If children don’t learn to talk when they are young, it becomes difficult or impossible to teach them. Children raised in isolation either never learn to talk, or do so poorly. There is a critical period for learning speech. One can argue about the exact age, but the longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes. There may be critical periods for learning other things besides speech.
Critical period for a conscience.
Some kids develop a moral sense early, while others do so later and with difficulty. We’re familiar with the kid – usually a boy – who constantly gets into trouble in first grade. He takes other kids’ property, then gets angry when he’s told to return it. He has difficulty learning that others have the same rights that he does.
For some boys, selfishness merges into antisocial behavior. In middle and high school, he spends more time in the principal’s office than in the classroom. If he’s not too bright, he winds up in juvenile hall. If he’s smart enough, he may avoid detection and cheat his way through college. He may even become a successful politician.
Some children are abused or neglected. They are never taught to have a conscience. Others seem to have good parents, yet go on to shoot up the school or become criminals as adults. I believe a small minority of children are born lacking the ability to have a conscience, just as others are born lacking the ability to see colors.
But whether the cause is an abusive childhood or some intrinsic defect, the result is lack of a conscience. One can argue about exactly when the critical period ends. I believe it ends by the age of eight or nine. But it seems clear that if a young person doesn’t learn to respect other human beings by the time he’s a teenager, he probably never will.
Yes, young people may join the military and “get it together.” Others may have a religious awakening and reform their lives. But these are exceptions. We can’t build a society that depends on exceptions. As a rule, if a person doesn’t develop a conscience by his teens, he never will.
Nor is this an all-or-nothing phenomenon. If there is no conscience, we have a sociopath. But what if there is a defective conscience? Then we have someone who has a photographic memory for what he is owed, but amnesia for what he owes. We have someone who has an exaggerated notion of what he is entitled to, but no notion at all of what his responsibilities are. In short, we have someone who votes for the candidate who promises him the most “free” goodies. We see the results all around us.
We should redouble our efforts to make sure kids have stable families in their early years. We should supplement the influence of their families by encouraging kids to participate in Scouting and religious activities. We should prevent kids from watching violent or sexual images on TV when they are too young to understand them properly.
But we are doing the exact opposite. We are kicking the Boy Scouts and ROTC out of schools. We are teaching kids that religion is obsolete. We are flooding kids with violent and sexual images. We are encouraging the breakup of the family. We are promoting the raising of fatherless boys. And even when fathers are present, we are telling them not to act like fathers.
Then we are shocked – shocked! – when kids grow up with defective consciences. What did we expect? Beautiful flowers need care. Only weeds grow untended.
When we feed children breakfast, lunch, and sometimes even supper in school, we are solving the immediate problem of hunger. But we are perpetuating the chronic problem of negligent parenting. Many of the kids we feed will grow up to believe that feeding their kids is the government’s job. This is only one example of how liberal policies diminish individuals’ sense of responsibility for themselves and their families.
How can our republic survive, if citizens are reduced to subjects dependent on Big Brother to feed their children? How can our civilization survive, if many people have consciences so defective that feeding their own children is not their top priority?
Do you want to take over a country? Do you want to overthrow a civilization? You don’t need to subvert the army and stage a military coup. You don’t need to stir up a violent revolution. You don’t need to argue persuasively and convince people you’re right. No, that would require too much effort.
All you need to do is take over most of the schools of education, journalism, film, and law – and wait a generation or two. Then the majority of teachers will be telling kids what you want them to learn. The majority of reporters will be reinforcing the lessons with slanted news. The majority of films will be doing the same with biased stories. And lawyers and judges will call this amoral, chaotic mess “the constitution.”
That’s exactly what’s happening. Check out anti-American, anti-democratic, anti-Judeo-Christian lessons taught by our high schools and universities. Check out the same lessons being taught in more vivid form by Hollywood films. We wonder whether the Boston Marathon bombers were radicalized by some sleeper cell. This is a good question. But a better question is why we ourselves are influencing young people – native born and immigrant – to see our country in such a negative light.
Some people can tolerate an amoral, chaotic mess. Some people can’t. If you doubt this, ask John Walker Lindh. He went to liberal schools. His mother dabbled with Buddhism. His father was a lapsed Catholic. When John was in high school, his dad left him and his mother and ran off with a gay boyfriend. Imagine the teasing John endured. His parents gave him no religious training but left him to “find his own way.” He did. He joined the Taliban, who – surprise! – want to kill Americans and gays. Adam Gadahn, for less clear reasons, joined Al Qaeda and became their spokesman. These people are the epitome of self-hatred. But how many other young people are equally alienated, and simply lack the motivation to join terrorist groups?
How many other young people will grow sick of watered-down Christianity or Judaism, which have become merely liberal politics with music? If we don’t have a religious and moral revival, we can’t blame young people for seeking a source of guidance, even if it is anti-Christian, anti-Jewish, anti-democratic, and anti-American. We can only blame ourselves.
This is a turning point in our history. Now we must make critical choices. We can’t avoid making them. If we do nothing, we are choosing to allow our civilization to be at least radically altered, and probably destroyed.
It won’t happen at once. It may take another generation or two. The beautiful facade of Western – that is, Judeo-Christian – civilization will remain. But the structure will be eaten away internally, just as a house is weakened by termites. And one day, when no one expects it, the whole rotten thing will collapse on us. Our enemies, probably radical Islamists, will take over the property and rebuild it to their own specifications. And it won’t look anything like home.
We were bequeathed this beautiful house by past generations, who worked hard to build it and fought hard to preserve it. And we are allowing it be destroyed piece by piece. If we let that happen, we won’t deserve to live in it anymore.
The photo at the start of this column is of Coventry Cathedral, which was destroyed by German bombs during World War II. The ruins remain as a reminder of man’s inhumanity. But at least it was destroyed by an external enemy in wartime. We are destroying the beautiful structure of our civilization, but we are doing it ourselves, a little at a time, from inside – so few people notice. But they will notice when the roof falls in, as it eventually will.
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