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If it feels right, is it right?

If it feels right, is it right?

David Brooks has written another fine piece that explores whether we have become so reluctant about ethics that our young people can’t even identify moral dilemmas, let alone be equipped to wrestle with them:

If it feels right

From the New York Times

When asked to describe a moral dilemma they had faced, two-thirds of the young people either couldn’t answer the question or described problems that are not moral at all, like whether they could afford to rent a certain apartment or whether they had enough quarters to feed the meter at a parking spot.

“Not many of them have previously given much or any thought to many of the kinds of questions about morality that we asked,” Smith and his co-authors write. When asked about wrong or evil, they could generally agree that rape and murder are wrong. But, aside from these extreme cases, moral thinking didn’t enter the picture, even when considering things like drunken driving, cheating in school or cheating on a partner. “I don’t really deal with right and wrong that often,” is how one interviewee put it.

The default position, which most of them came back to again and again, is that moral choices are just a matter of individual taste. “It’s personal,” the respondents typically said. “It’s up to the individual. Who am I to say?”


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Peggy Blanchard +

It’s probably unrealistic to expect young people to know how to make decisions about values when their parents and teachers haven’t taught them how. As a member of the Boomer generation, I recall the earnest concern so many of us had to be open-minded, not directive, regarding our children’s development of spiritual and moral values. The only other alternative seemed to be the black-and-white course, “this is right, this is wrong, end of discussion.” But young people who haven’t had some guidance in learning a process by which values are identified and claimed, and then applied to daily decision-making, these young people tend to be conscious only of the sorts of decision-making they -have- been taught: how to shop, how to win, how to look good, external things. The disillusionment of our Boomer generation with our parents’ unquestioning values has indirectly produced a generation of people with difficulty even identifying values.

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