At what point in time does a child know the difference between right and wrong, good and evil? At what time does that interpretation change from its wrong to not share your toys with your baby brother to it is wrong to kill someone or steal? Are people born inherently good or evil? Is there any middle ground? When man first enters the world as an innocent child, he has no knowledge of what is good or bad. Therefore he cannot purposely commit a good or bad deed.
At what age does that change—or does it? A child is born malleable, malleable through elements in his or her environment—upbringing, physical environment, peer pressure, economics, tragedy, stress, etc; the most important elements being upbringing, personal conviction, and peer-pressure. In more than one way, a child’s environment shapes their world, his perspective on life, his morals and standards; his definition of what is right and what is wrong.
Knowing the power of love as well as having a sense of belonging is an environment that will give a child a solid foundation to turn back to; whereas children who have been neglected and abandoned, will turn to alternative pathways – usually not very good ones. Most recently, yesterday’s Record Searchlight tells a story of Daniel Scruggs, who grew up in a cluttered, dirty home where he committed suicide when he was just twelve years old. Critics say that Daniel was depressed and neglected. Unfortunately, Daniel saw only one way out of his misery…and that was to take his life.
Even literature illustrates this truth – In the novel Animal Farm, a brood of pups are taken away from their mother and are raised by a greedy, power-hungry pig that uses them to maintain power and to reinforce his presence. The pups had no choice in the matter and grew up to be violent, blood-thirsty dogs. Upbringing is so important, it leaves life-long impressions. So many things affect a child’s perspective on what is right and what is wrong, and it is up to parents and guardians to instill in them those qualities which will enable them make good choices.
As important as environment is, individuals have to make their own decisions. Peer pressure plays an integral role in our decision making. Once again literature supports this point. “We will proceed no further in this business,” says Macbeth and Lady Macbeth replies, …”Screw your courage to the sticking-place, and we’ll not fail. ” Lady Macbeth was willing to do it for Macbeth if he wouldn’t do it himself, and if left to make that choice on his own, Macbeth wouldn’t have had the gall to commit the crime.
Lady Macbeth persuaded Macbeth to kill Duncan so that he could gain the crown and she could be queen. All throughout our lives we will be tempted in one way or another and the outcome is simply determined by standards, our own morals, and our own strength. Though many succumb to peer pressure, most of us have moral standards that help us to draw our boundaries. According to a class survey, two students said that they are tempted to commit illegal acts rather than go against their own morals because “if no one catches you, is it illegal? ” and the thrill of “how much can I get away with?
” Individuals must know their own limitations before they can discern what is right and what is wrong; therefore it is very important that from an early age, children learn to make, not a good decision, but the best decision. All men are not born good and all men are not born evil. I believe that men are born innocent yet with a human nature that if given the chance will do evil. If enough good influences can overpower one’s human nature and if the individual is disciplined from an early age – learning to obey boundaries and laws than they will know what is right and what is wrong.
If they’ve been taught to respect those in authority, old and young, rich or poor; they will know what is right and what is wrong. We live our lives without knowing the impacts that they have on others around us…may we live accordingly. Works Cited Class Survey, 22 Jan. 2004 Shakespeare, William. Macbeth. 1605. 23 Jan 2004 (1. 7. 21) Baker, Russell, C. M Woodhouse, and George Orwell. Animal Farm. N. p. : Plume , 1996. 5-298. “System Failure. ” Record Searchlight 22 Jan. 2004, sec. D: D-2-D-2.