Elie Wiesel, over a decade ago, commented at a Global forum in which he was speaking, that the designers and perpetrators of the Holocaust were the heirs of Kant and Goethe. In most respects, the Germans were the best-educated people on earth, but their education did not serve as a barrier to barbarity. “It emphasized theories instead of values, concepts rather than human beings, abstractions rather than consciousness, answers instead of questions, ideology and efficiency rather than conscience.” Sadly, a few years ago, Mr. Wiesel fell victim, yet again, to a well-educated man, in the name of Bernie Madoff, but this time in America!
Many of the troubling situations we Americans still find ourselves in today, are the result of greed, selfishness, and unethical and sometimes criminal behavior. Some of the brightest minds in business and finance have brought our economy to its knees.
A fine education, outstanding grades, attending top colleges, and landing a lucrative job are no guarantees for decency or morality. Getting to the “top,” becoming a “success” and being “happy” in the manner in which our society has defined success and happiness may do nothing to insure that our society and social fabric will survive and that our world will become a better and more humane place to live.
Education, as it has been delivered, is no longer good enough – and it may never have been!
What will truly make a difference in the lives of our children and their future? How does education need to change and adapt in the 21st Century? What do parents really need to know to be meaningful partners with the school?
Even today, discussions about improving our educational systems focus on what it will take to improve schools to insure a bright economic future. While we must be competitive in a global economy, there is much more that needs to be taught beyond academics. In this fast-paced, ever changing world, we must care equally about the development of good, moral character.
Our commitment as a community and as a member of this great democracy must be to provide an education that will ground our children in ethics and decency, based on core values, while providing our children with the tools they will need to embrace their future in a meaningful, purposeful and productive manner. Our children need to hear from us directly and must see, through our behaviors, that an upstanding character is at least as important as stellar grades.