The only way to teach children right from wrong

“Right” and “wrong” are social conventions that differ among societies. Canibals think eating people is just fine. Aztecs supposedly enjoyed ripping out hearts. Slavery was de rigueur in America.

You were not born knowing right from wrong. You learned from your family and friends. You learned from your schools and other outside sources.

There is only one way to teach children right from wrong. Children must be taught what is right and taught what is wrong. They must be taught the truth.

So, for instance, if your family and friends were bigots — — i.e. intolerant of people because of their race, religion, or sexual orientation — and your schools said nothing about bigotry, you probably would have become a bigot.

Why would your family and friends teach you bigotry? Because their families and friends taught them bigotry, a chain extending down through the generations, families and friends teaching bigotry as a standing tradition.

Why would your schools say nothing? Perhaps because of laws that prevented them from teaching you right from wrong, for fear you would find such teaching “uncomfortable.”

Although you, like most people, probably harbor some forms of bigotry in your heart, you probably also agree that bigotry, in general, is a sin. How do we solve that dichotomy and break the historical chain?

I was reminded of that question when some years ago, on a visit to Germany, I toured the Dachau concentration camp.

Dachau’s commandant, Theodor Eicke, introduced a system of regulations which inflicted brutal punishments on prisoners for the slightest offenses, while scientists there conducted cruel experiments.

Prisoners were subjected to injections of malaria and tuberculosis, and the untold thousands that died from hard labor or torture were routinely burned in the on-site crematorium.

As Allied units approached, at least 25,000 prisoners from the Dachau camp system were force-marched south.

During these death marches, the Germans shot anyone who could no longer continue; many also died of starvation, hypothermia, or exhaustion.

When American forces liberated Dachau, they found more than 30 railroad cars filled with bodies.

I was able to tour the camp because the German government neither hid nor denied the existence of the horrors committed there. In fact, they use the camp as a reminder of the past, to help prevent a repeat.

A movie describing in detail, the horrors of the camp, is shown to daily busloads of German school children as a right-vs.-wrong lesson.

The German people, but for a small minority, do not celebrate the misdeeds of Naziism. There are no statues of Hitler in Germany. The Holocaust is revealed and decried.

The Germans do not fear admitting this dark period of their history. In fact, they actively teach it.

I think of that approach to the shameful parts of Germany’s heritage when I compare it to the American — or rather, the right-wing — approach to the horrors of our past and even of our present.Nearly 100 Confederate Monuments Removed In 2020, Report Says; More Than  700 Remain : NPR

Slavery was an abomination that was celebrated by statues which, at long last, were pulled down despite claims of “Southern heritage.”

And today, in America, “well-meaning, good citizens,” protest against teaching the parts of our past that shame us. Their stated concern is that such reminders and revelations would make their children “uncomfortable.”

But ignorance is uncomfortable. Bigotry is uncomfortable. Denial does not change reality.

Today, our black families continue to undergo hardship. No, it isn’t of Holocaust levels, but still is terribly destructive and wholly unnecessary in our wealthy nation.

GOP advocated denial is the worst approach because it teaches no lessons. It condemns us to repeat the sins of the past.

Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”
George Santayana, The Life of Reason, 1905. From the series Great Ideas of Western Man.

We neither can, nor should try, to erase the blemishes of our past. Nor should anyone blame our children for our sins or for the sins of those who came before us. Leveling such blame would, in itself, be bigotry.

The purpose of teaching history is not to lay blame or to create guilt, but to help us know our own successes and foibles, and the circumstances that can move a nation to bigotry and hatred.

We are not pure. No nation is. Pretending purity is blindness and naivete. Let us be honest with ourselves. To some degree, we all receive mistreatment at times, but in America people of color have been, and still are, disproportionately mistreated. 

We allow the teaching of the Holocaust, and even have museums dedicated to that education. Few object, because it was the Germans, and to a degree, the Poles, Austrians, French and others who committed those crimes.

But the teaching of racism in America is an anathema to some Americans, because it is we, or more correctly, some of us, who are the perpetrators. And to hide that historical fact, we countenance angry denial.

This brings us to something called “Critical Race Theory,” perhaps the most reviled yet least understood and least taught academic subject in education.

Critical race theory (CRT) is an academic concept that is more than 40 years old. The core idea is that race is a social construct, and that racism is not merely the product of individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies.

One example: In the 1930s, government officials literally drew lines around areas deemed poor financial risks, often explicitly due to the racial composition of inhabitants. Banks subsequently refused to offer mortgages to Black people in those areas.

Scholars who study critical race theory in education look at how policies and practices in K-12 education contribute to persistent racial inequalities in education, and advocate for ways to change them.

Among the topics they’ve studied: racially segregated schools, the underfunding of majority-Black and Latino school districts, disproportionate disciplining of Black students, barriers to gifted programs and selective-admission high schools, and curricula that reinforce racist ideas.

Solving racial inequalities first requires admitting that they exist and then admitting that they should be solved. 

And that requires study.

Sadly, there are those who deny any study is necessary, deny such inequalities exist to be solved, and claim any such equalities are the fault of the Black students — a “blame-the-victim” rationalization.

The Catholic confessional begins, “Forgive me father for I have sinned.” The confession of sin is the first necessary step for absolution. Without realization and confession, the sin compounds.

The Germans seem to have understood that the denial of sin is in itself a sin.

“Forgive America, father, for we have sinned.” Those are the words of the truly moral, truly righteous.

An evil man, like Donald Trump, would have you deny the obvious. He would have you deny the clear fact that people of color have received worse treatment in America than white Christians. That denial compounds the evil.

For you who are religious, here is are reminders:

John 1:9 If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.
James 5:16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. 
Proverbs 28:13 Whoever conceals his transgressions will not prosper, but he who confesses and forsakes them will obtain mercy.
Psalm 32:5 I acknowledged my sin to you, and I did not cover my iniquity; I said, “I will confess my transgressions to the Lord,” and you forgave the iniquity of my sin.
Romans 3:23 For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God
James 4:17 So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.

Perhaps you are one of those rare souls who has not sinned and has not felt bigotry in your heart. But to deny, or even to countenance the sins of others against strangers is in itself a sin.

Discomfort is not an excuse for denial.

Children must be taught about the existence of sin so they can recognize it and learn to avoid it. Without this teaching, the children can be sucked into sin by evil persons.

We are not born bigots. We learn to be bigots, unless we first learn about the evils of bigotry.

The people who object to the teaching of racism in America often blame their children’s sensitivity. But this is a false excuse. The real reason is, they are ashamed of our past, and want to bury it.

But the past has become the present, and it cannot be buried so long as it still lives. The only way to end the shame is to recognize it and to speak against it, else it will not only continue but multiply.

Perhaps, the real problem lies not in the reluctance to admit that bigotry exists but rather in the fear of the cures.

“Affirmative action” often has involved establishing racial quotas or preferences to “even out” representation in school admissions or job hiring. The problem here is that it invariably requires the less qualified to take precedence over the more qualified, and always will be seen as unfair.

Affirmative action” also stigmatizes the very people it is supposed to help — the “You got in only because you are black” appearance, which further adds to the bigotry rather than reducing it.

Once we recognize the bigotry problem itself, and once we determine to solve it, the solution lies not at the top but at its foundation: Money and poverty, i.e. the income/wealth/power Gap at the bottom of the financial scale.

Lacking money, such minorities as Blacks and Latins suffer poorer primary schools, more crime, less family stability, poorer housing, poorer nutrition, and a desperate culture, where immediate needs take precedence over future plans.

These all lead to poorer primary-school academic results which, in turn, lead to less-educated older students and less qualified job- and college applicants.

The solution lies not in taking from the top to give to the bottom (which always will be fought by America’s most powerful), or in giving solely to the bottom (which will be viewed as unfair by America’s middle).

Rather, the solution is to lift the lower levels far enough above subsistence so that the problems of poorer primary schools, more crime, less family stability, poorer housing, poorer nutrition, and desperation culture cease to impact even the least fortunate among us.

This would be a “rising tide” approach that lifts all boats. Examples can be found in the “Ten Steps to Prosperity” (below). For example:

  1. Eliminate the FICA tax
  2. Offer free Medicare to All who want it.
  3. Offer Social Security to All who want it.
  4. Offer free College to All who want it.

Offering the same money to everyone, regardless of current income or wealth, will not affect the lifestyles of the rich, but can lift the poor to levels where school and job achievements are seen as being in reach.

It will not evoke cries of “unfairness” and “discomfort” that currently plague the accurate teaching of America’s history.


[Why would any sane person take dollars from the economy and give them to a federal government that has the infinite ability to create dollars?]

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell
Monetary Sovereignty
Twitter: @rodgermitchell
Search #monetarysovereignty
Facebook: Rodger Malcolm Mitchell



The most important problems in economics involve:

  1. Monetary Sovereignty describes money creation and destruction.
  2. Gap Psychology describes the common desire to distance oneself from those “below” in any socio-economic ranking, and to come nearer those “above.” The socio-economic distance is referred to as “The Gap.”

Wide Gaps negatively affect poverty, health and longevity, education, housing, law and crime, war, leadership, ownership, bigotry, supply and demand, taxation, GDP, international relations, scientific advancement, the environment, human motivation and well-being, and virtually every other issue in economics. Implementation of Monetary Sovereignty and The Ten Steps To Prosperity can grow the economy and narrow the Gaps:

Ten Steps To Prosperity:

  1. Eliminate FICA
  2. Federally funded Medicare — parts A, B & D, plus long-term care — for everyone
  3. Social Security for all
  4. Free education (including post-grad) for everyone
  5. Salary for attending school
  6. Eliminate federal taxes on business
  7. Increase the standard income tax deduction, annually. 
  8. Tax the very rich (the “.1%”) more, with higher progressive tax rates on all forms of income.
  9. Federal ownership of all banks
  10. Increase federal spending on the myriad initiatives that benefit America’s 99.9% 

The Ten Steps will grow the economy and narrow the income/wealth/power Gap between the rich and the rest.


4 thoughts on “The only way to teach children right from wrong


    Monetary Sovereignty, run by Post-Keynesian Rodger Malcolm Mitchell (as a bonus, Mitchell occasionally bashes woo by comparing it to what he sees as outdated economic thought)

    Seems you may of actually convinced someone somewhere. Vagina Coastguard’s hubby: could be a good bottom-feeder to snag with that 2010 Mosler gauntlet challenge I posted above


  2. Great post, Rodger. Reminded me of the CSN&Y song “Teach Your Children Well”.

    I, too, visited Dachau. It was the summer of 1971 when I backpacked across Europe before my senior year in college. I had plenty of knowledge of the Holocaust as it was part of my Jewish education, and I knew personally some survivors. My high school girlfriend’s mother showed me the tattooed number on her arm. I don’t remember if she told me which camp she was in.

    Visiting Dachau was quite the eye-opener. Seeing the crematory ovens and the gas showers is something I’ll never forget; I can see them clearly even now, 50+ years later. If we don’t teach kids the evils of our own country’s past Santayana’s prediction becomes far more likely.

    I fear for my granddaughter’s generation if the attempts to whitewash America’s past and current sins are swept under the rug.


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