Moral knowledge and public education

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Dallas Willard on morality, knowledge, and higher education:

So in fact higher education and the elite professional groups continue to pressure and teach on moral matters—good, bad, right, wrong—and if you don’t believe it just get crossways of what is advocated in morality by them and you will be subjected to full blown moral opprobrium. That’s because in fact no one can separate life from morality. Moral sentiment and moral opinions are always in full force, and perhaps more so now than ever, because they are not subject to rational criticism in open discussion. One of the things that used to happen in higher education and elite circles, though certainly not in a perfect way, was that moral teachings were surfaced, talked about, and subjected to rational criticism. Now they’re not. What is taught is taught by example, tone of voice, selection of subject matters and so on—oftimes by unguarded explicit statements—but there’s no rational criticism directed at them because it’s not taken to be an area of rationality or knowledge. Pressure, however, abounds.

Why does it matter whether or not there is moral knowledge? This is really the heart of the matter: Knowledge alone confers the right and responsibility to act, to direct action, to set policy, to supervise policy and to teach. Sentiment does not do that. Opinion does not do that. Tradition does not do that. Power does not do that. You expect people who act to know what they are doing, don’t you? You probably would not take your car to a shop that said on a sign in front of it, “We are lucky at making repairs,” or “We’re inspired,” or “We feel real good about it.” This is not a matter of convention. It is how knowledge actually works in human life, and it’s very important to understand that. Without moral knowledge there is no moral authority. Hence there is only “Political correctness,” even though it looks and feels ever bit like morality and often assumes a distinctively moral tone and force.

The Failure of Evangelical Political Involvement in the Area of Moral Transformation.

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