There’s a BBC series called World’s Strictest Parents in which “delinquent” British kids are sent to live with super-strict families in various countries for two weeks to see if they can become model teenagers. I believe the show was exported to the USA, so know doubt you know the one I mean.
The kids are usually 16 or 17 years old, and theirÂ delinquencyÂ generally manifests itself as excessive drinking, partying, smoking, sex, swearing, getting pregnant, getting expelled or dropping out of school, etc. The normal teenage stuff but amplified a little. None of them are criminal or violent, that would be a different show entirely. The families they are sent to have included one in a very strict Jewish community in Israel, one in a very strict Mormon community in Utah, one in a very strict Muslim community in Beirut, and so on. Yes, the ‘World’s Strictest Parents’ are all heavily religious. What’s interesting about the show is that in the first few days, the teens have screaming hysterics because of the rules imposed such as wearing modest clothing, no make-up, no smoking or drinking etc, but by the end of the two weeks have so far without exception had a breaking-down-in-tears-realising-they-have-low-self-esteem-issues moment, some sort of epiphany about their behaviour that results in them thanking the religious family, and an apology when they get home for having been so horrible to their parents.
So, the kids’ behaviour is at one end of the scale, and the new parents’ moral code is at the other. Culture shock makes great TV. But when I watch it, I do get frustrated that the morality imparted into the kids is religion-based. Be a good person for God and you will be rewarded. Love your fellow man and treat him right, and you will be rewarded. I am a moral person, for no reward. I’m not saying that’s better, but I am curious to know if the experiment could or would work with secular morals (mine are less concerned with what you wear and more concerned with not stabbing other people in the eye cause it’s not very nice).
My moral code is derived from empathy and experience. Some of it has much in common with religious moral code, for example “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” is a very good way to feel happy, in my experience, so I try to live by that. Don’t steal stuff, cause I don’t like having my stuff stolen. Be nice to your parents, cause you owe them a lot (unless they’re bastards, which is where my moral code beats the Bible). I also recall learning a lot of basic morality from fiction as a kid. Enid Blyton, CS Lewis, Lloyd Alexander, LM Montgomery, all the classic children’s authors wrote about good deeds being rewarded and bad deeds being punished, and although real life isn’t necessarily like that, I do remember aspiring to be Queen Lucy or Anne of Green Gables or Taran the Wanderer, and those are not bad role models to have at all.
Where do YOU get your morals from?
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