Honor they father and thy mother

When he was 6, my son suddenly started stealing things from his classmates.  Market value wasn’t the object.  Like a magpie, he went for the sparkling, brightly colored stuff.  Naturally, he got caught.  The school imposed appropriate consequences, but it was left to me to explain to him that stealing is bad, not just because you can get caught and punished, but because it’s fundamentally wrong.

The approach I took, and one that worked surprisingly well, was the Ten Commandants.  I explained to my little six year old that the Ten Commandants are the BIG RULES.  Even if you don’t believe in God (and he’s always parroted his father’s atheism), they’re still exceptionally good rules for a functioning society.  People cannot live together if they’re murdering each other, or stealing from each other, or constantly eaten up with jealously.  The Ten Commandments represent the wisdom of the ages.  Whether from God or from man, they are the keys to a successful society in which people can go about their ordinary lives.  My son never stole again.

I thought of the Ten Commandments today when I read the opening sentence of Theodore Dalrymple’s take on the convulsions in England:

The youth of Britain have long placed a de facto curfew on the old, who in most places would no more think of venturing forth after dark than would peasants in Bram Stoker’s Transylvania.

Whether from God or from man, the Ten Commandment’s dictum that the young must “Honour thy father and thy mother,” if applied, would have prevented the riots.  That’s because these weren’t ordinary riots.  Think about it:  In the past, whether it was the Poll Tax riot in 1381, or the Chartist and other riots in the early 19th century, Britain’s riots were driven by adults with legitimate political grievances.  This time around, it was just angry kids.  As the Victorians knew, and they were certainly well-steeped in Biblical morality, idle hands are the Devil’s playground.  And when those idle hands are attached to minds that respect nothing and nobody . . . anarchy results.

 

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Comments

  1. SADIE says

    In large part, because they don’t really have mothers and fathers anymore.
     
    Why would they …a Nanny State has no interest in the Ten Commandments – it’s bad for the entitlement business.

  2. suek says

    “idle hands are the Devil’s playground”
     
    While I can’t disagree with your “honor thy father and mother” principle, the idle hands aphorism certainly seems just as relevant.  It may have been necessary to limit the work hours of children, but I’m not at all sure that we are well served by restricting children from working.  Self esteem results from accomplishments.  Playtime limits accomplishments – especially when all competition is seen as “evil”.  What are our teens supposed to do if they’re unable to work?  How do they get training and experience?  Minimum wages are arguable when it comes to adults, but imo, there’s no question about the concept that teens might even work for free and still benefit.

  3. Charles Martel says

    We desperately need to bring back the apprentice/journeyman/master track for young people. Screw colleges and the mostly aliterate, two-dimensional snarksters they churn out. Let’s rescue our kids by teaching them how to produce real work, not the pretentious piffle that nobody except overworked grad students will ever read.

  4. Caped Crusader says

    Charles Martel
    We desperately need to bring back the apprentice/journeyman/master track for young people. Screw colleges and the mostly aliterate, two-dimensional snarksters they churn out. Let’s rescue our kids by teaching them how to produce real work, not the pretentious piffle that nobody except overworked grad students will ever read.
     
    AMEN, AMEN and AMEN! I started working at age six in a family business and was so proud to spend my own money to buy my first thing w/o having to ask a parent to buy it for me. I always had my children work in my office during holidays and summer break. It teaches children HOW to work and the sense of accomplishment they learn very early never leaves them. They have always worked after leaving home and have NEVER been unable to find work. Our son got started at age 9 with computers and through college and a PhD in computer science and electrical engineering at Stanford never made less than $50,000/year. Our daughter worked throughout her college years and was able to get a job in Japan while in graduate school and taking total immersion Japanese. You can put as many children as you need through college with this plan. Children raised with early work experience never lose this skill and have confidence when they seek work. Every child should have this benefit as a start in life — it pays dividends for a lifetime.

  5. says

    Props to Charles Martel for that cogent and succinct comment if only for the inclusion of that wonderful yet underused word ‘piffle.’

    Dalrymple also made a point that when he stays in London hotels there are no young English lads there to care for his every need, jusy young foreign men and women only too happy to have a job, one that does not require a great education.

  6. Charles Martel says

    It is always an honor to throw a small stick on the fire and get such light and heat from it. Thank you, Indigo Red, for the props—it means a lot coming from a writer as good as you. David Foster, I’m a slow old man. I had no idea the extent of your writing, or that the discussion of apprenticeship is something you so recently, and capably, covered. There’s gotta be a way to bring our kids back to the real world.

    And speaking of the real world, what Caped Crusader says about his kids is instructive. Somebody once told me—maybe it was my sainted mother?—that the main thing every human being wants is to be needed, to make a difference, to be necessary to the existence and survival of something. This is what good work teaches, and look at the results: A son who has paid his way with his computer talents through much of his life is the kind of kid you get to brag about for years from your rocking chair. And a daughter who has the stones to do total immersion in Japanese should probably be tasked with running an army or a continent. You did good, Dad.

  7. jj says

    Max Hastings, in the article, I referenced on another post, makes the same point as Dalrymple does about workers.  Business owners, such as hoteliers, tend to hire immigrant kids, either from the former eastern Europe or from the Commonwealth countries, before they hire British kids, because the immigrants will (a) actually show up for work, (b) on time, (c) shaved and recently bathed, (d) willing to work, with (e) manners and some concept of customer service.  I know that from my own experience, too – all the service-oriented little jobs, from bike/scooter messengers to newsagents to bus conductors to counter-people in everything from Boots to Harrods are not white British young people.  They’ll be Polish, Czech, Pakistani, Indian, Afghan – anything but white British kids.

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