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Education Week


Over the past decade, pollsters and pundits have raised warning flags of moral decay and declining political understanding and commitment among Americans. Scandals from Washington to Wall Street, voter apathy and cynicism, and the regeneration of the "me generation" in a climate of unprecedented prosperity have raised increasing concerns in the media over the moral state of the country. The most alarming evidence has emerged from education, validating and documenting the anxieties that Americans share over the failure of schools to create citizens of character. By the mid-1990s, half of the nation's high school students reported that drugs and violence were a serious problem in their schools, while seven in 10 unabashedly noted that cheating on tests and assignments was commonplace. In fact, two-thirds of high school students admitted that they had cheated on an exam the previous year, while only 33 percent strongly agreed that "honesty is the best policy." More than six in 10 adults deplored the failure of young people to learn such values as honesty, respect, and responsibility. In communities across the country, Americans ranked character development second only to basic skills in a listing of educational purposes.