I graduated from Philadelphia’s Benjamin Franklin High School in 1954. Franklin’s predominantly black students were from the poorest North Philadelphia neighborhoods. During those days, there were no policemen patrolling the hallways. Today close to 400 police patrol Philadelphia schools. There were occasional after-school fights — rumbles, as we called them — but within the school, there was order. In contrast with today, students didn’t use foul language to teachers, much less assault them.
Places such as the Richard Allen housing project, where I lived, became some of the most dangerous and dysfunctional places in Philadelphia. Mayhem — in the form of murders, shootings and assaults — became routine. By the 1980s, residents found that they had to have window bars and multiple locks. The 1940s and ’50s Richard Allen project, as well as other projects, bore no relation to what they became. Many people never locked their doors; windows weren’t barred. We did not go to bed with the sound of gunshots. Most of the residents were two-parent families with one or both parents working.
How might one explain the greater civility of Philadelphia and other big-city, predominantly black neighborhoods and schools during earlier periods compared with today? Would anyone argue that during the ’40s and ’50s, there was less racial discrimination and poverty? Was academic performance higher because there were greater opportunities? Was civility in school greater in earlier periods because black students had more black role models in the form of black principals, teachers and guidance counselors? That’s nonsense, at least in northern schools. In my case, I had no more than three black teachers throughout primary and secondary school.
Starting in the 1960s, the values that made for civility came under attack. Corporal punishment was banned. This was the time when the education establishment and liberals launched their agenda that undermined lessons children learned from their parents and the church. Sex education classes undermined family/church strictures against premarital sex. Lessons of abstinence were ridiculed, considered passe, and replaced with lessons about condoms, birth control pills and abortion. Further undermining of parental authority came with legal and extralegal measures to assist teenage abortions, often with neither parental knowledge nor parental consent.
Customs, traditions, moral values and rules of etiquette are behavioral norms, transmitted mostly by example, word of mouth and religious teachings. As such, they represent a body of wisdom distilled through the ages by experience and trial and error. The nation’s liberals — along with the education establishment, pseudo-intellectuals and the courts — have waged war on traditions, customs and moral values. Many people have been counseled to believe that there are no moral absolutes. Instead, what’s moral or immoral is a matter of personal convenience, personal opinion, what feels good or what is or is not criminal.
Go read it all folks. We so need more people like Walter Willaims