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Ellen Feig

Professor, Bergen Community College


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Can one teach young people to be moral? Is morality something that must be taught in the home? Is it innate?

Currently I am working on a professional development platform focused on teaching college students ethics and morality. Young people seem to be incredibly disengaged from others, have little sense of what it means to be moral, gracious or ethical and don't care. How can we teach morality or is it something that is innate?

Topics: ethics morality

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    Jan 24 2013: We have a good and evil side in all of us. Which side becomes dominant is partly innate and partly what we learn from each other. Environment conditioning plays a major role.

    We learn from many different forums. School is one. Media is one. Home is one. Church is one (if you go). Peer pressure is one. Role models are one. Internet is one.
    Today schools teach that God isn't important, most likely doesn't exist. So we get our signals from science; "survival of the fittest" and "we are a cosmic accident" are loud and clear. Video games that require killing to win the game add to the "survival of the fittest" notion. And when the media tells us that the world is coming to an end, what is right is what will keep you alive.
    The idea that there may be divine retribution kept our parents in line. They thought about what they were doing because there may be far reaching penalties involved. Today, penalties are only evident in wrongdoing if you get caught. Getting away with what you can get away with is growing like a plague. Fortunately, most people still have integrity. But when push comes to shove, morality is no longer the main issue. It's all about survival. This is a hard thing to bear when you are trying to teach what is right because people have so many different notions about what is right.

    Before you can instill morality, you must first establish is this all there is to life, or are we part of something much bigger than ourselves! "All is fair in love and war" and "Might makes right" are very strong statements. Is this true, or is there more to it than that?
    • Jan 25 2013: I feel like atheists and agnostics want to have their cake and eat it too. Everybody wants to do the right thing. The problem is, when you take God out of the equation, there's no way to tell what's "right" anymore. There just isn't. So many people are trying to, but it just can't work. The end result of atheism is that we are animals, there is no purpose to life, so you might as well do what you want and have fun. There can be no right or wrong as atheists, but I feel like nobody wants to admit that. Those of you who are atheists, what do you think? Am I completely wrong here?

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