A Moral Code All of Us Can Live With
During the last few months, in the wake of the tragedy at Columbine High School in Littleton, Colorado, a flurry of legislation has been proposed to cure the ills that caused this madness.I am a human being. I am not a victim. I accept responsibility for my actions. I will accept any reward due me. I will take any punishment that I deserve.
The Senate passed a bill that would restrict and possibly eliminate gun shows. The House defeated a similar measure. All of this was part of a Juvenile Justice Bill. One part that the House agreed upon, but which was later defeated had to do with the posting of the Ten Commandments at schools. The Congress felt, as I do, that a great part of the problems which infest society have to do with the lack of moral compass for children, as well as young adults.
Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) said that this would never fly because the Constitution provides for separation of Church and State, and "you can't rewrite the Constitution." I find this ironic because Ms. Lee has been trying to eliminate the Second Amendment, and she seems to forget that all of the amendments to the constitution are ways of rewriting it.
But she has a valid point. Although the phrase "separation of Church and State" does not appear in the Constitution, All that the Constitution says about religion appears in the First Amendment:
"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...."
The concept of separation of Church and State came from a series of judicial decisions starting with taxation of churches and their property, and eventually covering such things as the presentation of Nativity scenes on public property. Somehow this does not seem to be the intent of the founding fathers when they wrote the First Amendment.
Under the present interpretations of the First Amendment, if the Ten Commandments may not be posted in a school, because this would imply the establishment of Judaism and Christianity as "official" school religions.
Ironically, almost all major religions have a code of conduct that is similar to the Ten Commandments. In fact, many legal scholars have said that our laws are simply expansions of the Ten Commandments and the Code of Hammurabi. Even religions that are condsidered "fringe groups," such as Wicca, belive that it is wrong to hurt others, and that if you do, you will be punished. Most atheists agree that laws are a good idea--even if they don't believe in divine retribution, the fear of punishment by the authorities keeps a person from doing evil.
However, there is nothing that I know of in any law that would prohibit the posting of a code of conduct and behavior, if it were based on moral principles that were acceptable to all, and based on our secular legal system.
Too many of our children are taught to be victims. Few are taught a sense of honor. Fewer learn responsibility. For some reason, many never learn the difference between reality and imagination. While there is nothing wrong with imagination, there is much wrong with not knowing the difference between reality and illusion.
Many are willing to blame others, their race, their personal appearance, their physical characteristics or limitations for their lack of success. There are so many examples of people of every possible size, shape, color, flavor and origin who have been successful that it makes no sense to even think this way. If Famous Amos, Oprah Winfrey, Helen Keller and Tiger Woods can be successful, so can anyone else. It just takes work and dedication.
I have given much thought to this, and I modestly propose the following code of conduct and behavior.
A Modern Code of Conduct for Students
Nobody owes me anything just because I am here.
I am in school to learn so I can become a productive member of society.
I will become as well educated as I possibly can.
I will not interfere with the education of others.
I will not destroy the property, tangible or intangible, of others.
I will not destroy the life of another human being.
I will not take the property, tangible or intangible, of others.
I will not lie to protect myself.
I will not intentionally damage the reputation, self-esteem, or honor of others.
I will conduct myself with honor and dignity.
I will respect myself.
I will respect others.
I will not use language in public that will inflame others to violent action.
I will respect my elders. They have been through this before. They survived. Maybe they can help me to do so, also.
I will set an example for those around me, especially those younger than I am, so they will know how to behave.
If you are an educator or a member of a school board, and you wish to use it, please do so. If you want to ask for formal permission to use this at your schools, just drop me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This code has been posted at schools all over the United States.
To return to the page about the Littleton, Colorado tragedy, click here.
For a few words about religious intolerance, click here.
©1999 by Bill Palmer.