Widening hole in moral ozone

Mike Tyson bites the ear of an opponent and is allowed to box again. Latrell Sprewell chokes his basketball coach and five teams are desperate to hire him.

Incidents like these are demonstrable evidence that morals are on the decline - not just in sports, but in everyday life, says Michael Josephson of the Josephson Institute of Ethics in Los Angeles.

"It's like the hole in the ozone layer getting bigger," he says. "It's happening incrementally, but it is happening."

Mr. Josephson regularly monitors morality in America, polling everybody from children and teenagers to sports figures.

For example, 2-1/2 years ago, 64 percent of high-schoolers said they cheated on a test. This year, 70 percent said they did. Two-and-a-half years ago, 39 percent of high-schoolers said they stole from a store. This year, 47 percent said they did.

However, Josephson says, "This generation is not moral mutants. It has no inherent deficiency." Younger generations are simply taking cues from their parents, the media, even the president of the United States.

"People have a tendency to believe if things like that are happening at that level, it must be just the tip of the iceberg. That tip-of-the-iceberg mentality leads to cynicism," Josephson says. "It isn't that we don't know what is right. It's our unwillingness to do it."

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