Startling Clarity

Moral Relativism and Education

As the Professor said in the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, “I wonder what they do teach them at these schools."

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Chuck  Colson

For years, I’ve been warning you about the dangers of relativism and what happens when society abandons a Christian worldview. Now I’d like to show you.

Dr. Stephen Anderson teaches philosophy at A.B. Lucas Secondary School in Ontario, Canada. His students had just finished a unit on metaphysics and were about to start one on ethics.

To jump start the discussion and to “form a baseline from which they could begin to ask questions about the legitimacy of moral judgments of all kinds,” Anderson shared with them a gruesome photo of Bibi Aisha, a teenage wife of a Taliban fighter in Afghanistan. When Bibi tried to get away from her abusive husband, her family caught her, cut off her nose and ears, and left her to die in the mountains. Only Bibi didn’t die. Somehow she crawled to her grandfather’s house, and was saved in an American hospital.

Writing in Education Journal magazine, Anderson relates how he was sure that his students, “seeing the suffering of this poor girl of their own age, [they] would have a clear ethical reaction,” one they could talk about “more difficult cases.”

But their response shocked Anderson. “[He] expected strong aversion [to it], … but that’s not what I got. Instead, they became confused . . . afraid to make any moral judgment at all. They were unwilling to criticize,” as he said, “any situation originating in a different culture. They said, ‘Well, we might not like it, but maybe over there it’s okay.’”

Anderson calls their confusion and refusal to judge such child mutilation a moment of startling clarity, and indeed it is. He wonders if it stems not from too little education, but from too much multiculturalism and so-called “values education,” which is really just an excuse for moral relativism.

Anderson writes, “While we may hope some [students] are capable of bridging the gap between principled morality and this ethically vacuous relativism, it is evident that a good many are not. For them, the overriding message is ‘never judge, never criticize, never take a position.’” Anderson wonders whether in our current educational system, we’re not producing ethical paralytics? Well, if the horrifying example of the students’ reaction in this case is any indication, Anderson already knows the answer.

We would do well to ponder the words of Pope Benedict, who said on January first that neither justice nor peace is possible if we do not hold the Ten Commandments as expressions of objective truth. The Pope said that peace and justice are simply “words without content” unless founded on the bedrock of natural moral law, as expressed in the Decalogue, given to Moses more than 3,000 years ago.

Unfortunately, moral law, objective truth, and right and wrong are mostly ignored in today’s relativistic character and values approaches to education—and then we’re surprised when students no longer have the moral capacity to judge what happened to Bibi Aisha as wrong? It’s why we must combat moral relativism at every turn. It’s why we need teaching resources like our Doing the Right Thing DVD series on ethics, which you can get at ColsonCenter.org, and it’s important to do so.

You’ll be hearing a lot more from me in the coming months about the vital need for education reform here in the U.S. And today on my “Two-Minute Warning,” which I hope you’ll watch at ColsonCenter.org, I talk about exactly why Christians need to be involved. Please don’t miss it.

Further Reading and Information

Moments of startling clarity
Stephen L. Anderson | Education Journal | Fall 2011

Pope to renew attack on 'moral relativism' in New Year's message
Simon Caldwell | The Telegraph | December 30, 2011

Doing the Right Thing

Occupy the Schoolhouse
Chuck Colson | Two-Minute Warning | January 11, 2012



Only Too True
As a high school student in the public school system I must say that this article is only too true. Even though I'm at a high school where the majority of teachers and students are either Christian or Mormon this philosophy of never judging, or criticizing even blatant acts of evil so you don't "offend" someone has taken root in every aspect of school. Whether it is in history class teaching that the Taliban and other extremist Islamic groups are good because there just living "a different lifestyle", or in English where we have to read books that try to make us believe that "all paths lead to heaven" and other philosophies toxic to our faith and which try to erode any sense of ethics and morality that our country needs to be prosperous. So although this article refers to a story in a Canadian school I must say that this is not an isolated event by any means and that the public school system throughout every grade, just as the article states, has been pushing for this philosophy that is so toxic to this country. (I should mention that I go to a school in America)
Marguerite, the woman in the commentary is Aisha Bibi; the other woman you refer to is Asia Bibi. I can see how it's confusing!
Aisha Bibi
Just wondering if this name is correct or confused with another. Aishi Bibi is a Christian woman in Afghanistan who is has been awaiting execution for blasphemy for the last 2 years., falsely charged. She is the subject of much worldwide prayer. Seeing this other reference could lead to confusion.
Moral myopia
This reminds me of the account of Kay Haugaard teaching The Lottery by Shirley Jackson and having twenty seemingly intellegent adults refuse to judge human sacrifice. It seems the only judgement that can be rendered today is one against those of us who believe in transcendent morals.