I’ve talked previously about why I support virtue education over the “values clarification” approach. Current events provide a really powerful context for why I think virtue and not values is what we ought to be promoting and teaching.
In the past week, I have seen multiple friends write posts on Facebook thanking people for “speaking their truth,” and declaring that, “all people are different and have their own truths.”
Not to put too fine a point on it, but no, they do not. That’s antithetical to the nature of truth. You don’t have or create your truth. Truth just is.
But, but…..what a bigot that makes me! How narrow minded and intolerant, and prone to judgment and persecution of those who are different than I. The relativist mantra that “everyone has their own truth” is the great protector of tolerance and diversity, right? Well, no. Actually, it is precisely the opposite.
“There is no such thing as truth either in the moral or scientific sense,” said Adolf Hitler.
Relativism is a safe haven in which the perpetrators of history’s greatest atrocities can hide, and it is the great enabler of persecution and tyranny.
Today, we’re (again) seeing why. Those who promote relativism in the culture wars are finding their own ideology turned against them in the Battle of Facts Don’t Matter.
When side-by-side photos of the crowds at Obama’s inauguration and the crowds at Trump’s inauguration were published, the Trump team immediately launched into an absurd rebuttal, with Sean Spicer arguing that Trump’s inauguration drew the largest audience for a presidential inauguration, ever. Never mind that photographic evidence, ridership numbers from Metro, and TV ratings all indicated that this was false
Kellyanne Conway cleared it up for us. You see, Spicer was simply presenting “alternative facts.”
“I tell you, if the Fuhrer wishes it then two times two are five,” said Hermann Goering.
Everyone has their own truth, y’all.
Those who are outraged- as well they should be– by the promotion of “alternative facts,” ought to consider their own embrace of “alternative facts.” Some of the people most critical of Spicer’s “alternative facts” have previously declared that Caitlyn Jenner is a woman and that unborn children are just a “clump of cells.” Alternative facts.
Truth is inconvenient for all of us at times. None of us are immune to the temptation to embrace those alternative facts which confirm our own preferences, biases, and dislikes. If the (actual) facts don’t matter and we are all welcome to embrace our own truth, there is no basis upon which to argue against or protest policies we believe to be unjust. Because, after all, people have their own truth.
Let me tell the story of a couple named Bob and Betty. Bob and Betty love one another, but they just don’t see eye to eye when it comes to current events.
It is Bob’s firmly held truth that even legal resident aliens and thoroughly vetted refugees pose grave danger to the well-being of the American public. Betty disagrees and cites statistics about how citizens of country XYZ have killed zero American civilians in the last 40 years, how long and onerous is refugee resettlement process, etc. Bob will sit and listen to Betty’s arguments, and respond by insisting on the veracity of his original claim, statistics be damned.
Betty thinks her head is going to explode. Bob knows how she feels. A couple of years ago, Bob and Betty had a debate about Caitlyn Jenner, and Betty continues to insist that Caitlyn is now a woman, anatomy and Y chromosome be damned.
Relativism, ironically, finds it’s conclusion in dogmatism.
“The dogmatist will listen to everyone’s opinion, and then affirm to himself his godliness,” said Rudolf Hess.
Truth matters. Facts matter.
Relativism is not and never has been a viable basis for a functional, plural, and diverse society. “We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires.” Abandoning truth and reality is to turn ourselves over the ego and whims of the powerful.
The way to overthrow this dictatorship of relativism and it’s attendant alternative facts is to stop pretending our various opinions and inclinations are our own precious “truths,” and put the pursuit of goodness and truth at the center of education, family, and public life.
The virtues- justice, kindness, honesty, diligence, among others- are good. They are not just some menu items among other menu items from which we may choose, according to our personal values.
Justice is good and injustice is bad.
Kindness is good and cruelty is bad.
Honesty is good and lying is bad.
Diligence is good and sloth is bad.
We cannot know ahead of time every possible moral and ethical dilemma we will face in our lifetime, much less those that will arise in our children’s lifetimes. We do know that teaching children to face these dilemmas by adhering to their own values and speaking their own truth is, in essence, subjecting them and the rest of society to arbitration by individual whims, prejudices, and predilections.
The superior approach is to teach reason and virtue, truth and goodness. Truth and goodness are the only tools capable of building a just society, and the only weapons capable of rectifying wrongs and destroying evil.