WITHHOLDING THE POWER OF GOOD FROM OUR CHILDREN: the lost mission to teach morals. The much admired Kant viewed it as “man’s duty…to bring the moral law to bear upon himself.” Knowledge is power, but that power can be good or bad. Decoupling knowledge from virtue & wisdom handicaps our children from using knowledge for good. Have you ever noticed how people can be curious about things that aren’t good for them? And how people can know some things, but not understand.
A SILLY DEBATE. In recent times there has been debate on whether virtues can be taught. History is full of many cultures over the centuries doing it, including ours, so the question is like asking, Is it possible to walk from K.C. to Denver? Only by ignoring history can the question be considered. The Word of God tells us, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”(A) So obviously, it must be possible to train a child in virtues, or we would not be advised to do so, esp. so from a book of wisdom (Proverbs). To make another analogy, Can one go by submarine from K.C. to Denver? No. Can one get a child to make virtuous wise decisions, if he is not given the opportunity to learn virtue? Not likely. Knowledge should not be divorced from wisdom. That is how one can develop an evil genius. Plato, the father of Philosophy, took up the question “Can Virtue Be Taught?” in “Protagoras” (Protagoras being an itinerant Sophist sage who taught rich kids) where the idealist Socrates espouses that absolute virtues do indeed exist for us to learn. (More on these later.)
IS KNOWLEDGE/BRAIN POWER ALL THERE IS? While the answer to this has been quite obvious to many people throughout the centuries, at times the moral/spiritual side of things seems to escape detection by secular educators. Various people in different cultures have recognized that there was a spiritual sense organ…they gave it different names: the Eye of the Tao (Taoists), the Eye of the Soul (Plato) or as the Persian Sufi Hatif Isfahani described it: “Open the Eye of thine Heart so as to see the world of the Spirit.” Notice all these different groups used the term “eye” to describe that faculty of spirit within us that can discern the Spirit & spiritual truth. The Word of God uses the same term! “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also. The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness. If the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness!”(B) Throughout the Bible it also talks about an evil eye.(C) The great teacher Yahshua focused on teaching faith not facts. He said His divine Holy Spirit would teach those who would open the door and let Him in.
WHAT KIND OF SOIL ARE OUR PUBLIC SCHOOLS? Yahshua (Christ) taught an interesting lesson using a parable about planting seeds. Some seed fell on stony ground, and some fell where it got too much scorching sun, and some fell among thorny weeds and were choked out, and some fell on good soil.(D) By global standards our schools are mediocre, & the public is rather negative concerning their lack of success. Today the public is frustrated, cynical & pessimistic. Many students arriving in classrooms are products of child abuse, dysfunctional families, fractured communities, instable lives & materialistic self-centered parents. Our public schools have violence, widespread disrespect, verbal abuse by kids to both teachers & other kids, and a compulsory prison like atmosphere. There are teachers who themselves don’t believe in morality. In many ways, our public schools are bad soil for planting the seed of virtue. Teachers & preachers are instruments that the Divine can use, but the quality of the spiritual/moral music that those human instruments can play is determined by the spiritual & moral quality of the instrument. This is why it is important for teachers to walk the walk.
TEACHING BY EXAMPLE. In fact, the easiest way to learn virtues & morals is to learn by observing someone do them correctly.(E) Some of you may have heard me talk about how a Christlike brother taught me by example that there are always wonderful answers to our problems…often we don’t see the answers or we wouldn’t be viewing the situation as a problem! The verse that teaches this is: “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.”(F) So this wonderful brother that I worked beside day-in-day-out taught me by example that there are keys to easily unlock the difficulties of life. No wonder Yahshua’s brother under inspiration wrote, “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into diverse temptations.”(G) It really is a chance to grow and see God work, & to see wisdom work!
FAITH is realizing that all the power one needs is available for one’s use to live a decent life. HOPE is realizing that one can achieve one’s true divine calling. GRACE is the divine resources to achieve hope. LOVE is seeing the intrinsic value of God and all of His Creation. Now the ungodly (secular) distortions of these are this: secular love means care for those who will give you something, secular hope & faith are to do things only when one is assured of success. Where will our students learn true FAITH, HOPE & LOVE? Where will they learn to have the spiritual virtues of faith, hope & patience which inspire a person to courageously persevere when facing difficulties, disappointments & discouraging odds??? Where are our students going to learn their values?? From their peers? From video games? One sees unbalances in those not lead by the Spirit, both children & adults like to talk of rights, but not of responsibilities!
THERE ARE COMMON VALUES. In previous posts, I have discussed positive moral values that are held almost universally. Who doesn’t value honesty, integrity, respect, responsibility, self-discipline, reliability?? Who doesn’t appreciate benevolence? Shall we not all learn to love life & to love learning?
WAS AMERICA’S MORAL MALAISE ALWAYS THIS BAD? I don’t believe so, for I remember the time of the ‘50s when there was tranquility, prosperity, morning prayers in the schools along with the pledge of allegiance. There was a sense of respect for the law and for teachers. Many of the small communities & rural areas still had their schools, and had not yet lost them to large consolidations. Children were focused on real life, not TV, video games & cell phones. Then the ‘60s came…with change & confusion & lots of riots, and social control via the TV. There was a counterculture revolution. JFK, MLK, RFK were all assassinated, and the nation grieved. Vietnam & Watergate brought distrust of the govt. Three-mile Island further eroded trust. And people like Prof. Rath advocated that teachers should be “value-neutral” facilitators to help students find their own values as supposedly there are no true values. The hippie movement and rock & roll were instigated by the elite. The Vietnam War & the protests at times were controlled conflict. At any rate things began coming apart at the seams. Things got mixed up & confused. People wanted better things, like MLK. He said, “We must live together as brothers or perish as fools.” He wanted us to be wise. But somehow this was morphed into be tolerant of everything. And historians had to be PC and focus on “victim studies” (i.e. feminist rights, gay rights, native rights, Afro-American rights and the history of these underdog groups). If you wanted grant money etc. you had better focus on those groups. PC politics were unfortunately corrupting education. Society was being fragmented into special interest groups. While society was fragmented, it was also being mass mind controlled. This is macro version of the trauma-based mind control given to individuals. And I can’t help but think of Mark Twain’s comment, “Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause & reflect.”
This post has been written to both Christians & non-Christians. It has not discussed where we want to develop the virtues in our children—perhaps home schooling, a private school, or charter school will fit the bill— but it is making the case that we NEED to quit blocking our children from the opportunity to learn spiritual virtues and morals. Our mainstream culture & our public schools are not in line with teaching virtue. It’s time for those who are coasting with stream of lemmings to wiggle free & seek the road less travelled!! Let’s give our children the chance to be who God intended them to be.
(A) PRV 22:6; (As a side note: ISA 28:9-10 has an interesting passage on teaching knowledge & understanding related to a messianic prophecy). (B) MT 6:21-23 (C) DT 28:54; PRV 23:6; MK 7:22, LK 11:34 (D) Interestingly, all synoptic gospels have this parable w/ its lesson: MT 13, MK 4 & LK 8 (E) Interestingly, Confucius taught, “By 3 methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest [I’d say reflection inspired by the Spirit]; Second, by imitation, which is the easiest [discipleship]; and third by experience, which is the bitterest [school of hard knocks].” (F) 1 COR 10:13, cf. 2 PTR 2:9a (God knows the answers, whether we realize them or not!) (G) JAS 1:2