Ernest Conine in his article (Editorial Pages, Dec. 24), "Spying: Growth Industry in America," lays some of the blame for the increase in the number of Americans who are willing to sell out their own country on the "unraveling of traditional values," and particularly in a "general retreat from religious and moral values in a society that finds religious instruction in public schools unacceptable, but doesn't teach any other standard of values, either."
This rather facile explanation deserves far greater in-depth study that is possible here. However, a few comments: Conine nowhere defines his "traditional values." Is he talking about such religious values as "Love thine enemy" or "Onward Christian Soldiers"? Or nonviolent resistance? Is he referring to such ethical values as "Do unto others," or such commercial values as "Do to others before they do to you"?
Does he consider "My country, right or wrong" to be a traditional American value (Nazis, amongst others, prized that value highly), or is a "decent respect for the opinions of mankind" a proper traditional value? Is non-interference in the internal affairs of other nations more or less traditional for the United States than the "protection" of our country's self-interest?
As for the place of the public schools in the teaching of values, they have been charged from their very beginnings to teach "Americanism" and to inculcate moral values and behavior. What the contemporary teacher realizes through his professional studies is that values and ethics cannot be taught by prescription and certainly cannot be learned by rote. In order for values and morals to translate into personal behavior the critical and emotional processes must be engaged very early. Children must be offered many experiences and the opportunity of discovering how to reconstruct them in order to "learn" personal responsibility.