How to instill a sense of morality in the 21st century?Bombarded with sex, foul language, violence, and overall chaos, what are some of the best approaches to still motivate the upcoming generation...

How to instill a sense of morality in the 21st century?

Bombarded with sex, foul language, violence, and overall chaos, what are some of the best approaches to still motivate the upcoming generation (the one that will rule the world in the next 5-10 years) about the importance of morals for a good, healthy social life?

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Several studies done over a couple of decades reveal that the ethical and moral values that children possess are in place by age 6.  Therefore, it is apparent that parents are the ones responsible for instilling values in their children.  All that others can do is reinforce these values.  Interestingly, in one family of 11 children, the first 4 were sent to parochial schools; however, after there were conflicts with the administration and the father, the middle children attended public schools and he gave them their religious and moral instruction following family supper together.  When some years passed, the youngest children received their schooling back in the parochial schools.  Now, although the oldest and the youngest children had instruction every day at school, it is the middle children who attend church more often, who express the importance of virtue, and who live the more exemplary lives.  Obviously, the stronger involvement of their father in moral and religious education made the difference as he reinforced his sound values more frequently with the children, knowing that they would not receive instruction elsewhere.

History and English teachers especially are afforded opportunities to reinforce moral values through instruction in the "tide of times" as Shakespeare writes, and the recordings of the human heart in literature.  Nevertheless, the instilling of these values mainly rests with parents who must be vigilant at all times.  There is no room for permissiveness in the raising of children; they must be supervised in a loving way, monitored on technology, and shown how to behave and act towards others.  Involvement with their children averts many a problem for parents. For, teachers and religious leaders can only reinforce what a child has already learned from her/his home by exemplifying integrity.


Michael Ugulini eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I wholeheartedly agree with Post #4 - religion provides the solution but it has become irrelevant in the 21st century, because as the Bible says, "Professing to be wise, they became fools." Religion has also been maligned, ridiculed, and ignored - and look at the fine mess we're in today with no morals, or at the very least a dwindling, progressively faster decline of morals.

A host of people will disagree with this and that's up to each of them individually. However, science, various theories foisted upon us as truth, technological advances, education, and a free-for-all do as you will, come and go as you may approach to life, has not solved any of mankind's most serious and pressing problems. It all begins with the great commandment Jesus Christ offered to mankind, but it is ignored, and the result is the world today - societies in moral decline worldwide.

The answers on how to instill morality in the 21st century are there for the taking, if we can get past the human penchant for disowning anything that tries to tell us how we should live our lives... and how's that working out for all of us? Are we doing a bang up job? 

New Testament Letters

brettd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think we tend to overestimate the effects of society and the media on the socialization of young people, versus that of their parents.  As a public educator, I see all types of students and levels of moral formation.  When I meet their parents at conference time, it often makes sense and the old adage "Apple doesn't fall far from the tree" seems to hold true in many cases. 

Spending years growing up in their parents' household, going to their church, hearing their opinions and getting their discipline have a far greater effect, in my opinion, than other socializing agents.  I also don't believe that the current generation is any more or less moral than ones previous.  My parents thought my generation in the 1980s was in trouble, but it didn't hold true.

So, modeling moral behavior, reinforcing it, but most of all, teaching it would seem to be the most effective approach in my opinion.

How to Teach Morals to Children

Kristen Lentz eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When I taught history, I did my best to use historical situations of injustice to teach morality.  To do this I took historical examples that I hoped would appal the students and appeal to their conscience, and then applied them to their daily life and hoped they could see the connection.  My end goal was for the emotions they felt to carry over to their daily life.

For example, if I taught the holocaust to a group of freshmen I would spend a considerable amount of time getting the students to talk about their emotions and why they felt it was wrong.  Perhaps later that lesson or even the next day I would describe a situation where I saw a student being bullied.  I would ask them to talk in groups to see the similarities and differences between the two situations.  While the bullying isn't as extreme, a student would always come back to the idea that maybe the holocaust started with bullying as well but progressed. 

clairewait eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In many ways, the pursuit to teach students (and our own kids) how to think for themselves ultimately takes care of this problem in addition to many others.  I often get overwhelmed with the sheer number of odds working against those of us still contributing to the greater good, and have resigned myself to focusing all of my energy on my own offspring for now.

Ultimately, there are daily opportunities to give a kid the easy way out, or to take a minute to get him to think about how his actions affect others, now and later.  This, to me, is the easiest way to get the idea of morality across.  Like others have said, there seems to be a lack of attention (in parenting, government, etc.) to personal responsibility, so whatever I can do to progress this notion, I'm willing to put in a little time toward.

shake99 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I think we still attempt to instill morals like we always have. It is true, as you say, that we are "Bombarded with sex, foul language, violence, and overall chaos," but we still have moral standards. I think these standards are ingrained, innate, and we couldn't get rid of them if we tried. I agree that the bombardment has to have had some effect on how moral our behavior is at times, but short of becoming a dictatorial society, that's just how it's going to be. Teaching kids to think analytically and to be self-reflective will help to some degree.

stolperia eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Every major religion, and indeed every secular society, has some version of what I grew up calling the Golden Rule - "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you." Consider:

If all persons followed that one principle consistently, in all their dealings with others, the vast majority of the social problems in today's world would vanish.


discussion1984 | Student

That's an interesting question. But I don't quite think the sky is falling as the question might imply. From a young age, we start to learn what is good and bad, right and wrong, and the process continues throughout all our lives as we enter into different institutions. I'd say that how to do it is simply a question of what institutions we should join. If you want to instill Christian values, put your kid into a church environment. If you want your kid to uphold the laws and mores of the nation regardless of whether they're good or bad, put them in policing programs--that'll make them obey authority. But if the question also implies which morals we ought to instill in people, that's hard to say.

One thing we should at least attempt is the disuse of punishment as a means of socialization. It's the basis of many societies, but I think it would be in the interest of a greater humanity if we could omit this completely from society.


najm1947 | Student

In reply to 14:

Islam, Christianity, Judaism and so on all have their dark morals, such as slavery, misogyny and homophobia. - Ravendaily8

It is absolutely false that slavery is permitted in Islam. Islam is the religion that has the penalty for many sins as freeing a slave.

As far as misogyny and homophobia is concerned, Islam takes sexual relationship as a means to propagate the human race with responsibility of parenthood for both husband and wife to their offspring and not only for lust which is more like animal behaviour.

Humans have to behave as a higher living form as compared to animals with controls in place. Without moral controls world is likely to become a jungle where might is right. US is a glaring example of that when the blood of other nations and especially Muslims is concerned. Self-designed legal codes are not enough and do not provide universal solutions with justice to all.

People are denying religion these days because people want sufficient evidence that something exists before they dedicate their life to it. - Ravendaily8

Sufficient evidence i.e. sceintific evidence. What an evidence which changes rapidly with time - The Half Truth. And someone wants it to be last word. What a fallacy!

wanderista | Student

I have to disagree with posts 4, 5 and 7 on the 'moral goodness' of religion. People are denying religon these days because people want sufficient evidence that something exists before they dedicate their life to it. There is a lack of evidence corroborating the existance of a God (except being stated in a book). I believe this generation has realised this, and is no longer following religion or is not following religion as seriously.

You also claim that religion has instilled good morals in society. While this is true (through things such as the ten commandments and so on), the good morals do not necessarily dominate all of the religious morals. Islam, Christianity, Judaism and so on all have their dark morals, such as slavery, misogyny and homophobia. Because it is now common sense not to kill someone or to rape someone (and that it is also against the law), people are no longer following the teachings of religion because it is either commonplace, has darker characteristics or irrelevant to today's society. And can I add that in the days when religion was followed strictly, the laws of religion were forced - the denial of a God, or atheism was punishable by death and still is in some extremist societies.

To add my bit into this discussion; rowdy youth have always existed in society. I think the media has highlighted this more than ever in this time because it seems to make good stories and because they have the ability to. I don't think this is new at all.

najm1947 | Student

In reply to 12.

 As a parent you can limit or eliminate tv and other media influences.  We are a visual and auditory learning species.  Removing these potentially harmful sources will do wonders for your child's development. - Truthseekah

I fully agree with the above comments. I am not sure about the west as to how effectively the parents can limit or eliminate TV etc, but I know many families in Pakistan who have been able to implement this regime. Their childrem are very well behaved and follow highest moral standards. They do not live aloof from the world but are being educated in the top universities of Pakistan having high ranking in the world top universities. The fact is that if we are able to lay a good foundation in the early stages of our childrens' lives, it will go a long way through out their life time.

truthseekah | Student

While there is something to be said for most religions perpetuating morality, I believe it is innate in most of us at an early age.  We are conditioned to view the world differently by the media and our various control systems.  The boundary on morality is pushed further back to manipulate a particular agenda or sell a product.  Therefore, the acceptable behavior moves along in relation to that boundary.

To instill morality in the 21st Century, you have to counterbalance the shift.  As a parent you can limit or eliminate tv and other media influences.  We are a visual and auditory learning species.  Removing these potentially harmful sources will do wonders for your child's development.  Not an easy task but doable.  As an educator, you have less control.  You can inform your students in an easily digestible way how media can manipulate your mind.  Again, not an easy task.

najm1947 | Student

In reply to 9 & 10:

I fully agree that parents have to play their role in character building in the early years of their life and I would like to extend it from 6 years (post 9) to 9 years where most of the children have their basic values fixed. But most of the children are sent to schools before this age. Interaction with the children of their age coming from a large set of values has surely a great influence on the children as they are more prone to pick up their habits.

Under the circumstances, will home schooling not be a better option to instill sense of morality in 21st century?

It will need sacrifice on the part of the family and more so in for the working mother to abandon the job for the sake of her children till they are grown up beyond that age. There is a cost attached to it in terms of lower family income but I think it's worth it.

najm1947 | Student

It gives me immense pleasure that quite a good number of eNotes community members are concerned about the declining rather diminishing values and also agree that religion could be a solution. The problem is that the church has also gone loose on it in certain cases and we hear about gay priests for some time but the worst part being that they do not discourage it.

Still I am not loosing hope.

In west, and specially in US, their are many Islamic community centers whose members uphold the value system. Concerned Christians can follow their example and form similar clubs/organisations where they may gather and work to spread the message of morality. I believe that they can also start inter-faith dialogue with Muslims on these issues as value system followed by Muslims and Christians have no big differences, both being religions having origin in the religion of Abraham. Most of the eNotes debaters might be knowing that I am a Muslim, though not from US, but I am sure that the Muslim community of US will be more than pleased to cooperate in this endeavour. We Muslims have to because we are told in Quran: "Cooperate in good and piety."

Could the Christian community come forward to achieve the common goal?


najm1947 | Student

All religions teach us about morality, at least the divine religions, but who cares about the religion today. One can count thousands of example from history of great people but we have gone too materialistic. We are just not ready to listen to anyone because we say: "It is my life, I have the right to live it the way I like." Today we live in an era of human rights without realizing that my liberty ends where the other's starts. In the past, morality was a parts of the culture, a joint responsibility of the parents and teachers. Now parents don't have time because both have jobs and they don't have time for the kids.

Teachers refrain from such activities, they are scared of getting bullied. The are having all the blames passed on to them and they don't want to be blamed additionally. Even society had a responsibility towards morality, especially about grooming the children whoever they might have been but now approach has changed: " If parents are happy why should I bother."

We have lost the sense of social responsibility in this respect.

The answer is simple. Adopt the code of the golden days when people cared about morality. But it is simple to say then practice. The question is: Do the majority wants to instill morality when every one is for social liberties and freedom of sex to the extent of homosexuality? It needs a complete rollback but the cat is out of the bag. Religion provides the solution but it has become irrelevant.