Crime Beat

Ethal Maharg is Right: We Have a Morality Problem

Government schools cannot replace the teaching of morality at home.

In a rare moment of humanity during the New Mexico gubernatorial debate last week, candidate Ethal Maharg broke away from generic campaign talking points to speak about rising crime from a perspective mainstream politicians don’t usually acknowledge.

After noting the failure of judges to hold criminals accountable, Maharg offered something even she admitted isn’t common in political debates.

“In 1962, we took prayer out of schools, and since then we’ve had a 700% increase in crime in our juveniles. In fact, most of our crimes that are committed are by juveniles. I would suggest that we consider a little bit of a moral change here, and some more character development of our students.” 

— GOP Gubernatorial Candidate Ethal Maharg, KOAT candidate debate

While we were not able to verify the claim that the majority of crimes are committed by juveniles specifically, crime in New Mexico has increased significantly since 1962. Per capita violent crime increased over 500% in that time, aggravated assault increased 800%. Rape increased nearly 400%, adjusted for population growth.

Regardless of the statistics, the sentiment is accurate. The sources of crime are underreported in the 24-hour news cycle of modern society. Even after hearing about the carnage of school shootings, the national conversation rarely strays from the vitriolic tunnel vision of gun culture, only to be quickly forgotten by the next sensational headline.

We’ve always had guns. The Second Amendment and constitutional nod to well regulated militias were fundamental to the founding of America. And yet, despite a long history of “gun culture,” we haven’t always had mass school shootings.

Is the change in culture the result taking prayer out of schools?

Maybe. There’s definitely a case to be made there, but not everybody in America is Christian, and the Constitution — regardless of the personal beliefs of our Founders — was created as a direct rebuke of England’s government-sanctioned religion. 

Government should no more be trusted to oversee personal religious beliefs as it should be given responsibility for teaching morality to children. And prayer in schools doesn’t itself create morality. 

Like the Pledge of Allegiance, a short morning chant to a non-believer is meaningless. Without morality at home, taught by parents and re-enforced by a community of like-minded believers, school prayer is unlikely to make a difference in the lives of the individual perpetrators of these heinous acts of violence.

Nonetheless, school prayer is a microcosm of society’s move away from moral teachings generally. The fact remains, something is wrong in America. 

We’ve created a victim culture that builds people up not for what they are capable of as individuals or their contributions to their community, but for their weaknesses and intersectionality, the things that make them different rather than the things that make them an important part of a whole.

Kids today can spend 12 years in school and graduate without any skills whatsoever. No job prospects. No connection to society. We have vilified sports as violent and socially castrated by plugging them into television and social media and video game consoles. And when their government-mandated attendance at school comes to an end, they find themselves even more alone. 

Every school shooter has the same traits: socially isolated, physically weak, unkempt, unattractive, without friends let alone a girlfriend. Most are from broken homes, are unengaged in student organizations or sport, but with a prominent presence online.

(You don’t see many captains of the football team entering elementary schools to kill children.)

Maharg is right. We’ve lost our moral compass in America. And just as the War on Drugs failed to stop drug use, let alone addictions and overdoses, a gun policy bandaid will no more cure the cancer on society from violence than banning forks will prevent obesity. 

The answer to society’s ills is not government intervention. Everybody can identify the problem: we need to raise better kids — but nobody knows how to do that on a mass scale. Hence the inaction even from Democrats, who politicize every mass shooting as a rebuke of Conservatism but do nothing about it, even with majorities in both branches of Congress and control of the Executive.

5 replies »

  1. Very well written, and food for thought. I think it brings light to the actual issues plaguing our youth. Guns have been an integral part of society and American history for hundreds of years, and yet historically we did not see mass shootings and the violence of today. Guns are not the problem, but mental health problems, social isolation, video games, electronics, social media addiction, the demasculinization of men and their role in society, and the general feeling of disconnect from the community at large is to blame. Like you stated, removing the pledge of allegiance, sports, morality and substance from the lives of youth have left them without purpose, or a feeling of belonging to something bigger than themselves like their community or country.

    • Thank you for the comment. You’re absolutely right. It seems more and more like we focus on the weapon because nobody wants to admit that we are creating bad people.

  2. Morality is important. The notion that certain conduct is prohibited assumes direction by a higher power than government. The Golden Rule is obvious. When we place faith in government we abandon faith in that higher power. The secular trend since the 60’s has removed any effort to teach morality. Government is amoral, trust in government to replace trust in a higher power, justice itself has led to amorality or relative morality.

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