Phi Beta Cons

One More Problem with Students — They’re Moral Relativists

What’s the matter with American college students? Besides the fact that many of them are lazy, feel entitled to good grades, and can’t be civil towards anyone who questions their “progressive” beliefs, there is something else — they’re moral relativism.

In today’s Pope Center article, Professor Richard Cocks, who teaches philosophy at SUNY – Oswego, laments that many of his students have been indoctrinated with moral and cultural relativism in their K-12 years and gives this close-to-home example: “My son’s high school English teacher wanted her students to say that child slavery in Ghana is morally permissible, the unstated premised being that there are no absolute moral principles that apply to all cultures at all times and places.” Lurking behind that, Cocks maintains, is the notion that it’s wrong to be “judgmental” about other cultures. (Of course, that doesn’t apply to western culture, which is fair game for the most outrageous attacks.)

When students get into his class, he finds that many are so imbued with that “who am I to criticize another culture” notion that when he brings up such atrocities as female genital mutilation in Sudan, they reply, “That’s just your perspective.” It’s hard to disagree with the conclusion that their relativistic education has left them lacking in a moral compass.

Cocks goes on to explain how he deals with this problem by getting them to see that justice is not specific just to some human cultures, but is universal, even extending to some animal species. He has been able to convince students that “there are indeed moral principles that apply to everyone and criticism of other cultures is not being ‘intolerant.’”

I think it speaks volumes about the state of American education that so many students think it’s “intolerant” to criticize the most abominable practices in other cultures, but can’t see anything wrong in their own nasty attacks on those who disagree with them on issues like gun control, abortion, minimum wage laws, and so on.

 

George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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