[Ted Byfield] Kids learn flexible morality - at school!

[Ted Byfield] Kids learn flexible morality – at school!

Opinion
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[Ted Byfield] There appeared prominently displayed on an inside page of the New York Times some eight months ago an opinion piece I was astonished to find there. The headline read: “Why our children don’t think there are moral facts.” Surely, I thought, the Times, bible of all American liberaldom, isn’t about to hit the western world’s ideologically-driven public school system at its most vulnerable point. Yet there it was and the story that followed delivered what should have been a telling blow. It wasn’t. The public response was minimal.

VIDEO: [CSLewisDoodle] C.S. Lewis on man’s curious attitude about right and wrong — we know how we ought to behave, but frequently do not behave in that way. [Feb 26, 2015]


However, that wasn’t the author’s fault “What would you say,” he began, “if you found out that our public schools were teaching children that it’s not true that killing people for fun is wrong, or cheating on school tests is wrong? Would you be surprised?” He certainly was and he is an associate professor of philosophy at Fort Lewis College in Colorado. His name is Dr. Justin P. McBrayer.

When he asked his fellow profs whether students coming in from high school actually thought this way, their reply was unanimous. “They view all moral claims,” he was told, “as mere opinions that are not true, or are true only as relative to some culture.” Something else surprised him even more. They did not acquire this view in university, he was told, nor even in high school, but in the early grades of elementary school. When he began inquiring in his own children’s school, he found a startling affirmation emblazoned before him on the bulletin school bulletin board:

     Fact: Something that is true about a subject and can be tested or proven.

     Opinion: What someone thinks, feels or believes.

The students were routinely doing exercises in which they had to decide whether given sentences expressed a fact or an opinion. Each statement must be placed in one category (fact) or the other (opinion). All moral assertions were assigned to the “opinion” category. They were not “factual,” but merely expressed someone’s personal belief or feeling.

He wondered how far the kids were asked to reflect on this. Could some things be both fact and opinion? Example: “Life as we know it could exist elsewhere in the universe.” True, false, provable? When he asked his own son this question, the youngster confidently replied: “Facts are things that are true, whereas opinions are things that are believed.” So his father then asked him: “I believe that George Washington was our first president? Fact or opinion?” That would be a fact, replied the boy, “But I believe it, and you said that what someone believes is an opinion.” Yes, but it’s true, said the boy. “So it must be both true and opinion,” said the father. The boy looked puzzled.

His father then pulled six test statements from the boy’s printed exercise book, every one of which expressed a moral value and therefore was assigned by the book to be mere opinion. One concerned dealing in drugs, another under-age drinking.

“In summary,” says Prof. McBrayer, “our public schools teach students that all claims are either facts or opinions, and that all value and moral claims fall into the latter camp. Hence, the bottom line: there are no moral facts. And if there are no moral facts, then there are no moral truths.” (Or, in the lingo of the old Sixties, “Whatever turns your crank is right for you.”)

Prof. McBrayer concludes: “If we taught our children for twelve years that there is no fact of the matter as to whether cheating is wrong, we can’t very well blame them for doing so later on. If there are no truths as to what is good or valuable or right, how can we prosecute people for crimes against humanity?”

But the matter at issue here goes well beyond a school exercise. Every society is bound and held together by the respect it accords its moral order, usually re-enforced by its religious tradition. We in North America and western Europe are in the course of throwing out both. In my province, Alberta, this was the virtually declared objective of the socialist government that we have now voted out of office.

But the chief issue that defeated them was not their education policy, but their failure to gain approval of pipelines to get our oil and gas output to either the east, west or northern coast. With resulting job losses soaring and economic stagnation growing ever worse, esoteric questions about education had to fight to gain any attention at all.

We may pay a dire price for this neglect. In the absence of adequate public attention, our “educators” have quietly implanted a demonstrably false philosophy so deeply in the administration of the school system that it would take a top-to-bottom purge to get it out. It has gained essentially total control in the education department bureaucracies, the university faculties of education, and the teachers’ unions. Its aim is the discard of almost all traditional moral values, and the steady erosion of all effective parental authority. It uses its various sex-ed insanities to divert attention away from the real and much broader aspirations that underlie them. All moral assertions must therefore be denied any factual reality.

One wonders: Who endowed the teaching profession with the authority to make this overwhelming and staggering change of direction in our society? The answer is nobody. It was entirely self- endowed. Commentator Jordan Peterson’s word for this is “treason,” and he means just that.

In any event, such is the mess into which we have allowed our once-superb school system to descend. Can it be saved? You bet it can. But not without some formidable changes. And they must begin by thoroughly acquainting parents, grandparents, employers, politicians and the public at large with what’s going on in our schools.

This is the significance of the New York Times playing up McBrayer’s article. It’s a good sign. Who knows? Any year now, daily newspapers like the Globe and Mail, or in western Canada the Calgary Herald and the Edmonton Journal may discover this story and tell their readers about it. But don’t hold your breath. It would require that their reporters find out what’s going on behind the bureaucratic curtain. And they’re not very good at this.

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