When baby is finally born, doting parents look expectantly for those distinctive features that make that helpless, bundle of joy something special to them: "He looks like you!" "He's got your mannerisms and your smile." But when he (or she) grows up, who will he think like? Is there any way we can know? After all, even the world's worst dictators were all adorable babies once.
Why Child Vandalism and Violence
Reports from around the Western world show the immense change that occurs from infancy to adolescence. Vandalism is mostly committed by teenage children between the ages of 14 and 16. According to one police crime report, an average London child, for example, will have committed 100 thefts by the time he leaves school at age 17 — that is, if he's average! Petty thefts maybe, but criminal theft nonetheless. Nowadays young thugs seem to "patrol" the streets of Western cities in packs. Typical was the group of Italian youths who sadistically tortured, repeatedly raped and finally brutally murdered a 19-year-old girl in Rome Just "for kicks." Such young thugs were once unheard of except for the isolated incident. This group were late-teenage sons of wealthy parents — parents who didn't and would not subscribe to that kind of conduct. Surely the children who commit such acts aren't learning this kind of behavior from Mother and Dad — or from school? So where are they learning it? In the home on television, at movies and from peers in and out of school.
No Moral Conscience?
Indications are that young people Judge the seriousness of a crime against the value of the item stolen. They also feel that the severity of the punishment should depend
Reports from around the Western world show that vandalism is mostly committed by teenage children between the ages of 14 and 16. Nowadays young thugs seem to "patrol" the streets of Western cities in packs.
upon the status and identity of the victim. On this basis, the theft of a valuable painting from an impersonal museum may be viewed as a less serious offense than half a bar of chocolate stolen from the school locker. And a purse stolen from a busy housewife out shopping is viewed nowhere near as serious as a similar sum of money stolen from a defenseless widow or pensioner. What really disturbs the authorities — police chiefs, magistrates, social workers, educators and the like — is this added ominous fact: children who don't actually commit criminal acts, who don't vandalize or steal themselves, no longer regard such unlawful acts by others as serious offenses. Increasingly, children have an almost complete lack of moral consciousness either for their own actions or the actions of others. Too often the "11th commandment" is simply — "Don't get caught!" Today's children will be tomorrow's adults. What a child accepts as morally correct today will be the standard of tomorrow's society. The trend of youth today tends to indicate where society is headed in the future. At the turn of the century the whole Western world collectively subscribed to a rigid social morality. Everyone knew the rules and the punishment for breaking them. Today's society is subject to an almost continuously changing moral standard. What is now accepted as moral is no more than a code of behavior based on social consensus. As society's standards change, so do belief and behavior. For example, the pressure in the United States to legalize marijuana is largely due to a social morality shared by those who say, "What harm does it do to society?" If and when the majority — or even the highly vocal minority — can demonstrate that marijuana is now acceptable to their society, legalization will follow. Social morality has degenerated into the do-what-you-like-as-long-as-it-doesn't-hurt-others attitude peddled by so many moral experts and progressive churchmen. But our actions and those of our children are hurting the whole of society both individually and nationally. Except in some communist and Arab states most categories of criminal behavior are showing rapid rises in virtually every country. Maybe we should examine why it is that certain regimes are able more or less to contain criminal activity.
The Chinese Method
The Chinese have never tolerated criminals. In the West we would all probably think twice before turning over to the police a man we had seen commit some petty crime. But Chairman Mao's brand of morality placed all the responsibility of bringing criminals to justice firmly on the people — not the State. Until recently the Chinese citizen would unhesitatingly report the criminal both for his own good and the good of the community. Since limited Western reforms were introduced after Mao's death, China too has experienced increases in Western-style crime. Formerly the emphasis was always placed on deterring criminal action, and it was this philosophy that determined both the Chinese moral code and social morality. As British M.P., Andrew Faulds, put it in The Times: "The [Chinese] emphasis [was] on hard work, responsibility to the community and denial of self." The result was a much lower crime rate by Western standards. Contrast this with shifting Western standards. John March, former assistant chairman and counselor of the British Institute of Management, examined business ethics in a paper presented to the Royal Society of Arts in 1970. "Everything we stand for," he stated, "is being challenged again and again.... It is an age when the young are savagely questioning the values and habits of
The Chinese have not tolerated criminals (and this was true even before the communist takeover in the 1940s.)... The responsibility of bringing criminals to justice [is] all firmly on the people-not the State.
a sorely perplexed generation. Dogmatic slogans are strident and yet our uncertainties are greater than ever." The situation has not improved in the decade since this was written. The day when morality meant obedience to and acceptance of the existing social order has long since gone. In a report entitled "Progress and Problems in Moral Education," the National Foundation of Educational Research (NFER) in England and Wales addressed the increasing concern felt by British teachers about what parents expect of them as cultural transmitters. The report agreed that schools provide the initial link between the morality of the home and that of the world at large. But public morality is of a less fixed and certain nature than that taught in the home. The duty of the teacher is therefore problematical. They, too often, feel they must teach the pupil not a fixed code of morality, but how to adapt to expediency, situation ethics and a flexible approach to morality. We live in the age of the sophisticated double standard!
It All Begins in the Home
Today's morality is based on no more than personal convictions tempered by time and circumstance. The old moral codes based on rather fixed religious standards have virtually been abandoned as "founded on untenable assumptions and as educationally unjustifiable" (NFER report, page 57) Morality, then, has been largely dismissed as not the job of the teacher but of the parent. So if you want your child to grow up with certain moral standards, you'll have to educate him morally and spiritually yourself. And, in addition, exercise control over visual and written material penetrating the home on television, in magazines and newspapers. Add to that the need to supervise the quality of movies and the choice of friends in and out of school. Teaching morality at home presents none of the many philosophical problems teachers face. After all, morality is really not an abstract philosophy, but a way of life. And if a parent really exemplifies the way of life he wants to impart to his child, the youngster learns not by some abstract, philosophical argument, but by the right example! Today's teachers often feel they are only there to impart information and the pupil must do his own evaluating. But the parent should feel no such constraint.
Stages in Morality
Initially a young child accepts as truth whatever he is told. Tell him that Santa Claus comes down the chimney, and he'll at first accept it as fact. The danger comes in thinking that the child will always remain that way. The older he becomes the more a child will weigh up what he can currently observe against past childhood teachings. Parents need to realize that children go through various stages in developing moral standards. U.S. psychologist Lawrence Kohl-berg found evidence that in the earliest stages of training, reward and punishment play an important part in making wise moral judgments. He concluded that the child should be punished or rewarded according to the moral implications. In the next stage the primary consideration is whether an action meets the approval of others. At the higher stages (Kohlberg concluded that many adults never reach this stage) moral decision-making is guided by a reciprocal sense of responsibility toward others. A child, for example, will learn in time to wait in line for his ice cream because he expects others to do the same. The highest stage of moral development (as identified by Kohlberg) is where relatively abstract principles, such as justice, mercy and toleration, are paramount in governing both thought and action. But, today's morality is largely based on the slippery slopes of situation ethics — not fixed transcendental codes. The result? Shifting moral codes are catching up with society in the form of increased crime, greater violence to the person and much less natural affection. Today, morality has been divorced from religion. People want to be free to do as they wish, without any deference to revealed spiritual considerations. A humanist moral code instead of the Bible is usually advocated, based on a universal but undefined human "law of love." But it is not God's definition of love — outgoing concern for others. But no matter how appealing this approach may appear, it just doesn't tell man how to love. Modern morality is without specific guidelines and erroneously leaves it up to each individual to judge right and wrong for himself. It is God who determines what is right and what is wrong. It is ironic that in adopting this empty, futile humanist approach, society has abandoned the one and only divine "law of love" that really works. This true law of love is expressed in Christ's two great commandments: love of God and love of neighbor. These two great principles are then broken down into specific guidelines by the Ten Commandments and further expounded on throughout the Bible. Man can work out no better moral code for himself or his children. If properly applied it is most certainly not a negative law that places us in a straitjacket of dos and don'ts. On the contrary it is a constructive code of law that forms the basis for building both happy lives and safe societies-Above all, it provides parents with a truly sound basis for the positive moral education of their children. And parents who live their lives according to these principles will not be setting double standards. They will live a way of life that stands up to scrutiny — particularly the scrutiny of their own children as they reach their teens. Teach your children the Ten Commandments and explain to them the meaning of this great spiritual law. You'll never regret it!