Used to be that family dinners and outings, combined with a good dose of the Golden Rule, taught us what we needed to know as we grew up about doing right and getting along with others. Manners, good behavior, and kindness all began at home, instilled in us by our parents, sometimes even under threat of punishment.

That was then, but this is now in our no-holds barred culture where privacy is dead, sex sells everything from Viagra to perfume, and even Playboy has given up the ghost since porn is so readily available. As for violence, we’ve all become quite numb to it thanks to a steady diet of it in the news, movies, television, and/or video games.

Meanwhile, bullying, both the traditional and cyber varieties, has even garnered the attention of governors and other politicians. And in schools, it has spawned outfits like Olweus, which are designed to help “solve” the problem. In actuality, these companies make lots of money despite their dubious success rate. Another result? The latest trend in education: social and emotional learning, aka S.E.L. and/or character education.

What is that exactly? Well, it’s being defined as “a process through which people become more aware of their feelings and learn to relate more peacefully to others.”

Stay tuned, but don’t hold your breath for some kind of miraculous break-through. A better bet is for all of us to put down our various screens, engage with our kids, giving them our undivided attention as much as we can and serving as role models for how we want them to be in the world.

At the very least, that will get us on the right track doing our parenting best to raise decent, empathetic kids who know right from wrong long before schools intervene and give it a try.