Q&A: Teaching moral values to our children

Q: I’ve heard you advocate for teaching moral values in our homes and to our children. Your view, however, seems archaic and misguided. People are “immoral” for only one reason: they’re ignorant. Your approach seems not only ineffective, but a distraction from the greater need for formal education. Doesn’t this reasoning make more sense?

A: Teddy Roosevelt is credited with saying, “A man who has never gone to school may steal from a freight car; but if he has a university education, he may steal the whole railroad.” His point? Education alone is inadequate to build character.

We’ve noticed a peculiar pattern in our culture. Whenever a new statistic is released that reveals some negative trend in society, it seems the call immediately goes out for more education. Whether it be the growing tide of drug abuse, teen pregnancy — or any other social challenge — conventional wisdom suggests these problems could be resolved if people simply knew better.

Now, let us be clear. We believe that education is critical and invaluable to any culture, and there is no questioning that ours is better for it. But as the 32nd president of the United States, President Roosevelt, so aptly explained, intelligence and morals are not the same thing.  Intelligence deals with information; morals provide a foundation of wisdom for how that information ought to be used. A society needs both in order to be healthy.

Although some may be inclined to dismiss the importance of moral values, We’re firmly convinced that we would do well to heed the words of Dr. Wilbur Crafts who observed, “It is not worthwhile to educate a man’s wits unless you educate his conscience also.”

This article was written by Focus on the Family Malaysia and the Questions and Answers are extracted from “Complete Family and Marriage Home Reference Guide” by Dr. James Dobson with permission.

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