By Richard Maybury
Reprint from the Nov-Dec 2011 EWR
I write often about the economic experiments governments have been doing on us for a century or more. Politicians also use us as guinea pigs in educational experiments.
A new such experiment was sweeping the public schools when my wife and I were doing stints as teachers in the 1970s — me for four years and her for eight. The experiment is one of the things that prompted me to write my Uncle Eric book Whatever Happened To Justice?
The experiment was, and in some places still is, called Values Clarification.
I remember in my school, the teacher assigned to teach Values Clarification to mid-teens had been raised Jewish, and she was troubled by her new assignment.
She had been taught to believe there are certain boundaries that are knowable and true, and should never be crossed: don't steal, don't murder, and don't break your agreements, among others.
Values Clarification, which has now been taught to millions, leads children to believe truth is just a matter of opinion, which means right and wrong are just matters of opinion.
Please read the last 17 words again.
That's the philosophical premise of fascism. In politics it leads to the conclusion that power holders should do whatever appears necessary, no exceptions, no limits. Every Jew is raised to know where this leads, which is why the mere mention of the word fascism makes some Jews go ballistic.
The young Jewish teacher was highly intelligent and could see through the jargon of tolerance in the Values Clarification course. She was torn. Should she follow orders, thereby helping to erase the children's ethics, or should she go renegade and quietly teach the children that right and wrong are knowable?
She never told me what she decided to do, and I'm glad, because if she disobeyed orders, our teaching contract would have required me to turn her in. I knew her well, though, and I'm sure she decided to violate orders and teach against fascism. (Shortly thereafter, my wife and I resigned.)
Other teachers went along with the experiment. The reason I can say this with certainty is the new book Lost In Transition by Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith. I have not read the book, but I've read articles about its findings.
Essentially, what Smith and his team learned from studying a cross section of American youth, ages 18 to 23, can be summarized by the comment of one young person: "I mean, I guess what makes something right is how I feel about it. But different people feel different ways, so I couldn't speak on behalf of anyone else as to what's right and wrong."
Notice the phrasing and choice of words in that sentence. This person is not stupid. Yet he does not know how to tell the difference between right and wrong.
That is what Smith and his team found across America. Here are two more representative comments:
• Right and wrong are "up to the individual. Who am I to say?"
• "I would do what I thought made me happy or how I felt. I have no other way of knowing what to do but how I internally feel."1
In short, a substantial part of the population has been trained to have no real ethics.
Smith's team found that young people not only do not know right from wrong, they don't even know how to think about the question, even in regard to such behaviors as drunk driving or cheating on a spouse. Moral codes are outside their experience.
This was easy to predict in the 1970s when the Values Clarification experiment was on the rise. Some of the more skeptical teachers 35 years ago secretly referred to it as Values Obfuscation.
But I never heard any teacher tell the parents what was being done to their kids.
Today, some of those kids have grown up to be teachers.
I have a huge 1969 Webster's unabridged dictionary of 2,662 pages, and a copy of the original 1828 Webster's. Neither says values are related to right and wrong. The definitions are about worth, in the sense that economists speak of price. The value of an apple is one dollar. The artistic value of the Mona Lisa is amazing.
Then things change. I have a teacher's manual from a 1973 Values Clarification course. The introduction begins: "Values are nebulous concepts, formed in the cradle and modified by experience, felt differently by every person," and "We cannot truly teach values."2
Along with traditional concepts of right and wrong such as honesty and responsibility, the course teaches about creativity, humor, leadership, cooperation, wonder, admiration and serenity. All these are values, too, says the course, just like honesty and responsibility.
Confused? Imagine how a child feels.
Then my 1988 Webster's contains a new meaning for values: "social principles, goals or standards." Another recent Webster's adds "a person's principles or standards of behavior; one's judgment of what is important in life."
It's amazing what a little linguistic sleight of hand can accomplish. "Values" has supplanted "ethics" and "morals," and right and wrong are determined by "one's judgment of what is important in life."
Smith found that when young people were asked to describe a moral dilemma they had faced, two-thirds either did not understand the question or described problems that are not moral, such as whether they could afford to rent a certain apartment. Smith said the two-thirds do not appear to know how to think about right and wrong.
In short, Values Clarification did indeed turn out to be values obfuscation. Millions are without a moral compass. They aren't immoral, they're amoral.
If your occupation requires you to interview job applicants, you might ask them if they were taught Values Clarification in school. If the answer is yes, look out.
Note that under withering criticism of Values Clarification, some schools may have changed the name.
This brings us to the court system
Humans, being human, do not always agree. When serious disputes occur, they have found only two ways to resolve them. One is to try to beat the opponent into submission or kill him. The other is go to court.
If government has any legitimate purpose, it must be to prevent violence, by operating an efficient police and court system based on logic and ethics. Think about it.
And, statists long ago learned that the way to force the public to cave in to higher taxes is to cut back these most essential services until everyone is terrified.
The Economist magazine reports that courts "all over the country" are now being cut back.3 A county in Georgia has stopped civil suits altogether, and in California, where a "fair and speedy" civil trial already takes two years to get to court, parties who are at each other's throats may soon find they will wait five. One judge understandably warns this would bring about "the unraveling of society."4
I believe it is a near certainty now that…
…a perfect storm of violence is near
We've already seen the flash mobs and riots of August, and now we're seeing members of the Occupy Wall Street crowd calling for the same.
I'm sure no small percentage of the people who have been looting and burning were taught Values Clarification. They are doing what feels right to them.
The scariest thing I've heard in a long time…
…happened October 11th. A column of Occupy Wall Street protestors, reportedly numbering 2,000, sought out and marched to homes of persons they believed were wealthy. A spokesman said the column of irate protestors was "visiting" the homes of the well off "who hoard wealth at the expense of the 99 percent."5
Imagine looking out your window one afternoon to find hundreds of furious people who hate you, who want your money, and believe they have a right to it.
The Occupy Wall Street protests have spread to an estimated 150 cities.6
Summarizing: it's here
Along with a completely dysfunctional and corrupt government, a crumbling court system, wobbly economy, high unemployment, and what appears to be the beginning of widespread riots, we have millions in two generations who have been made incapable of knowing right from wrong.
Notice that this is not a forecast, it's real. It's here now.
A lot of the people at the top levels of government were likely taught Values Clarification. When they give a hate-the-rich speech, I'm sure they are doing what feels right to them.
See to your safety — do it now
For at least 20 years I've been saying the economic experiment the government launched in 1971 would eventually lead to worldwide violence in the streets, and it is a good idea for everyone to be ready to defend themselves and ride out a period of shortages of food and other necessities.
Then the January 2009 EWR announced, "I think the December riots in Greece were the beginning of global mayhem."
Two months later I wrote, "Clearly, America now has a banana republic government and economy. This means, in my opinion, it will soon have banana republic social trouble, including severe joblessness, homelessness, crime and shortages. I can't see how this mess won't lead to riots. Continue building your emergency preparations."
In August this year, the riots arrived.
Two things you should do now
The Values Clarification chickens are coming home to roost. I'm afraid we are headed for a global Kristallnacht7 in which the targets will be not only Jews but anyone a crowd might regard as well off.
If you have not made your emergency preparations, the first thing I suggest is that you get started immediately. Not tomorrow, now.
The hayseed maneuver
My wife keeps an old beat-up truck and a supply of cast-off clothes including straw hats. These enable us to travel around looking like a couple of hayseeds instead of members of the well off.
Here's another idea. It is admittedly self-serving, but I hope you will consider it.
Values Clarification had a lot to do with my decision to write Whatever Happened To Justice? Numerous comments from people who own the book have convinced me it is extremely helpful to the young. For a person who does not have a moral compass, it creates one, and for those who have one but could use some help standing against the crowd in school, it provides some of this much needed additional strength. A school is, after all, a peer pressure cooker, and there is a limit to how much ridicule a child can take.
This is not puffery. Lots of readers have told me their children find Whatever Happened To Justice? a godsend. It teaches about right and wrong by using rules common to all religions, which is what the old British Common Law was all about.
So, if you have children or grandchildren, please help them. Give them copies of Whatever Happened To Justice? as holiday gifts.
I waited 35 years to write about Values Clarification, because I knew how crazy it would sound. Could a government experiment using our children as guinea pigs erase the population's sense of right and wrong?
Now we have Smith's study as real scientific evidence that this is exactly what has been happening. ♦
1 "If It Feels Right…," by David Brooks, NEW YORK TIMES website, 12 Sep 11.
2 LEARNING ABOUT VALUES, David L. Cook Publishing Co., 1973, p.3.
3 "The feeblest branch," THE ECONOMIST, 1 Oct 11, p.31.
4 Ibid., "The feeblest…"
5 "Hedge Fund Manager John Paulson to…," ABC News website, 11 Oct 11.
6 Ibid., "Hedge Fund…"
7 Kristallnacht ("Crystal Night"): In Nov. 1938, attacks against Jews throughout Nazi Germany.