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Saturday, February 4, 2023

Towards the Development of CMT—Critical Moral Theory

Professors at law schools over the past several decades have been developing and teaching CRT, Critical Race Theory, and the general population is only recently hearing about CRT, with many objecting to this form of “critical” thinking. Our grown children are now telling us that CRT had been taught in their law schools for years. They graduated 20 years ago.

   Law school professors need to look at developing a new theory, one that is foundational to their profession but is lacking in modern American culture. They need to develop and teach what we should call CRITICAL MORAL THEORY, CMT. The law is all about handling rights and wrongs. What is right to do versus what is wrong to do. Our modern society seems to have no common guidance on these fundamental issues. But the law is all about dealing with criminal and civil rights and wrongs. Where can young people find the generally accepted code of behavior—a code of ethics– to guide their lives? Nowhere! This could be the reason behind the horrific criminal actions of young people who seem to think that they can act out whatever evil thought comes into their heads. They shoot fellow students, killing them without remorse. They rob stores, assault old people and ethnics at random. In these actions they are demonstrating that their consciences, the mind processing and making good and right decisions, is not properly formed and developed. It is now time to develop, publish and teach a common code of ethical behavior for all Americans, whatever their ethnic, religious or cultural origins. No society can cohere without a common shared culture: a shared way of speaking, thinking, hoping, acting and behaving. We need to develop a social conscience—the mind of man making the right decisions, in our people. 

   There needs to be guidance in the area of morals. This is where criminal and civic decisions are nurtured and eventually chosen or rejected. The law makers and the legal professionals need to immediately focus on developing the moral code, the summary of the laws which are now in place and have those taught to the entire culture in such a forceful manner that the criminal behavior that seems to be taking over this country can be stemmed.

   The ability to distinguish between what is right and wrong must be established and taught in the schools at every level. Doing what is right should be praised and doing what is wrong must be shamed and banished from civic society for the good of the society, as a whole. The ancients knew this very well that concepts of right and wrong must be taught, and in ancient cultures codes of ethics were developed and taught to the children as part of the established rights of passage. For centuries, the Judeo-Christian ethics guided the morality of the Western Civilizations and helped them to grow and prosper. Today, ethics based on Jewish and Christian thought are not universally accepted on religious grounds. Even though most of the tenets of that morality were universal, teaching them somehow became objectionable. Even basic thoughts like “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” cannot be taught because such is coming from someone’s religion and can be seen as a secret way of proselytizing. So, although the moral teaching is good for the society, it has been rejected because of its religious source. No one stops to think that those religions were most likely developed to introduce the concepts of right and wrong; good and evil. Take a reread of Genesis chapters one through three to discover that Genesis was most likely written to introduce the concepts of good and evil, rather than to deal with the geological beginnings. Those chapters were written to introduce concepts of good and evil, morality, into the human condition. (But that is for another column.)

   Returning to the modern day need for the establishment of an acceptable moral code to guide the society in matters related to behavior, right and wrong, we believe that the law schools that developed Critical Race Theory need to spend some time developing what we want to call Critical Moral Theory (CMT) that can take the place of religious morality in a modern world where religion is being rejected.    

   The society desperately needs to develop morals to guide the society. If those are not to come from the churches, many of which seem to have lost their influence by their bad behavior over the centuries, then we need to develop a respected source for creating moral guidelines for the society at large. The religious leaders can still do their religious thing for their members. But society must find a way to gather the basics of morality and codify them in simple, easy to learn tenets that can underpin the laws of the land, criminal and civil. These must then be universally taught in schools, colleges and through movies and the arts so that the entire society could inculcate them and be guided by them.

    Decades ago, through this column in The Baltimore Times, we offered a listing of what could become the basis for a Universal Moral Code for all peoples. This was done through the process of deducing, as best as we could, from the vast number of laws on the books the tenets that underpin matters criminal and civic, fundamental tenets, that could be taught to undergird those vast tomes of law. Nobody can memorize all those laws. But everyone can remember simple tenets like: “keep your promises,” “do not steal” and “respect the dignity of every human being.”  So, we developed a modern code of 10 universal tenets. We will list our ten, again, below. But who are we to do such a thing? That is why we need the law schools and the law makers to examine these tenets and critically review them. Add, to them, modify them, source them, but in the end authenticate some code of behavior that can be enthusiastically taught to all members of the society.

   The great philosopher, Plato, raised this question to his student Nemo: “tell me Nemo, can virtue be taught?” We answer, “yes, and it must be taught.” But in our divided society we must come to some agreement about what can be universally taught, without controversy. Here are our ten universal tenets. The law makers, lawyers and preachers should critically look at these, add or remove what are not acceptable, so that after a robust examination the results of our Critical Moral Theory can be codified and taught universally.

     In the interim period, please download and share as a Christmas present this “Code of Ethics for all Civilized People.”

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