I’m approaching my 82nd birthday, and my daughter will occasionally suggest that modernity is perplexing to me because I’m from prehistoric times. As such, it points to one of the unavoidable problems of youth — namely, the temptation to think that today’s behavioral standards have always been. Let’s look at a few of the differences between yesteryear and today.
One of those differences is the treatment of women. There are awesome physical strength differences between men and women. To create and maintain civil relationships between the sexes is to drum into boys, starting from very young ages, that they are not to use violence against a woman for any reason. Special respect is given women. Yesteryear even the lowest of lowdown men would not curse or use foul language to or in the presence of women. To see a man sitting on a crowded bus or trolley car while a woman is standing used to be unthinkable. It was deemed common decency for a man to give up his seat for a woman or elderly person.
Today young people use foul language in front of — and often to — adults and teachers. It’s not just foul language. Many youngsters feel that it’s acceptable to assault teachers. Just recently, 45 Pennsylvania teachers resigned because of student violence (http://tinyurl.com/yacmn5dz). Back in what my daughter calls prehistoric times, the use of foul language to an adult or teacher would have meant a smack across the face. Of course, today a parent taking such corrective action risks being reported to a local child protective service and even being arrested. The modern parental or teacher response to misbehavior is to call for “time out.” In other words, what we’ve taught miscreants of all ages is that they can impose physical pain on others and not suffer physical pain themselves. That’s an open invitation to bad behavior.
It has always been considered a good idea to refrain from sexual intercourse until marriage or at least adulthood. During the sexual revolution of the 1960s, lessons of abstinence were ridiculed, considered passe and replaced with lessons about condoms, birth control pills and abortion. Out-of-wedlock childbirths are no longer seen as shameful and a disgrace. As a result, the rate of illegitimate births among whites is over 30 percent, and among blacks, it’s over 70 percent.
For over a half-century, the nation’s liberals — along with the education establishment, pseudo-intellectuals and the courts — have waged war on traditions, customs and moral values. Many in today’s generation have been counseled to believe that there are no moral absolutes. Instead, what’s moral or immoral, right or wrong, is a matter of convenience, personal opinion or what is or is not criminal.
Society’s first line of defense is not the law but customs, traditions and moral values. Customs, traditions and moral values are those important thou-shalt-nots, such as thou shalt not murder, shalt not steal, shalt not lie and shalt not cheat. They also include respect for parents, teachers and others in authority, plus those courtesies one might read in Emily Post’s rules of etiquette. These behavioral norms — mostly transmitted by example, word of mouth and religious teachings — represent a body of wisdom distilled over the ages through experience, trial and error, and looking at what works and what doesn’t.
The importance of customs, traditions and moral values as a means of regulating behavior is that people behave themselves even if nobody’s watching. There are not enough cops. Laws can never replace these restraints on personal conduct in producing a civilized society. At best, the police and the criminal justice system are the last desperate lines of defense for a civilized society. Unfortunately, customs, traditions and moral values have been discarded without an appreciation for the role they played in creating a civilized society, and now we’re paying the price — and that includes the recent revelations regarding the treatment of women.
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Walter E. Williams is a professor of economics at George Mason University.
The views expressed in opinion articles are solely those of the author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by Black Community News.
Newscaster, you mean well. The answer isn’t looking to getting the kids mental health needs met. Our society, parental involvement first and foremost, not govt. is solution. Undo laws that interfere with parents raising kids/biblical standards. Undo welfare system that rewards single mothers and encourages more problems like we see.
Ahh, Dr. Williams, what a pleasure reading “common sense!” I too am from “prehistoric times.” You are just single digits more prehistoric than I. I proudly claim to be one of the very few remaining that actually mowed hay fields behind a team of horses, not some new fangled tractor. Gee and Haw were known commands.
You are, sadly, so correct that America has experienced a drastic moral decline over the past fifty-odd years. Though certainly insensitive, and possibly even inappropriate, the castigation/scorn heaped upon a young teen girl becoming pregnant was NOT to be wished for! Everybody in school, those days, knew who the “easy” girls were. When the “stigma” of imprudent behavior was removed, as you noted, the flood gates of impropriety opened. When the new slogan of the ’60’s became, “If it feels good, just do it,” and “FREE LOVE” was the rallying cry, our moral house of cards started to decay.
Not sure? I think I have shared this with you previously, and they may even be from one of your articles, but the saddest part of these stats are that they are NOT improving:
“In 1960, barely 2 percent of all American children, from all racial and ethnic backgrounds, lived with a never married parent. By 2008, 41 percent of black children, 18 percent of Hispanic children, and 7 percent of white children lived in a home with an unmarried parent.
“Over this same period of time, from 1960 to 2008, the percentage of white adults that are married dropped from 74 percent to 56 percent, Hispanic adults from 72 percent to 50 percent, and black adults from 61 percent to 32 percent. Since that “legislating from the bench” SCOTUS decree in ’73, Americans have killed the equivalent of entire populations of several ‘countries’ through abortion – 61 million and counting.”
Those are from almost ten years ago – every one of those indicators are worse today. Remember, over 1200 abortions are conducted, DAILY, in this country – how long can any country survive killing their own “replacements?”
Already too long in my first, so just wanted to provide more stats in support of “the why” of America’s moral collapse:
Positive responses are at record highs for the moral acceptability of birth control (91 percent), divorce (73 percent), sex between an unmarried man and woman (69 percent), homosexual relations (63 percent), out-of-wedlock birth (62 percent), abortion (43 percent), pornography (36 percent).
Once considered taboo, and those participating in these activities were highly stigmatized and often shunned, they are NOW considered normal! Those disagreeing are considered not Politically Correct, and are the ones being labeled as a racist, homophobe, or whatever ‘phobe in current use.