What can we teach our children?

Discussion in 'International Politics' started by Vyom, Dec 26, 2010.

  1. Vyom

    Vyom Seeker Elite Member

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    I found this article extremely significant and relevant.

    Conscience:

    Every child is born with an innate sense of right and wrong, and an inbuilt knowledge of what is fair. These sensibilities can either be sharpened or blunted as the child grows; a parent has the immense moral burden of passing on these values. We have to reinforce the concept of listening to the inner voice that tells us when we are crossing the line from acceptable to unacceptable behaviour.

    Consequences:

    Does a child always know what the consequences of bad behaviour are? Though she might have an inkling that she might be indulging in bad behaviour, a young person may not readily understand the consequences. It behoves us to teach the child the penalty for actions taken in haste or in anger. Threats and physical punishment may not drive the lesson across as much as a calm discussion with the child, trying to understand what drove her to that action and to explain the moral consequences. This, of course, requires the parents to inherently have integrity and unshakeable principles.

    In a restaurant, a group of parents have brought their children for a party. A few of the children are running amok, pulling down the Christmas decorations in the restaurant. When the manager tries to bring the children under control, one of the fathers says angrily, “I can pay for the damage, why are you making a fuss?” What a sad state of affairs! In one fell swoop, the parent has taught the children that they do not have any responsibility towards other people's property and that money can bail them out of any trouble. Parenting is an immeasurable responsibility that we cannot take lightly.

    Character:

    This is a much bandied word but difficult to define. What is good character? What does being ethical mean in an era where morality is standing on shaky grounds? Character or ethics means being honest even when nobody's watching. We have to teach our children that being good and straightforward is not predicated on whether somebody is policing us but has to be our ‘default' behaviour.

    We have to constantly reward the child when she exhibits good behaviour and gently turn her away from unacceptable conduct.

    Choices:

    Ritika watched as a new classmate sat alone while everybody sat in groups during lunch break. She walked up to her and started talking to her. When she narrated this event to her mother, she said that she just felt it was unfair that anybody should feel so lonely and left out. Ritika has learnt to make the right choices. She was not intimidated by the herd mentality of her classmates but made the choice to befriend a newcomer.

    Courage:

    Making the right moral choices requires courage. All choices may not be universally accepted and sometimes we may have to fly in the face of popular opinion to uphold what we consider right. We have to always let our children know that we will support them when they have chosen the unpopular but ethical path. This unconditional love and support will reinforce their beliefs and will instil the moral compass in them.

    Goals for a parent

    All parents want to do the best for their child. They will stint and scrounge on their own expenses so that they can provide their children with education and opportunities. If we think the child has potential in music or sports, we do everything in our means to help the child flourish and shine.

    Are these goals enough? A child needs to be taught a strong set of values and needs reinforcement regularly to make the decision between right and wrong. Different children may have different talents but every child has the power to become a morally upright, decent human being. Therein lies the parent's responsibility.

    The author is an obstetrician and gynaecologist practising in Chennai and has written the book 'Passport to a Healthy Pregnancy'.
     
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  3. civfanatic

    civfanatic Retired Moderator

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    I disagree with the first paragraph itself.

    How does a newborn have an "innate" sense of what is right or wrong? There is no way infants or small children can grasp the concept of "morality". All infants have certain needs - physical, social, and emotional - and all they care about is that these needs are fulfilled. There are no "moral" strings attached.

    The concept of "morality" itself is highly subjective. In most "developed" countries, the act of killing/mutilating other human beings is seen as highly immoral. And I'm sure both you and I can agree that it is a highly undesirable act. However, there are many societies with different concepts of "morality". In the Kuku tribe of Papua New Guinea, for example, ritual cannibalism is seen as a perfectly normal - and in fact, socially desirable - act. None of the Kuku tribesmen would desribe this behavior as "immoral". So who are we to decide what is "moral" and what is not?

    The whole idea of some "inner voice" guiding us right from birth is bullshit. All humans are molded from birth by six main factors: parents, siblings, peers, education systems, media outlets, and reference groups. Our set of morals is determined not by some "inner voice" but by how we are socialized by these six factors. Of these factors, I would probably rank "parents" as being the most significant (as your article attests), though it really depends on the individual and his/her environment.

    I apologize for going off on a tangent, but I felt I had to reply, as I strongly disagree with the idealistic fundamentals that this article is based on :)
    Nonethesless, I agree with the overall message that you are trying to convey. Parents should definitely try to have a positive impact on their children by being good role models for them and showing examples of respectable behavior. At the same time, however, they should realize that they cannot mold a child into exactly what they desire, as there are other factors at work beyond their control. As I see it, the parent should merely build the road for the child, and nudge him in that direction, but avoid shoving him into places where he does not desire to go.
     
  4. Vyom

    Vyom Seeker Elite Member

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    Here are your answers. :)

    Each one of us have an innate sense of right and wrong, and that sense prevails from birth itself (not meant to be taken literally). How does that happen? The idea is simple, all children, (if they ever grow up and do not die) come to feel the care, affection and love they get from the family. Their needs are taken extreme care, and that very benign start gives the sense of right and wrong. Mind it, it is only a sense, and people in general suppress that sense with their worldly experience and reasonings as they grow up. A child will definitely have a second thought before doing a wrong thing, a grown who has done the same thing or similar thing won't.

    This is the biggest misunderstanding. I think most of the world suffers from this imbroglio. Morality is never subjective, it is we who adorn it with different meanings suitable to our understanding, culture or tradition. What we sometimes do is to mold morality according to our traditions or culture, instead of letting morality shape our traditions and culture.

    Morality deals with justice and if justice becomes subjective, then we truly have lost all sense of it, for it solely thrives on impartiality and balance. To some extent, we may choose to let it be subjective only for certain trivial issues (for example dress code in public), not for core human values.

    It is actually closely related with the understanding of the world (I mean both physical and causal) or the lack of it. But that is another story.

    No sorry you are wrong. The two most important factors are conscience and knowledge. It is the person himself who leads to the path of right or wrong. The world influences everyone, it is the person who gets influenced towards the wrong direction, is to be blamed. Morality is the reflection of the strength of character of a person.

    A person commits wrong only in two cases: either out of ignorance or out of loss of conscience (that is being aware or in sense of what is right and what is wrong).

    The article sends a benign message, idealistic but still pragmatic. They are not diametric words as you might have been thinking. They can go along hand-in-hand, depending on the person.

    I agree!
     
    Last edited: Dec 28, 2010
  5. johnee

    johnee Elite Member Elite Member

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    Well, according to science and daily experience, a person has innate sense of what he can do and what not based on his previous experience. This theory is extended further by Hinduism. According to Hinduism, even a newborn depends on his previous experience(past life, perhaps). For example, a newborn knows how to drink milk without being taught. Similarly, based on the newborn's other past experiences(past life), he will have a sense of right or wrong.
     
  6. civfanatic

    civfanatic Retired Moderator

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    You are correct. However, a child must first receive this care in order to develop this "innate sense". That is, he is not "born" with it. A child who is born to an abusive and neglected family, for example, will not have this "innate" sense that you are talking about. This child will have a completely different set of "morals" compared to the child that received proper care.


    Systems of justice are different in different cultures, as they reflect the prevailing attitudes of that culture. The systems of justice are objective within themselves, meaning the decision-making process must conform to an established set of values, but these values themselves are subjective. Thus, every system of justice is subjective insofar as it is a mere reflection of the culture as a whole.

    To give a contemporary example, the systems of "Western" law and Islamic "Shar'ia" law are extremely different, and there are many proponents of both systems who decry the other system as "immoral". Indeed, some would go as far as saying they violate "core human values". Yet they are hundreds of millions of people who live fairly comfortably within both system. Which system is moral, and which is immoral?

    Please elaborate, I am interested in your opinions.

    "Conscience" is the mere result of our experiences throughout life. "Knowledge" is the form in which we collect experiences. Both are reflections of one's environment.

    Whether or not we go in the "right" or "wrong" direction is the cumulation of the many influences that world exerts on us. Although it may be easy for you and I to resist such influences now, and go our seperate ways, as a child we grow by imitating everything around us, and it is during the childhood years themselves that the our future "morality" is set (for the most part). In other words, we are most prone to influences when we are young, and it these childhood influences that determine which "direction" we go in.

    There is no such thing as a "strong" or "weak" child.

    A person can commit a wrong even if he knows it is wrong, by deliberately ignoring his/her conscience.

    I agree with the general message of the article, though from a different angle that you may. I agree with it in the sense that it is extremely important for children to have role models for them to imitate and develop good character.

    However, the article assumes that all humans are fundamentally "good". This is an extremely naive assertion, and I cannot agree with that. Our environment determines who we become.
     
  7. civfanatic

    civfanatic Retired Moderator

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    The highlighted segment is what is crucial here. Prior experience is a vital prerequisite for developing a sense of "morality".

    Also, I am an atheist, so I will disregard the part about reincarnation.
     
  8. Vyom

    Vyom Seeker Elite Member

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    I don't think you mean to say all that children who have experienced hostile environment cannot have proper moral knowledge. On the contrary, you might find them more inclined to proper morality.

    But lets just see what is this "innate sense"? What kind of sense do you think, say, dogs have? A sense is not something you can quantify objectively. The sense, a person is born with is something we can only observe from the actions of a person. The sense is one's ability to find out what is right and what is wrong. The sense is one's ability to make justified decisions. The sense is one's ability to differentiate between white, gray and black pictures of the world. And if you have experienced the growing of a few children, you could notice that their basic sense have observable differences, even though they may have been subjected to the same conditioning.

    Established set of values? Values are not variable, they are constants. They are not to be established by people, they are to be learned and implemented by people. It is another thing that people have, in someplaces and sometimes, made morality and justice subjective, that however cannot not steal away the truth, for the truth is always singular.

    That is why they also create problems. What do you think is the most basic problem of this world? It is that we have never been able to have to a common opinion about this world and the premises that are fundamental for laying the foundations of our life and society. The world cannot be a closed system of small pockets and still survive peacefully.

    It is not simply an opinion. It requires extensive and in-depth learning, discovery and analysis. I think I will write a blog on it when I find the time. But I tell you this, that without knowing the world you cannot form the axioms of life, and due to which you are prone to make incorrect decisions even on trivial matters.

    The direction of our life and the direction of the society as a whole is elementarily dependent upon the knowledge of the world and the knowledge of our own self.

    No sir, they are not reflections of environment but of self. If that would be the case, we would be reduced to a mere automaton rather than a conscious being.

    As I said, what a person emulates is entirely up to him/her. He may be subjected to good or bad, but if his conscience is clear and in the right direction, he will make the right decisions. And if his conscience is not clear, then he cannot see light even while standing under sun.

    There is! But I would not say child, I would say person.

    That is what I mean by loss of conscience.

    Can you prove that they are fundamentally not good? Even by your logic, the environment is the ultimate culprit.
     
  9. johnee

    johnee Elite Member Elite Member

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    A person's actions are not based only on his 'innate sense'. Generally, one's actions are guided by location(involves the audience to the action), time(the general trends of the time), circumstances(particular events) and character(of the doer). Thus, morals of a person are also guided by these factors. The 'innate sense' of morals(or lack of such sense) change over time based on these factors.
     
  10. Singh

    Singh Phat Cat Administrator

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    Will give you both a simple analogy.

    There is a thief, he loves to steal but one day his house was robbed, will he feel happy ? No

    There is a thug who loves to beat up people but one day he is beaten up, will he fell happy ? No

    There is a person who loves to lie but one day he is lied to, will he be happy ? No

    It is the dharma of a human to do good, everyone has this sense of viveka/discriminate in their buddhi/intellect but few are able to act on it.

    So yes I agree with the statement "Every child is born with an innate sense of right and wrong, and an inbuilt knowledge of what is fair."

    ---
     
  11. civfanatic

    civfanatic Retired Moderator

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    As stated before, all children need a role model in order to understand what is "right" and "wrong". Without a proper role model, from whom will they obtain this knowledge?

    A child born in a hostile environment can still live a good life if positive influences enter the child's life afterwards. However, many cases have shown that one's experiences during childhood are often detrimental to actions later in life.

    So different people have different "senses"? What accounts for this difference?

    Please list some of these "constant" values. I can guarantee there are people around the world (more than you may think) who would disagree with each of them on various grounds.

    Different people have different ways of perceiving things, and it is these differences in perception that account for different values, and thus different concepts of morality. How we perceive something is fundamentally based on how we have been socialized from birth.

    As long as there are at least two human beings alive, there will be at least two opinions on life, universe, and everything else. Diversity in opinion is not to be vilified, but welcomed, for it is what encourages conducive debate and the emergence of new ideas.

    As far as building a global system of values is concerned, it is not impossible, but doing so would be difficult to say the least. The best steps towards that would be to connect as many people as possible to the global mainstream, so they can share their values, ideas, and opinions with other people around the world.

    The world is far too vast for someone like me to comprehend! I can spend a lifetime studying it and barely scratch the surface!

    As for my own self, I am still trying to understand it! :)

    Our "self" is not predetermined. It grows with our experiences, and thus our environment. Our mind is able to collect these experiences (knowledge) and use them as a "roadmap". The paths that we can take in life are determined by how we react to our experiences. And since our reactions are ultimately our free will, it is through this that we are able to maintain our consciousness.

    And please do not call me "sir", I am too young for that!

    What determines this "conscience"? How does one gain or lose their "conscience"?

    A person can only embark upon a certain number of paths, and these paths, as stated earlier, are determined by their prior experiences. A person cannot be expected to embark on the "right" path if he has no prior idea of what a "right" path is!

    All children grow by imitation, and during this crucial stage of development, they do not know nor care about the nature of their imitations. They may either imitate good role models or extremely bad role models. Either way, the child cannot be blamed for having "weak" or "strong" character, for the child is ignorant about what is "right" or "wrong"

    Humans are fundamentally neither good nor bad, for "good" and "bad" are both subjective in themselves. I view every human as being born as a "blank slate", if you will, and whether we become "good" or "bad" depends on what is written on that slate.
     
  12. Vyom

    Vyom Seeker Elite Member

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    It seems you are really going to make me sweat for this.


    There are a few things here getting mixed up.

    Firstly, you are confusing conscience with knowledge. Knowledge is something you can gain from anywhere and you do gain from everywhere. And although knowledge facilitates conscience, it is the conscience that takes the final decision on matters. Knowledge does grow in void. Each person have the intellect to derive knowledge from the world and it is the intellectual ability of a person that is the prime factor in defining the clarity of their conscience.

    Secondly, you are considering certain factors that influence a person as the prime factors that shape their character. Role models are for the purpose of walking an already laid down path. They may inspire both good and bad in a person. But please try to understand that all factors external can only influence a person, what a person ultimately does and how their character is shaped, is ultimately dependent on the person himself. You may take my example, I have never had a role model in my life. That does not mean I have no knowledge of morality (oh but for you may be I don't :p).

    If we are nothing in ourselves and the environment dictates what we become then we cannot be called conscious beings. We will be an automaton like a computer animated character.

    We are the Homo Sapiens, the ultimate embodiment of consciousness on earth, please don't reduce us to lower species. :)


    There are many cases to everything, but according to you those who have not seen moral role models cannot have moral knowledge is the wrong assertion that I was pointing to.


    Ah, now you get to the mystic part. This question requires us to first learn many parallel dimensions of knowledge. But just for starters, let me say one point. Our consciousness and intellect both undergo unending evolutionary stages. This stage of our intellect and consciousness accounts for the difference.


    Don't you know them? Those who disagree on the constant values, aren't they irrelevant on the grounds of truth? What "established" set of values work in a pocket of society is irrelevant, what you can determine as justified and balanced, as an independent observer, is what holds ground on truth.


    You are again counting one of the factors as the only factor responsible for shaping of a person's character. This is the problem in your approach. BTW, do you know many popular ex-Muslims who are extremely critical of Islam? They were conditioned by the same environment that they hate now. If what you said have been true, that would not have been the case. You will find many similar cases in other religions, traditions and cultures as well.


    Yes, there is difference of opinion. But the ultimate task of the society of mankind is to bridge the difference of opinion over the core premises upon which we base our life. They are already known to us, they are not new. We do not need to find the basic premises of life, we just need to learn them. Difference of opinion is good only till the extent, we have not discovered what we are trying to discover.

    Also note the fact that many difference of opinions arise not because of genuine reasonings but because of selfish interests and attachments of various kinds.

    Well, if ever that happens, there will be no greater to goal to achieve in this world for our society as a whole. It is not as easy as you have put forth. The greatest hindrance are unfounded attachments and personal weakness of character.

    If ever that has to happen, each of us would require to analyze the world as an independent observer, not an attached entity.


    The greatest trait for you need to understand the world is detachment. You mentioned, in one of your posts that you are an atheist. That is attachment. Don't fall into any category until you have found the truth and then remain only in the category of the truth and nothing else.


    Now you get to the crux of the matter. :)


    I can hence understand why I am sweating so much here. :)


    Conscience is actually never lost, by loss I meant suppression of conscience.


    But he always has the freedom to discover the "right" path. I have grown up with this very fact.


    I would again reiterate, imitation, role modeling, etc is not the sole path all children take. They may be influential factors, but not the only factors. A child can learn from nature. A child can learn from his own experience (for example I remember how my hand got stuck in jar of cookies when I tried to take a lot of cookies out). A child also learns from theory, story-telling, etc, and a child may also be inclined to morality due to lack of it.


    On the contrary, the slate is never blank, and you won't know this until you can know the fundamentals of this world and life itself.
     

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