Questions for Close Reading (p. 222)
1. Sykes’s thesis is that the American educational system is not providing students with firm guidelines to help them make moral choices. This thesis is stated directly in paragraph 3 (“A 1992 survey by the Josephson Institute for Ethics of nearly 7,000 high school and college students, most of them from middle-and-upper middle-class backgrounds, found the equivalent of ‘a hole in the moral ozone’ among America’s youth”) and reiterated elsewhere in the essay: “‘I think it is very easy to get through high school and college these days and hardly ever hear, “That’s wrong.’” (paragraph 4); “‘Their IDIology is exceptionally and dangerously self-centered, preoccupied with personal needs, wants, don’t-wants and rights.’” (4); “In pursuit of success, or comfort, or self-gratification, the IDI’s are blithely willing to jettison traditional ethical restraints, and as a result IDIs are more likely to lie, cheat and engage in irresponsible behavior when it suits their purposes” (4); and “In its place [of moral role models], we provide children a jumbled smorgasbord of moral choices” (5).
2. “At one time,” Sykes writes in paragraph 5, “American students used to study historical role models like Benjamin Franklin, Florence Nightingale, Thomas Edison, Madame Curie, Abraham Lincoln, and George
Washington—whose stories were used to provide object lessons in inventiveness, character, compassion, curiosity, and truthfulness.” Modern education, however, allows students to choose their own values and refuses to teach them that some values are more important, or moral, than others. Sykes maintains that in a misguided fear of “moralizing” and in an attempt to allow students freedom to work out their own value systems, modern educators have failed to give students the ability to distinguish right from wrong and serious moral questions from trivial ones.
3. Sykes feels that educational theorists are...