It also strikes me that you may have been “drinking the radio talking-head-kool-aid.” There are national figures who make their living trying to incense people against public schools.
“They’ve taken God out of school.” Christians know very well that you could not do that if you wanted to, as it is believed by Christians that God is everywhere, in everyone who believes.
“They’ve taken prayer out of schools.” Schools won’t force prayers of any faith tradition on kids, but you can’t stop prayer, even if you want to. And should we have a school principal of an other-than-Christian faith try to impose school prayer on students — well, let’s see a cartoon about that.
“Don’t you think kids should recite the Pledge of Allegiance in schools, like we used to?” I have asked Facebook friends across the nation who post that question as though kids don’t do that anymore. I can’t find any schools where that doesn’t happen, except that there apparently are five states in which it is not required — which does not mean it isn’t being done at least part of the time. In Norman, it’s daily.
I would maintain that schools are doing more, rather than less, concerning character development than in the past. As our schools now serve special education students (any severely disabled kids in your school in the ’50s or earlier?), a more diverse mix of socioeconomic disparities and greater cultural diversity than ever before, along with the reflections of adults who think it is OK to bully people, there is much more to do in that area than in earlier times.
Rest assured that the teachers and school personnel who interact with today’s kids every weekday are probably better prepared than in “the good old days” to help children grow up to be kind, responsible, high-achieving adults.