Man,1 the creature created in G‑d’s image, differs from other creations, above all in his soul. Man, like all other species, has a body which by its very finite corporeal essence drags him down to the level of animal; his bodily functions paralleling those of an animal. It is through the soul, and the mind which is a reflection of the soul, that man soars above the corporeal and reaches the loftiest heights. This is the destiny of man, the battle that has been fought since man first set foot on this earth, using his intellect to master the animal and to show that he is indeed . . . man.

This struggle is not an easy one, for the corporeality of the body and the world is very tangible, and encountered at every turn. The matters of the soul, on the other hand, are more obscure; and a greater effort is demanded in order to discern the presence of the Maker in all things. The supreme instrument of man’s ability to rise higher than the physical, the intellect, is the key to winning this struggle.

Undoubtedly, recent times have shown tremendous progress in man’s mastery of nature. We have witnessed an explosion of knowledge that has dwarfed the achievements of previous generations, bringing with it marvels of modern technology.

Unfortunately however, knowledge is not synonymous with understanding; and moral development has not kept pace with technical progress. The knowledge that could have been put to so many constructive uses has instead been channeled into, at best, wasteful, useless activities, and at worst, destructive acts of violence. A possible blessing has been perverted into a curse. Those bent on acts of destruction, whether from sheer greed, malice, or insanity, can now, thanks to modern day technology, easily wreak their havoc not only on their immediate surroundings, but exert influence on the entire community of mankind.

The failure to control this growing lawlessness is not limited to a few individuals. In the last few decades, and especially in the past few years, international tension and frictions have accelerated at frightening proportions. The soaring crime rate among individuals has evolved into a trend of national and international banditry, with wars raging across the face of the world. Hardly a nation has been left untouched by the horrors of violence, both on an individual and national scale, and the world seems helpless to resist. A blanket of doom seems to have settled on the earth, and under its cover, outrageous acts are carried out with impunity. And with violence breeding more violence, the perpetrators of this terror have only one regret — that they neither did nor could inflict more damage. Their appetite for money, territory, or just plain mayhem grows insatiable, and the prospects for control grow dimmer. Police forces are increased and armies strengthened, all in a desperate attempt to retain control of a rapidly declining situation.

And the cause for the spreading increase in crime? Innumerable commissions have been set up, countless study groups have examined this problem. And the result? Total obfuscation! As many “answers” have been offered as studies made, all sharing one common point. Each strove to find some hidden cause, some deep unnatural reason — while ignoring the most obvious and true of them all. In a single word: education. It is only through proper moral and ethical education that we can be assured of children growing up to be good, productive citizens. We turn our attention, then, to an analysis of the difference between past and present education. A change for the good in the education of a child will result in a better adult; and so with the reverse.

Only a few scant generations ago, most parents were G‑d-fearing folk, believing with absolute faith in a G‑d Who is the Master of the world. Not a strange belief, for it was upon this very principle that the U.S.A. was founded. The founding fathers possessed an absolute trust in G‑d, a G‑d Who was real and omnipresent, not a G‑d Who politely resided in books and philosophical conjectures. So strong was their belief that trust in G‑d brings success, that they uprooted themselves from their homelands, forsook all ties with the past, and journeyed to find a place in which they could serve G‑d with full religious freedom.

Such a faith did not need to be taught in school. It was inculcated in children from the moment of birth; they lived it as naturally as they breathed. The very conduct of their parents and grandparents conveyed the same message — the world has not been left untended, there is a Master Who rules. Any mention of religion in school was unnecessary and inconsequential next to this complete and total education.

As time passed, the emphasis on such trust weakened. But full belief was still there: to bless and praise G‑d for the food eaten or to say one’s prayers at night — these things were still taken for granted. It was only later that religious instruction in schools became necessary. And still, teachers were mainly G‑d-fearing people, who, by their very demeanor and behavior, inculcated their students with a belief and trust in G‑d.

It has only been in very recent years that religious instruction in schools has been forbidden. No mention of G‑d, not even a simple nondenominational prayer is permitted. And the results of this attitude are painfully evident. Lack of awareness of a higher Deity, and the resultant void of moral and ethical training, has led to a generation of selfish, egoistical children, whose sole aim in life is the pursuit of pleasure. And if that pursuit conflicts with responsibilities, such responsibilities are discarded. The inevitable result is a generation which disregards others, with a resultant callousness towards all the higher things in life. The indulgence of one’s desires is the only object of importance, and all other considerations are swept aside. No wonder that theft, violence, even murder, have become so commonplace, accompanied by a complete breakdown in what was once an orderly, constructive way of life. It is but the bitter reaping of a harvest so blithely and carelessly sown.

The beginning of all this starts in the home, with the parents who so unwisely indulge every whim and fancy of their child. Led to believe that despite whatever he or she will do, each will still be regarded as a “good” boy or “good” girl, such children grow up wild and unrestrained, bereft of any cognizance that the world was not created for their sole benefit. And it is not entirely their fault! It is the parents who, abdicating their responsibility of rearing their young in the proper manner, have given spawn to a generation of unbridled passions. And to make matters worse, it is all cloaked in the pious guise of “Constitutional rights!” Any attempt to remonstrate with parents is met with cries of indignation against intrusion of privacy guaranteed by the Constitution. The child can run loose, growing up to be a potential menace to society — but their right to educate their children in their own way, however harmful that may be, must remain inviolate.

The inevitable result has reached such a degree as to produce a situation that would be laughable if it were not so tragic. A recently released report states that the number of incidents of students attacking teachers has declined in some schools! The truth of this report is immaterial. [Parenthetically, it is probable that rather than a decrease in the actual number, the truth is that teachers are afraid to report such incidents.] The point is the utter unreality of the situation. Even ten years ago, it was inconceivable for a student to physically strike a teacher. And yet, statistics are now being released to show that the number of such incidents is. . . decreasing! Can a more damning indictment of our educational system be found?

Let us emphasize again that the cause is clear and defined. It is the craven attitude of parents and educators alike, who refuse to educate their children with the knowledge of a higher Being Who is omnipotent and omnipresent, and to Whom an account must eventually be rendered. They have prostituted themselves before an idol of their own making, sacrificing entire generations of children on the altar of “freedom.” But it has quickly become obvious that their idol has feet of clay, and their obeisance to it an obscene rite of stubborn refusal to admit wrongdoing.

A further smoke-screen is thrown up with declarations of “human rights,” in which it is forbidden to educate a child in the proper manner because it might infringe on his or her “rights.” We do not refer to an education that actively teaches a child to steal or commit an offense — it is much more subtle. The very fact that a child is brought up to believe that he alone is the only person that matters, with a perfect right to all the desires of his heart, leads very quickly to actions that, in pursuit of this goal, can easily harm others.

The pity and shame of it all is that this is a country which has been blessed with a great deal of knowledge. This knowledge could have been used to better the world, but instead, has in many instances been perverted to further an individual’s own selfish interests, even at the cost of another. In matters of morals and ethics, there are no more standards, no absolutes by which to judge behavior. A strange thing indeed. In matters of physical health, no one would dream of consulting an ignorant layman, but would always go to a competent physician, with years of study and practice. Yet when it comes to morals and ethics, matters of the soul, everyone is an expert! Anyone may advance an opinion, regardless of whether his life has been lived according to ideals of justice and morality. And people are, incredibly enough, ready and willing to entrust in such hands the education of that most precious of possessions — their children.

Know then, that each and every parent and educator has been given strength by G‑d to change all of this. Changes can be made in their children’s education, and darkness can be turned into light, foolishness into wisdom. In turn, it is the duty, and privilege, of the leaders of this nation, whether on a national, state, or local level, to help parents in their task of properly educating their children. The first priority of this country must be given to ensuring that its children grow up to be healthy, both physically and spiritually. And the best way to carry this out is a nondenominational declaration,2 at the start of each day, stating that there is an omnipotent, omniscient G‑d, who demands proper conduct from us all.

To return to where we started: Man has the ability to reach the loftiest heights, or to sink to the lowest depths. He can be an animal, or a man, created in the Divine image; a wild unrestrained beast who must devour everything he sees, or a man that lives a decent productive life, contributing fully to society. The choice is clear cut. And the only way to ensure that people will choose the right path is to educate them when they are still young, forming their character before it is too late. It is an awesome task to be sure. But the stakes are too high and the alternative too terrible to allow any faintness of heart. If we have but the courage and the will to make an honest effort, then we can be sure that G‑d will assist us in our endeavors, and this sacred mission will be crowned with success.