What has happened to our society?
Reading the daily paper one is inundated with dreadful stories: Children are shot and killed for their lunch money; a mother drowns her own children; gang members shoot at a car, kill a 3-year-old baby and wound two others, simply because it is on their turf; and murder grows more heartless and gruesome. The undeniable fact is that morals in our communities are rapidly degenerating. It may seem that one persons cries cant be heart among the many.
Yet something must be done and done with speed and urgency if we are to revert societys moral decay and gradually bring about a civilization fit for our children and theirs.
What can turn the tide?
A grassroots campaign has taken seed in communities across the country. Thousands have found a way to battle societal decay through the promotion and teaching of moral values on a fundamental level. Their tool is a non-religious moral code entitled The Way to Happiness.
Based solely on common sense, this booklet was written in 1981 by humanitarian and author L. Ron Hubbard. In it, 21 precepts are explained which set forth practical principles which, when applied, will improve morals in todays world. Precepts such as Be Worthy of Trust, Be Competent, Do Not Take Harmful Drugs, and Be Faithful to Your Sexual Partner are explained in simple text that can be used to teach adults and children alike what is expected of them from their family, friends and society. Since its initial publication, more than 52 million copies of the booklet have been distributed in 50 countries and in 18 languages, including Hungarian, Russian, Zulu and even Croatian, often with dramatic results.
In East Nashville, for example, a program based on this booklet was implemented in an inner-city school with a growing violence problem. Shortly after the program went into full use, the violence dropped by an estimated 70 to 80 per cent, according to the school principal.
Using this text as a springboard, The Way to Happiness Foundation, a charitable organization which raises funds to support the publication and distribution of The Way to Happiness and its use in social betterment programs, created an essay contest to encourage teachers and students to go beyond talking about moral values. Instead, students devise their own ways to improve society through the use of precepts of The Way to Happiness. This is the Making America Safe essay contest.
The contest includes prize categories for five separate age groups and has awarded 100 national prizes to date. Youth from scouting, social and church groups, and probation services also participate.
The contest has been enthusiastically received by teachers and school personnel across the country. Why? Because it is elevating moral standards wherever it takes place. With 850 applicants in 1994, it has grown to more than 104,000 school children enrolled in 1995 from nearly 1,400 schools. In Chicago alone, 200 schools participated and 14,500 essays were submitted. In Houston, 132 schools entered the contest sending 12,000 essays from their students.
Executive director for The Way to Happiness Foundation, Glenn Horton, stated, The enormous response received at our headquarters told us immediately that the idea of providing the youth of America with a voice in the discussion of difficulties facing todays society was striking a very deep chord among educators. Many of those who enrolled their classes and schools in the nationwide essay competition confirmed to us that kids do not shy away from todays bigger social problems but relish the opportunity to have their say and make a contribution. Teachers in participating schools wrote in volume to express their appreciation for The Way to Happiness and the contest. One Oklahoma City teacher wrote, I recently became more aware of the need in our area for a tool to be used to dig into the cause of crime and violence in our society. I have lived here [Oklahoma] all my life and could hardly comprehend that an act of terrorism had occurred in our city. The number of people affected by this act has been huge. ...
The Making America Safe essay contest is a perfect vehicle to instill strong moral values in kids. Through this contest, youngsters are given an opportunity to participate in the discussion of some of the most important issues and problems in todays society and are acknowledged and awarded for initiating practical solutions.
It is a joy and an honor to be part of such a vital effort to rebuild trust and honesty and a greater sense of responsibility throughout the community. This is especially valuable in light of the current situation here in Oklahoma City. Thanks to you and your staff at the Way to Happiness Foundation for all your support and assistance with our efforts to use this powerful little book here in my community.
Another wrote, For the past two weeks, my Personal and Career Skills class has discussed the meaning of friendship. Your pamphlet The Way to Happiness provided an excellent springboard into my lessons. My class discussed the current social problems in our society and how we could change them through developing values and building friendships. ...
I appreciate that you have created this writing contest and you are implementing The Way to Happiness program in our nations schools, youth facilities and jails. It has helped my students focus on the importance of developing values and building friendships, and has motivated them to make strides in making their society a better place to live.
Contest sponsors were gratified by the depth and maturity of the essays received. The practical ideas presented indicated that these students had been thinking deeply about how to improve their world. The students also didnt hesitate to criticize sectors of society they felt needed to be improved to make America safe.
One prize-winning essay on the Golden Rule came from an Iranian-American student, who wrote: The other day, my computer teacher asked the class Who knows what the Golden Rule is? Only four people out of 30 raised their hands. You might say to yourself, it is not a very bright class. But that is not true. If someone asked a hundred ordinary people they would probably have the same percentage as the people in my computer class. The biggest problem we have with people in the community not obeying the Golden Rule is that they are not educated to know the Golden Rule. ...
I came to the United States about 2 years ago. ... I am used to the customs in Iran. When I came here two years ago, I did not know anything about the American culture. With absolutely nothing in my head, I had to go to school. At first, it was very hard. People looked at me and said to themselves, Why is he dressed like that? I did not know how to dress or act at certain times. I did not speak very good English to tell them a story. It was a hard time but life did go on and I got better acquainted with the American culture ... I did not give up. ... And today I am an A student and heading in the right direction. ... We can see that the Golden Rule has been broken by many people. It is not important who or how, it has to stop. We cannot stop all people who break the Golden Rule. But if we stop one or two people this is a very big accomplishment by itself.
An inmate in a juvenile prison wrote in his essay, Where do I start? Well, we should start in the homes of Americans: black, white, Hispanic or others. However, race is not the issue. Violence is the major issue hitting America. Every five minutes someone is shot or killed. And we as Americans, have got to stop the violence.
To me, I think the best chance in resolving the violence issue is in the home. Parents should set a better example for their children. Examples like teaching their children to love instead of them growing up to hate a certain child or group of children. They should sit down and have a discussion with their children about society. Parents could go to churches or community meetings to help themselves gain knowledge on these problems they have.
In addition to school-based programs promoting moral values to our children, several Way to Happiness chapters exist in the inner cities and operate as community improvement campaigns.
The Happiness Kids with Nancy Cartwright, Way to Happiness spokesperson
(and the voice of Bart Simpson).
Individuals work to get The Way to Happiness out into their community so as to achieve a safer and more honest environment.
In Los Angeles, Mike Hoy, a chapter coordinator dedicated to reducing the crime in his surrounding area of Pico Union, reported that the state of his community has improved as a result of their work in distributing the booklets, and that the crime statistics in the area (which are infamous for being high), have lessened considerably since distribution of the booklets began.
Last week a gang member came to me on the street and asked for help in getting a job and changing his life, Hoy said. He had seen me doing clean-ups and distributing The Way to Happiness for a while and he thought I could help him get off the street. I gave him a copy of the book and the next day he came back I liked that book, man! He took a dozen more for his friends and I took him for a job hes very proud that after several years as a gang-banger hes getting his life together and straightening out. Similar examples occur every day as a result of the chapter groups and volunteers getting The Way to Happiness out, read and used in our communities. Strong support for this program could create a complete resurgence of morals around us and make our society that much more livable. As L. Ron Hubbard stated in The Way to Happiness, While no one can guarantee that anyone else can be happy, their chances of survival and happiness can be improved. And with theirs, yours will be.
It is in your power to point the way to a less dangerous and happier life.
The Happiness Kids perform music and skits in schools,
churches and community centers to teach the precepts for happier living
* For more information about The Way to Happiness, contact The Way to Happiness Foundation, 7060 Hollywood Boulevard, Suite 306, Los Angeles, CA 90028. Telephone: (323) 962-7906 or (800) 255-7906.