My adult daughter likes to use big words, such as “polymath” and “bloviation.” Her favorite word is “sesquipedalian,” which means someone who likes to use big words. The only place in print I have ever seen this word was in three different obituaries in 2008 for William F. Buckley, the former publisher of the National Review who was known for his persistent use of polysyllabic words.
In the 1960’s, Buckley authorized buttons, which vowed to stop the “immanization of the eschaton.” In plain English his buttons opposed the modernist movement to reduce spiritual ideas, such as absolute truth, the soul and eternal life to purely material concepts. Buckley was keenly aware that it was modernism, with Darwin and Freud as its guides that had been leading the attack on what Russell Kirk called the permanent things.
Modernism has also been largely responsible for the divorce of private moral teachings from the public square. This has left a deep moral void. Since nature abhors a vacuum, secular leaders have replaced spiritual values or “virtues,” with their own material versions of “virtues.” However their moral codes bear little resemblance to the traditional Judeo-Christian moral system.
Secular society now stresses the new morality of nicotine abstinence, not sexual abstinence. They want to save the Manatee and the whale, treat all other animals as if they were furry humans, and virtually outlaw human productivity.
These custodians of public morality have saved their special brand of “values” for education. Many schools, including some elite universities, have enacted speech codes. Traditionally the only limitations on free speech were curse words, blasphemy, slander and yelling, “fire” in a crowded theater. This principle has been extended to all favored minorities, so that any speech that demeans, satirizes or even criticizes a specific group or even an individual from that group is as lethal as shouting “fire” in a crowded theater.
Since the schools do not believe in objective moral truth, they break out their dog-eared copies of Freud for help instead of a Bible or even a basic hygiene handbook for teaching of secular “sexual” values. They are so frightened of repressing the deepest urges of their students that they offer them birth control and abortion referrals. Instead of role models, some teachers have become sexual predators.
Some schools rely on their medicine cabinets to “solve” many school “problems.”
They have pills for everything. Whether it is Ritalin for restless young boys, or Prozac for teenage depression, their dependency on medication has nothing to do with character development and often only masks the symptoms of adolescent souls that have become moral wastelands. Many schools have also supplanted the Cardinal virtues of prudence and fortitude with the secular virtues of pluralism and tolerance.
Since it has become apparent that too many children are not even developing the necessary personal habits of virtue and self-denial at home, is it any wonder that so many children have trouble in school or that so many marriages fail? The Me Generation still reigns in America. Selfish parents usually wind up with self-indulgent children, no matter how many whales they may have saved.
Thanks to these self-centered parents and our reigning educational philosophy, American society produces more “characters,” than it does people of “character.” Many of our founding fathers stressed that for our constitutional system to work, people had to be of good moral character. Only a society without character or that did not believe in transcendent virtues— what C. S. Lewis poetically called men without chests, could ironically tell its women that they had an absolute right to chose to abort their children. This is the ultimate litmus test of a society whose moral compass is spinning out of control.
Abortion has become the validation of an old Cheyenne proverb that warned a nation is never conquered until the hearts of its women are on the ground. These prophetic but simple words were the essence of Mother Teresa’s constant lament, My, oh my what has happened to us when mothers are killing their own children!
WILLIAM A. BORST has taught at virtually all levels of education from elementary school through university, published commentaries in many local and national publications, and hosted a weekly talk show on WGNU radio for 22 years. Having recently served as editor of the Mindszenty Report, Dr. Borst is the author of two prominent books: Liberalism: Fatal Consequences (1999) and The Scorpion and the Frog: A Natural Conspiracy (2005). He holds a PhD in American History from St. Louis University.