coromandal


no such thing as a moral fact
July 26, 2015, 2:21 pm
Filed under: brave new world | Tags: , , ,

If children are taught from a very early age, as apparently many are, that facts are tested and proven and opinions are feelings or beliefs, then they don’t learn that morals – not tested, nor proven – are not just feelings, that morals can be facts. That it’s not ok to kill someone or discriminate is not proved, is not an opinion, is a moral fact. I can imagine living with one or two people who believe this – they can be contradicted and quelled – but a generation? Please no.

Justin McBrayer on morals:

When I went to visit my son’s second grade open house, I found a troubling pair of signs hanging over the bulletin board. They read:

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

Opinion: What someone thinks, feels, or believes.

[…]

In summary, 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. The punchline: there are no moral facts. And if there are no moral facts, then there are no moral truths.

The inconsistency in this curriculum is obvious. For example, at the outset of the school year, my son brought home a list of student rights and responsibilities. Had he already read the lesson on fact vs. opinion, he might have noted that the supposed rights of other students were based on no more than opinions. According to the school’s curriculum, it certainly wasn’t true that his classmates deserved to be treated a particular way — that would make it a fact. Similarly, it wasn’t really true that he had any responsibilities — that would be to make a value claim a truth. It should not be a surprise that there is rampant cheating on college campuses: If we’ve taught our students for 12 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.

[…]

We can do better. Our children deserve a consistent intellectual foundation. Facts are things that are true. Opinions are things we believe. Some of our beliefs are true. Others are not. Some of our beliefs are backed by evidence. Others are not. Value claims are like any other claims: either true or false, evidenced or not. The hard work lies not in recognizing that at least some moral claims are true but in carefully thinking through our evidence for which of the many competing moral claims is correct. That’s a hard thing to do. But we can’t sidestep the responsibilities that come with being human just because it’s hard.

That would be wrong.

The Stone Why Our Children Don’t Think There Are Moral Facts, Justin P. McBrayer

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