Q. Why do you say our nation is facing a crisis of
A. America leads the world in riches and
power, but it is also at the top of the developed world in violent
criminal activity, rates of imprisonment, sexually transmitted disease,
abortion, and teenage suicide. Our schools are a prime indicator that
our nation is suffering a character crisis. America is on top in the
industrial world, but in educational achievement, it ranks near the
bottom. My book demonstrates that the character crisis facing our nation
has a direct relationship to educational success. We must take action
Q. What can the average person do about
A. The average person needs to speak out
boldly for principles of morality. It was a welcome sight to see the
moral outcry over the episode of Janet Jackson on prime time TV. Because
of this incident, the FCC instituted strict fines for stations that
violate decency standards. We need to protect our children. People need
to be concerned with educational success and moral virtues, even if it’s
just at the local school. The future of America lies with our children.
One of the most important things parents can do is to discipline their
children and train them in positive values and not simply rely on
schools to do the job for them. Parents also need to have moral
standards and teach them to their children.
Q. Most wouldn’t argue
that schools are turning out kids with less skills and knowledge than
previous generations. But can you really blame schools for other
societal failures, such as the spread of sexually transmitted diseases,
the increased rate of imprisonment, and the frequency of suicides?
A. Absolutely! I’ve examined sex education
courses. What’s the basic message of many of today’s sex education
classes? How to have safe sex, and in case you get pregnant, the earlier
you get an abortion, the safer it is. Then we wonder why sexually
transmitted diseases are rampant. Fight Crime: Invest in Kids, a
national advocacy group consisting of over 2,000 law enforcement
officers and victims of violence, reports that each year children in
grades six through ten, nearly one in six, or 3.2 million were victims
of bullying, and 3.7 million were bullies. Of those labeled as bullies
in grades six through nine, nearly 60 percent of the boys were convicted
of one crime by the time they reached 24. Those bullied, the report
stated, citing U.S. and European studies, are five times more prone to
be depressed and more likely to become suicidal.
Q. How can schools help with the
escalating criminal problem facing America today?
A. Wayne Scott, head of Texas penal
system, the nation’s second largest, said, “I think you have to look at
pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, first grade. You really have to put a
lot of emphasis on children. Those are the formative years.” Scott
stated that his 25 years in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice
system shows those who end up in prison had “established criminal
records by the time they were 10 or 11 years old.” Concerning substance
abuse, Scott pointed out that most at-risk children had “problems very
early in their lives—by 8, 9 or 10.”
What a common-sense solution: Train
children early to develop positive values. What better way than
insisting that every school has an atmosphere of character and provides
students with books and programs promoting virtues? A study by
Vanderbilt University estimates that each high-risk juvenile that is
saved from a life of crime would save the country from $1.7 to $2.3
Q. How has the nation drifted from its
core moral system?
Having grown up in the 30s and early 40s
in New York City, I never saw a prostitute or witnessed drug activity.
My wife and sister as teenagers could ride the subways late at night and
walk home in safety. Back in 1940, the public school teachers rated the
top seven disciplinary problems: talking out of turn, chewing gum,
making noise, running in the hall, cutting in line, dress code
violations, and littering. Sixty years later, these were the top public
school disciplinary problems: drug abuse, alcohol abuse, pregnancy,
suicide, rape, robbery, and assault. What happened? The permissive,
“do-what-you-want” philosophy of moral relativism permeated our
Q. So what’s the solution
– read the Bible in the classroom? Corporal punishment? Mass
suspensions, leave kids behind a grade, reform school?
A. The educational crisis facing America
today is a philosophical one: Should the inherent values of our
educational system be based on moral relativism that there are no
absolutes, or on America’s historical value system that there are moral
absolutes? Here are the four keys for successful schools:
1. Educational: Insist that every child
receives a proper education by providing appropriate teaching materials
for every grade, eliminating automatic promotion, administering
standards for every grade, and evaluating teachers.
2. Disciplinal: Insist that every school
provides a disciplined learning environment so children are protected
and can receive a proper education.
3. Racial: Create a learning atmosphere
that treats all races the same, and provide extra resources so all
children can reach their full potential.
4. Moral: Reject moral relativism by
providing textbooks that teach the values that built our nation, and
promote virtues that help children develop successful habits.
Q. You wrote a groundbreaking book in
the 1980’s – Schools in Crisis: Training For Success Or Failure?
You were on Oprah and got a lot of media coverage for it. How have
things changed since its publication?
A. Today the family is being attacked more
than ever before. George F. Will, in the article, “Can’t fix education
until we fix families,” reports: 1958 the percentage of children born to
unmarried women was 5; in 1969, in 1999 almost half (48.4 percent) of
all children born to women ages 20-24—women of all races and
ethnicities—were born out of wedlock.
What is going to happen when these
children from single parent homes enter school? It is obvious that
children from stable homes with a loving father and mother do much
better in school. We’ve sowed the teaching of moral relativism that
there are no moral absolutes, now we’re reaping it fruits.
Q. Carl, you’ve written
over 100 books and created numerous educational materials. What’s
missing from the books read by young children?
A. One will find that there is a scarcity
of children books that convey instruction and information as well as
pleasure and entertainment. When we surveyed librarians nationwide with
the question, “Is there a scarcity of character education children’s
books?” Overwhelmingly, the response was, “Yes.”
Children in their formative years should
be provided with guidance on implementing the virtues on how they can
become productive and successful citizens. The virtues that should be
taught are the time-tested common sense values that have been passed
down for thousands of years, such as: honesty, compassion, kindness,
respect, self-discipline, and responsibility. Unfortunately, there
is a strong bias against such books. These objectors claim that children
should determine their value system.
Q. Is there a bias in
what’s published for children as well as what books are reviewed and
purchased by school libraries?
A. Definitely! When I wrote my first six
books and published the two biographies from other authors, I made sure
that they were of the highest quality. One of my goals was to reach
school librarians. The major reviewer for school libraries is the
School Library Journal. I submitted the books and received an
extremely very low rating. Then I read this statement in
concerning Trevelyn Jones, children’s editor of School Library Journal,
“Jones says, however, that didacticism can hurt a book. ‘Many very small
new publishers think a children’s book must have a moral. Those get
creamed immediately.’” My books were “creamed” because they taught moral
lessons and were didactic! We belong to Publishers Manufacturing
Association, an organization of over 3,500 independent publishers. Each
year PMA sponsors the Benjamin Franklin Awards. For first place in the
“Children’s Picture Book” category, they chose The Ugly Caterpillar.
The Horn Book Guide reviewed the same book and gave it the lowest
Q. Why do you claim some
children’s book reviewers are not speaking for the children?
one of our latest children’s books, It’s Not Fair! to be reviewed
by School Library Journal. The journal stated, “The text is
didactic to say the least and Budwine’s illustrations are sophomoric and
amateurish. No self-respecting child would be moved by this preachy
However, It’s Not Fair! won the prestigious Children’s Choice award
sponsored by International Reading Association and The Children’s Book
Council where 10,000 children from different regions of the United
States read and vote on their favorite recently published books. The
School Library Journal review stated categorically: “No
self-respecting child would be moved by this preachy lesson”; yet
children choose this didactic book as one of their favorites!
We’ve received numerous reports how children love interesting didactic
books from teachers, librarians, parents, and from children themselves.
Q. One big criticism you
have is about schools not providing students with proper instruction and
information. So what can be done about it?
A. The philosophical root plaguing our
educational system today is a conflict between two ideologies. One
advocating permissiveness, freedom without responsibility, instant
gratification, no tests, no home-work, free and open classrooms,
automatic promotion, profane textbooks, parental disrespect, laxity
toward misbehavior, lowering of standards, situational ethics, maximum
individual autonomy, sexual license, euthanasia, right to suicide, and
anti-Americanism. I came to realize that those censoring character
education books have the same philosophical roots.
The other belief system favors discipline,
in loco parentis,
law and order, freedom with responsibility, work ethic, academic
excellence, knowledge of the basics, tests, homework, achievement
promotion, parental respect, decent textbooks, sexual purity, and
patriotism. The conflict is between naturalism and the traditional
American value system. We need to implement the philosophy that built
our great nation.
Q. How and when will
America be severely impacted as it loses its competitive edge in a
rapidly changing global market?
A. The deplorable lack of education for
many of America’s youth can have a serious impact on our competitive
edge in the changing global market. John Gehring in Education Week
reports that the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development
stated, “Poor literacy skills among high school graduates and too few
opportunities for adult education put the United States in danger of
losing its competitive edge in a rapidly changing global market.”
Gehring adds: “The United States lags or has lost ground on several
important education measures when compared with 29 other countries. In
literacy, for example, the United States has the highest percentage of
secondary school graduates who ranked below an international literacy
Q. There’s a trend in
America that teachers should avoid influencing children under the
premise that children themselves should be their own authority.
What’s wrong with that?
A. Utopian dreamers believe if you leave
children to grow up naturally they’ll turn into beautiful flowers. It’s
like planting a garden with flower seeds. There are two options: Leave
the garden alone and hope for the best, or watch over the garden by
weeding, fertilizing, and watering. Everyone knows what would happen if
one doesn’t take care of the garden. One will have a garden of weeds.
And that’s exactly what’s happening today—many youth today are filled
with the detrimental hedonistic philosophy of moral relativism and
bringing havoc upon themselves and on our society. Children need
discipline, direction, and training to grow up properly. Wise are those
parents and schools preparing children for their future with proper
Q. You emphasize the need
for kids to read didactic books that show kids how to embrace key
character principles such as respect, self-discipline, perseverance, and
a proper work ethic. Are you saying the books kids read now don’t
offer such values?
A. Books that teach positive values are
extremely scarce. That’s because some of the major book reviewers censor
didactic books for children, and publishers must please these journals
in order to sell books. We had our character children’s books rejected
because they were didactic by School Library Journal and The
Horn Book Review; yet these books have received numerous awards and
high acclaims from teachers, librarians, guidance counselors, parents,
and children. We also interviewed numerous school librarians and asked
if there was a scarcity of character books for children, and the
overwhelming response was, “Yes.”
Q. We’re increasingly
becoming an economy of information and service – and less of a producer
of goods. How are our kids being prepared for tomorrow’s
A. There are schools that are doing a good
job of training children, but unfortunately, many are failing our kids
for tomorrow’s workplace. One of the major reasons for this failure is
not because of teachers, principals, parents, or children, but
educational leaders who impose permissive policies that prevent
disciplined schools. Teachers often live in fear of students. I
witnessed this firsthand when I was a substitute teacher in 27 different
schools throughout New York City. If we want an educated workforce for
tomorrow’s workplace, we must give teachers and principals the authority
to have disciplined schools.
Q. At what age is it most
crucial that kids learn properly, digest values, and develop their
A. The earlier we train children the
values on how to live successfully, the more effective will be the
results. The critical years are from K-3. Unfortunately, because of the
false excuse of not wanting to hurt children’s self-esteem, many
educators let the children develop bad educational habits. Then when bad
habits are well entrenched, the schools try to help. But by then it’s
often too late. A more effective approach would be for schools to apply
all available resources to help failing children when they begin to
develop bad learning habits.
Q. Is it fair to say that
some schools teach values, but they do it as a separate class, where as
you recommend values should be infused in every course?
A. One of the criticisms of character
education programs is that they are ineffective. They will be if schools
are teaching character in the abstract. Character education should be a
program that permeates the entire curriculum. Teachers cannot expect
students to be honest just because they had a lesson on honesty. If
students cheat, they should be punished. If students disrupt classes,
corrective action should be taken. If bullying takes place, the bullies
need to be disciplined. In A Gift of Character: The Chattanooga Story,
Dr. Philip Fitch Vincent, Nancy Reed, and Dr. Jesse Register cites
reports from instituting character education in elementary, middle, and
high schools that showed some schools with a decrease in office
referrals and suspensions up to 300%; less fighting, stealing, and other
Q. You say that
naturalism has failed us – that everything cannot be explained by
natural law without moral or spiritual significance. So if there
are moral absolutes, please identify what some of them are.
A. Naturalism believes values are relative
and situational. America was not founded upon such principles, but upon
the principle that everyone should be provided with the values of life,
liberty, and justice. What does character education do? It promotes core
ethical values, such as: honesty, fairness, caring, responsibility,
citizenship, perseverance, self-discipline, and respect. It’s not
religious indoctrination, even though practically all religions support
such values. Character education provides lessons to show children the
wisdom of doing things that will benefit them as well as society.
Q. Why do you link
situational ethics and determinism with a hedonistic philosophy that
undermines the structure of society?
A. Situational ethics says there are no
moral absolutes, and values are relative. Since there are no moral
absolutes and values are situational, acts that give the individual
pleasure are the decisive test of whether the act is good or evil.
Relativists want to do whatever brings them ultimate happiness without
guilt—that’s utopia. Unfortunately, the belief of self-fulfillment at
any cost has produced Hitler, Mao Zedong, Stalin, Pol Pot, and other
ruthless dictators who killed millions to fulfill their utopian dreams.
What is the result of a hedonistic philosophy where personal
satisfaction is the end objective in life? It undermines the structure
of a society. Look at some of our youth who have chosen drugs, alcohol,
promiscuous sex, and a life of crime instead of working to build a
Q. Let’s not forget the parents’ role in raising children and
inculcating good values. The family structure has decayed with
divorce, single parents, unmarried couples raising children, and the
deterioration of the traditional nuclear family. What can we
expect from a parent today?
A. In spite of the many difficulties
facing families today, concerned parents need to train their children in
positive values, and not simply rely on the schools to do the job for
them. Parents need to have moral standards and teach them to their
children. Above all, parents need to “walk the talk.” Children will
imitate us regardless of how much we teach them otherwise. Today,
parents must be extremely careful they don’t succumb to the deadly moral
standards that are so popularized on TV, in many children’s magazines,
and in our present culture of letting children be free to develop their
own values. Children need guidance; wise are those parents who supervise
their children, provide positive materials, and take time to teach them
Q. Why are teaching morals such a
controversial and often debated subject?
A. One of the reasons teaching morals is
so controversial is because of some of the teaching that has taken
place. In the seventies, there was a cry for values. The educational
system responded. They presented values clarification as the way to
plant values into the lives of children. Values clarification, however,
was another subtle approach to incorporate relativism. Everything
children have been taught is taken apart and clarified: religion, sex,
family, parents, feelings, attitudes, problems, etc. Nothing is personal
or sacred. Children must be autonomous and decide freely, immature and
unwise as they are and without parental input, their own set of values.
That relativistic philosophy is still prevalent today. But thankfully,
some schools are waking up and teaching positive values.
Q. William Kilpatrick, in Why Johnny
Can’t Tell Right From Wrong states: “The core problem facing our
schools is a moral one. All other problems derive from it.”
What about: poorly trained teachers, overcrowded classes, under financed
schools, tenured principals who aren’t fit to be dog walkers?
A. When school
authorities themselves have strong moral character traits they will
desire what’s best for children. They will then supervise that teachers
are trained and that they are teaching their children properly. School
authorities will also rid schools of unproductive teachers and
principals. Schools need money, but many times under financed schools
and overcrowded classes are just a smoke screen. What schools really
need are strong leaders who have a passionate desire for educational
success for all students.