Prager U: What should parents want their children to be?

When I was growing up, my parents had high expectations for me in terms of academic achievement. I was expected to excel, and especially to apply myself … which is usually where I chronically fell short. (My work ethic was a late-onset phenomenon.) More than anything, though, my parents wanted me to grow up to be a good person, and not just a successful person in the mercenary sense.

Prager University offers a new course on parental goals, and at the root, communicating the values of goodness as a priority over all other considerations. Nations grow stronger with more young people of integrity, and history offers lessons about the lack of such, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin instructs:

Although Rabbi Telushkin doesn’t explicitly address this, such an orientation requires a couple of basics. One is a perception that integrity matters more than financial success, which is what Rabbi Telushkin mainly argues here. The other prerequisite, though, is a sense of objective good on the part of the parents, which must exist before transmitting the priority of integrity to their children.

The issues raised in this video are produced not because people deliberately set out to be objectively evil, but because they are convinced that there is no objective good and therefore what is good for themselves is the same as good overall. To use one of the examples: If cheating on tests means getting the grades to get into that Ivy League school and one perceives that competitors are doing the same, then moral relativism would instruct that cheating is not just necessary but a perceived good by (a) punishing others who cheat, and (b) benefiting the center of one’s particular universe.

If parents want to instill and pass on the kind of values that produces integrity and goodness, they have to first embrace a philosophy of objective truth and moral imperatives. Without that, we should not be surprised to see a lack of integrity result in succeeding generations.

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Jazz Shaw 5:01 PM on March 20, 2023