Waging War on Traditions, Customs and Moral Values

“What explains today’s behavior versus yesteryear’s?  For well over a half-century, the nation’s liberals and progressives—along with the education establishment, pseudo-intellectuals and the courts—have waged war on traditions, customs and moral values.  These people taught their vision, that there are no moral absolutes, to our young people.  To them, what’s moral or immoral is a matter of convenience, personal opinion or a consensus.”  Walter E. Williams

“Seeing as we’ve decided that we should rely on gun laws to control behavior, what should be done to regulate clubs and hammers?  After all, FBI crime statistics show that more people are murdered by clubs and hammers than rifles and shotguns.” Ibid.

The Real Problem

For a half-century, liberals and progressives have waged war on traditions, customs and moral values

Walter E. Williams, Whistleblower, February 2013, p. 42, 43

When I attended primary and secondary school – during the 1940s and ’50s – one didn’t hear of the kind of shooting mayhem that’s become routine today. Why? It schimel1954.jpg.opt902x1197o0,0s902x1197surely wasn’t because of strict firearm laws. My replica of the 1902 Sears mail-order catalog shows 35 pages of firearm advertise­ments. People just sent in their money, and a firearm was shipped.

Dr. John Lott, author of “More Guns, Less Crime,” re­ports that until the 1960s, some New York City public high schools had shooting clubs where students competed in city-wide shooting contests for university scholarships. They car­ried their rifles to school on the subways and, upon arrival, turned them over to their homeroom teacher or the gym coach and retrieved their rifles after school for target practice. Virginias rural areas had a long tradition of high-school stu­dents going hunting in the morning before school and some­times storing their rifles in the trunks of their cars that were parked on school grounds. Often a youngster’s 12th or 14th birthday present was a shiny new .22-caliber rifle, given to him by his father.

Todays level of civility can’t match yesteryears. Many of todays youngsters begin the school day passing through metal detectors. Guards patrol school hallways and police cars pa­trol outside. Despite these measures, assaults, knifings and shootings occur. According to the National Center for Edu­cation Statistics, in 2010 there were 828,000 nonfatal crimi­nal incidents in schools. There were 470,000 thefts and 359,000 violent attacks, of which 91,400 were serious. In the same year, 145,100 public-school teachers were physically attacked, and 276,700 were threatened.

What explains today’s behavior versus yesteryear’s? For well over a half-century, the nations liberals and progressives – along with the education establishment, pseudo-intellectuals and the courts — have waged war on traditions, customs and moral values. These people taught their vision, that there are no moral absolutes, to our young people. To them, what’s moral or immoral is a matter of convenience, personal opin­ion or a consensus.

During the ’50s and ’60s, the education establishment launched its agenda to undermine lessons children learned from their parents and the church with fads such as “values clarification.” So-called sex education classes are simply in­doctrination that sought to undermine family and church strictures against premarital sex. Lessons of abstinence were ridiculed and considered passe and replaced with, lessons about condoms, birth control pills and abortions. Further un­dermining of parental authority came with legal and extra­legal measures to assist teenage abortions with neither parental knowledge nor consent.

Customs, traditions, moral values and rules of etiquette, not laws and government regulations, are what make for a civilized society. These behavioral norms – transmitted by ex­ample, word of mouth and religious teachings – represent a body of wisdom distilled through ages of experience, trial and error, and looking at what works. The importance of customs, traditions and moral values as a means of regulating behaviors that people behave themselves even if nobody’s watching. Police and laws can never replace these restraints on personal conduct so as to produce a civilized society. At best, the po­lice and criminal justice system are the last desperate line of defense for a civilized society. The more uncivilized we be­come the more laws that are needed to regulate behavior.

Many 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. What’s worse is that instead of a return to what worked, peo­ple want to replace what worked with what sounds good, such as zero-tolerance policies in which bringing a water pis­tol, drawing a picture of a pistol, or pointing a finger and shouting “bang-bang” produces a school suspension or arrest. Seeing as we’ve decided that we should rely on gun laws to control behavior, what should be done to regulate clubs and hammers? After all, FBI crime statistics show that more people are murdered by clubs and hammers than rifles and shotguns.

Walter E. Williams, Ph.D., is the John M. Olin Distinguished Professor of Economics at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. He holds a Doctor of Humane Letters from Virginia Union University and Grove City College, Doctor of Laws from Washington and Jefferson College and Doctor Honoris Causa en Ciencias Sociales from Universidad Francisco Marroquin, in Guatemala, where he is also Professor Honorario.

 

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