“Special thanks to the person who invented casual Friday. Now it’s casual everyday in America. But when you lower standards people don’t decide to give you more, they give you less.”
So writes Peggy Noonan at the Wall Street Journal this week. Mrs. Noonan is a lady; she speaks well; she’s has well-developed sensibilities; she is a Roman Catholic Christian. For all these reasons I like her. I like that she speaks up when members of our coarsening culture cross the line as they have in the recent GSA scandal, the secret service embarrassment, and the all too frequent missteps by the military deployed around the world. Her article here gets to the heart of the issue: it’s about character. What’s appalling in our culture is not that people do bad things; it’s that people do bad things and they are no longer seen as being out of bounds. If they are, nobody seems to care; there is no longer a sense of public decency.
As a Christian educator in a Christian school – and I do intend the full weight of that qualification – I find myself in one of the strongest positions to influence the spiritual formation of young men and women from the earliest ages. But in addition to all those classes in religion, I’m redoubling my attention to hold the standard high on morals and manners. Here are a few things we do at New Covenant:
- We respect our elders. When an adult enters the room, we stand. Sure, kids can stand and not possess an attitude of respect, but at least they know that their elders have a standard;
- We say “Yes, sir” and “No, sir. I am aware that my friends from the North don’t think this is necessary, but it sure sounds a lot better than a grunted “Yeah.”
- We speak when spoken to, and we look adults in the eye when we speak. It’s a small corollary to the previous point. No child is too shy to express politeness.
- We wear uniforms. Every so often a student objects that they can’t accessorize their uniform or wear something that lets them express individuality. That’s the point. If you want to express individuality, develop inner character that sets you apart for higher reasons. Don’t use your clothing to do it.
- We respect the sacred. When my students come to chapel, they have to practice silence. God is speaking, after all.
Does this guarantee anything? No; but if you never ask students to give you more, you just might get what you ask for.