Saturday, July 14, 2018

Teaching Values: basic lessons in hypocrisy?

But of all wrong there is non more heinous than that of those who when they deceive us most grossly, so do it as to seem good men. -- Cicero De Officiis, Book 1, 13, 41.
You might have had a childhood experience similar to the following: your parents, or teachers, or religious leaders, intensely, seriously labored to impress on you that it was important always to tell the truth. (In the US it used to be presented to elementary schoolers that George Washington never told a lie so you shouldn’t, either.)

But if you mentioned that Grandma’s breath stank, or that something Mom made for dinner tasted bad, or that school was boring, you were scolded for being nasty or for deliberately saying what you knew wasn’t true, “just to be hurtful.” ("Fake news" as some of today's would-be 'moral leaders' drone about in their admonitions.)

Perhaps you let it be known you didn’t like playing or sharing with your cousins, or neighbors, or classmates. You may have been told by an adult, “You’ll like it if I tell you to like it, or else.” Being no dummy you soon realized that telling the truth brought pain; telling lies and calling those lies “the truth” brought you, more often than not, adult appreciation.

You may have learned that the word hypocrite was an important word. But even more importantly you learned that whatever a 'hypocrite' was, it couldn’t be any adult who had the power to punish you. If such a thought even crossed your mind, it was best you just kept quiet.

As we became older, supposedly wiser, we learned that (almost?) all general statements could be prefaced (if only to ourselves) with the phrase "Under certain conditions,..." We were initiated into the perpetual struggle between morality and acculturation.

This process was called “learning values.” It was an important part of what was called “growing up.” (So tedious, so omnipresent was this struggle -- many of us thought -- that we grew to defaulting to "what we wanted (felt)" so long as we could act as though in accord with the cultural or moral environment we found ourselves in.)

Apparently there are still many people around today who worry (feel?) that kids are not learning “values.” And they want the schools to teach, legislators to proscribe, or police to enforce “values.”

But can schools, legislators or police improve on what family and community, for better or not, already do?

To examine these issues further, see Values Education or Values Confusion?

Cordially-- EGR

P.S. Thank you Mahdiabbasinv. Seeزبان_tongue.jpg