has their own version of it. So I sympathize with these educators. They don't want to touch the subject with a 10 foot pole. I wouldn't want to either. And the fact of the matter is: we are always teaching even when we think we are not or even do not want to. We teach with our words, with our actions, with our attitudes, our body language and make no mistake: these kids are watching. Like it or not they are watching. It's a wonderful reminder that it is our responsibility as parents to teach our children the truth in every situation so that when they are working at a company like McDonalds they can apply the truth they have learned from us at home and help the world around them to see where that truth actually comes from.

  • Kevin
    Posted: Thu, 10/18/2018 07:43 pm

    Not only are public schools not value-neutral (there are plenty of areas in which they reflect the culture's values), but I am doubtful that schools can be value-neutral.  As soon as they choose not to address a question (e.g. does God exist?), they have taken a position on the importance and relevance of that question, effectively communicating its irrelevance.

  • DN
    Posted: Tue, 10/23/2018 04:02 pm

    Christian parents should have demanded school choice and vouchers as soon as the Bible and prayer were removed from public schools. Now our public schools are run by the National Educations Association, the largest liberal union in the United States. No morals are being forced on our children, but plenty of "progressive" socialistic indoctrination is taking place. If the vast majority of our children continue to be indoctrinated in public schools by "progressives" the future looks grim.