Thursday, July 5, 2012

Child Morality by Counter-Example

Update: called it.

This post is for anyone who thinks they need to hit their kids to make them behave. Or, less extreme, that they need legal authority over them, or even that they need society to back them up in unilaterally imposing rules on them.

I was punished exactly once by my parents and exactly twice by my school. Both school instances were due to me throwing a snowball at a tree. (Unless you count a stern talking-to, I don't.)

As for the one time being sent to my room, my mother asked me to do something and then I didn't, deliberately provoking her in front of guests. I was hoping she'd punish me and then she did. Later, she conditionally apologized for even that, and I tried to communicate that I'd done it on purpose without actually admitting outright it was essentially a cold calculation. (This is not the only time 'authorities' apologized to me after reacting to my semi-conscious provocation.)

I care deeply about morality. I make a point of not only not lying, but not deceiving, except in self-defence. (Though admittedly this is partly because it's a challenge.) By all means, point out what I'm doing wrong or might be doing wrong, because if it is something I haven't noticed, I'd like to stop.

Verification: was my school lax, or was I considered a good kid? Not using my parents because the situation is complicated and I bet you don't care.

On a few occasions exploited my reputation as one of the good kids to get away with breaking the rules and being tattled on. I specifically chose things I'd seen others get punished for. While amusing, I sadly can't do that anymore due to my no-deception experiment.

Which conclusion do you prefer: I'm some moral genius who doesn't need moral instruction, or are you simply wrong about how children learn morality?

If moral authorities should be able to hit their lessers to make them behave, then apparently I should be able to hit you to make you behave.

I'm okay with either.
I'm tired of the bullshit justifications for having it both ways.

Of note because in the past people always choose exactly the wrong moment to listen to me: once you start hitting your kids, it's hard to stop because the process is self-reinforcing. As I was only ever hit by other kids, I'm not sure exactly why, perhaps they acclimatize to the level of punishment. Though it seems to me that kids are so naturally obedient that if you send the message, "You won't behave unless I hit you; it's for your own good," and then you stop hitting them, they'll obediently stop behaving in support of that notion.

"Once these sacred relations become a society’s moral constitution, as in our “One Nation Under God,” they cannot be undone without risking collapse of the public order that secures personal welfare."
I read this as saying not-God morality isn't impossible, however God morality crowds out other kinds, which means once you have God morality, even if a better alternative is developed, swapping it out isn't a decision to be made lightly. Similarly, swapping out hitting morality isn't to be done lightly. However, if you have a clean slate....

1 comment:

Kent McManigal said...

"I make a point of not only not lying, but not deceiving, except in self-defense."

Good! I don't think many people have stumbled across the reality that when faced with liars who lie to hurt the innocent, or with people who are seeking to initiate force or theft, lying is a good thing. It can be self defense and defense of others. Would I lie to protect "Jews in the attic"? Yes I would. And I'd lie to protect the guy growing marijuana or the guy with a concealed weapon and the guy driving without a license, etc. Anyone seeking information to use against an innocent person is not owed the truth. Telling them the truth wouldn't be a good thing.

I think it is not only OK to lie to The State, it is the right thing to do in most cases.