St. Louis Globe-Democrat/1951/Low Estate of Public Morals

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Low Estate of Public Morals (1951)
by Louis LaCoss
3036515Low Estate of Public Morals1951Louis LaCoss
The discharge of 90 West Point cadets for cheating at examinations, is only one facet of the many-sided problem of moral disintegration nationally that is causing many persons to wonder whether America is going down the path of decay that caused the Roman empire to fall. It is a sobering thought. But the facts must be faced.

The West Pointers were dishonest. They cheated. Some did so because they couldn't play football and keep up with their studies. Others who were not athletes cheated because that was the easy way to make passing grades.

The excuse of the athletes accents the abnormality of thinking in many institutions of higher education as to the part sports should play in college life. The necessity of having a good team to assure big revenue to build a bigger stadium to make more money, has led many of our colleges into the evil devices of buying players, of competing in the open market for a star half back. Some colleges have recognized the error and have de-emphasized sports, as should be done.

At West Point the incentive was a bit different because Uncle Sam foots the bills there, but there was the incentive for the individual to "make" a team that was tops or near it in the nation. So, if practice on the field interfered, cheat a little and make the necessary grades.


But fundamentally what happened at West Point reflects a present distorted attitude toward old-fashioned honesty and integrity that pertains not only in our schools but in America's social and political life.

It is seen in the high places in government, which after World War II practiced plain deception on the people. We were told no secret agreements had been made with anybody. Later, we discovered pacts were signed at Tehran, Yalta and Potsdam that made the Korean war inevitable.

In the New Deal era was born the idea that an administration can perpetuate itself in power by buying the voters with handout money. Remember how Harry Hopkins tapped the WPA till to win an election in Kentucky? During that era was born the fiction that cities and states as well as individuals need not look to their own resources or ingenuity to survive—let Washington do it. Out of the mating of depression and political trickery, came the insidious thinking by millions of Americans that hard work is positively silly; that if one does work, do the least possible, draw the biggest pay possible—and strike for more.

The youths, such as the West Pointers, with whom we are concerned today, were babies then. They have grown into manhood in an environment of take-it-where-I-find-it entirely alien to the American tradition. They are the unpretty fruit of the mistakes of the past two decades.


What do we see in Washington today? Corruption and scandals. The close link between the underworld and politics was revealed by the Kefauver committee. The Fulbright committee turned the spotlight on the RFC and the influence peddlers, some within the shadow of the White House, who sold their contacts for a price.

We hear of doubtful goings-on in the government department that collects our income taxes.

We hear of patronage bought and sold like so much goods over the counter.

An Army General sees no wrong in accepting gifts from those with whom he does government business, nor in diverting government materials to private use.

The chairman of the Democratic National Committee yells "smear" when it is discovered that he is on the pay roll of a St. Louis company for the ostensible reason that he has influence on RFC loans.

The close personal friend of the President, a Major General, has a desk in the White House where he conveniently hands out receipts for deep freezers presented him gratis and which he distributes where they will do good politically.

Campaigns for the Senate in Ohio and Maryland last year were conducted along lines that set a new political low.


So, when 90 West Point cadets stray from paths of honesty, when nauseous revelations are made of the bribing of college basketball teams, when youths charged with robbery stand up in court, as they did in New York, and brazenly admit their guilt, but excuse it by saying that "everybody's doing it," when teen-agers become delinquent via the narcotics road, when too many youths of both sexes flout the laws of chastity and decency—when these derelictions of the youths of our land are totted up, there comes a time for sober questioning among the adults.

Where does the fault lie? In the home? Perhaps. In the schools? In part. In the churches? In part. But in the main the fault lies in that nebulous field of public morals and spirituality which was so highly cultivated by the founding fathers and which of late has been so scantily tilled. Among too many of us the accepted premise is that anything is fair unless we are caught; that each of us is entitled to something for nothing; that the world owes us a living; that an honest day's work for an honest day's pay is almost unethical; that gyping the other fellow before he gyps you, is the only policy that pays off.


The level of public morals is low. Unfortunately, the good example is not set in Washington. The President is victimized by his friends, but a false sense of loyalty prevents him from moving forthright against them. His reluctance condones wrongdoing. Leadership in both parties is weak, because it is consistently attuned to the next election, not to what is best for the public welfare. In fact, public morals are low because politics at all levels is played at a historic low. The one is the coadjutor of the other.

Yet, we strut the earth telling everybody else to look at us and see democracy in fairest flower—and please copy; we'll foot the bill. We wonder, for instance, what Pravda will have to say about the 90 West Point cadets.


The time is here for moral regeneration. West Point is just one item in the sad chronology. The Roman empire fell, not because it was overwhelmed from without but because it decayed from within. If this is an appeal for a return to the day-by-day practice of old time religion, and respect for God's moral law, so be it. When the moral fabric of a nation begins to unravel, it is time to do some patching before the entire garment is gone. The cause and effect of this deterioration nationally be issues in next year's presidential campaign.

This work is in the public domain in the United States because it was legally published within the United States (or the United Nations Headquarters in New York subject to Section 7 of the United States Headquarters Agreement) before 1964, and copyright was not renewed.

Works published in 1951 would have had to renew their copyright in either 1978 or 1979, i.e. at least 27 years after they were first published/registered but not later than 31 December in the 28th year. As this work's copyright was not renewed, it entered the public domain on 1 January 1980.

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