Serious subject: Michael Gove at Twyford Church of England school in January 2010, where he emphasised the importance of science teaching
Our cities have been set ablaze and our dignity trampled upon by the worst attack on Britain since the Second World War. But these were not outsiders who declared war on us. They were some of our own working-class and even middle-class children who lacked a moral compass when they turned on us, their elders, demonstrating little or no respect for everything we have taught them.
Of course, this may be because we haven't really taught them much. Neither our parents, schools, nor our communities have managed to teach our children right from wrong. While Rousseau claimed that man is inherently good, even he recognised that for morality and self-restraint to inculcate themselves within the human heart and mind, they must be taught. But too often parents presume that their children are born with an innate instinct to know right from wrong. As adults, having developed instinctual moral feeling themselves, they forget that they were in fact taught right from wrong by their own parents.
A child will exercise power over whatever he perceives to be weaker — a younger sibling, a small animal, an insect. For a child to learn how to be good, his parents must punish him when he does something wrong and reward him when he does something right. His parents must also spend enough time with him in order to set a good example so that he can copy their actions, learn that he cannot do whatever he likes, and see that every choice has a consequence. Eventually, through constant repetition, the child will learn a moral code that will become instinctive as he grows older. As Aristotle says, "Excellence is not an act; it is a habit." It is a habit that is learnt in childhood, when "choice" is managed by the control of parents.
But if fathers are absent and mothers are too busy, they are unlikely to fulfil their parental duty by setting boundaries that are meant to stop the child from satisfying his deeper and more selfish desires. The child's choices must be limited by the parents, to guide him carefully towards self-restraint, or else he will simply do as he pleases. If parents fail at this, later in life, when this young person is confronted with moral choice, he will be at sea, incapable of distinguishing between right and wrong.
Children must be given the chance to develop the moral instinct we all take for granted — an instinct that is fundamental to our survival as a society. If as a child you get to eat what you want, sit in front of the television as much as you like, satisfy your personal desires even if it means harming others, the likelihood is that you will not make the correct moral choice when faced with a decision to either steal an Xbox or stay at home and do your homework. Absence of boundaries, aversion to order, disregard and disrespect for others then become guiding principles throughout the child's life and later into adulthood.
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