Moral and Intellectual Poison for Children

 by Erica Carle - April 30, 2007

"The chief architect of a particularly insidious moral development program is a Harvard professor named Lawrence Kohlberg.... Kohlberg developed techniques which are easy to teach and which effectively serve to break down the personality so that past moral teachings and moral development are forgotten and discarded to be replaced with the Manson-type morality."

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Emphasis added


There is little amiss in education that LESS federal and foundation (F&F for short) money couldn't cure. Among the courses that could benefit from a withdrawal of F&F funds are those now treated together as elements of a sociologically-designed combination called 'social studies.'

The emphasis in social studies curriculum planning from the 1960's has been on developing what sociologists call a 'Conceptual Framework' and a 'Problem-Solving' curriculum. The conceptual framework for social studies is a method of limiting knowledge rather than expanding it. Facts are used for one purpose, and only one purpose, that being to help the students arrive at predetermined sociological concepts.

Since the 1960's under the leadership of a National Education Association organization called the National Council for the Social Studies, and with the help of F&F financing, the conceptual framework and curriculum have been used in most schools in many subjects and at all levels.

The conceptual framework used in the public schools version of moral education is called the 'Cognitive-Developmental Approach to Moral Education'. Without knowing what it means, parents tend to assume something good is happening to the children. In an article I wrote for my weekly "Truth In Education" column April 8, 1976 I expressed a contrary opinion. The article was titled, "MORALITY FOR MURDERERS." The subtitle read, "U.S. Govt. Finances Manson-Type Morality at Harvard." The following is quoted from that 1976 article:

"Those who watched the recent TV presentation of HELTER SKELTER telling the story of the Tate murders and the trial of Charles Manson and his 'family' must have wondered how so many young people could have turned so animalistic and vicious, and been so completely unrepentant. After the trial for committing some of the most horrendous murders ever committed, Charles Manson said, 'Everything was all right. There was no wrong.' And Susan Adkins said, 'I have no remorse for doing what was right to me. I have no guilt in me.'"

Instead of basing their morality on Christian principles or on moral laws which have been discovered and revealed over the centuries, Manson and his followers lived by what they thought was a personal morality. Each believed he had his own carefully thought-out moral system. Their acts of murder did not conflict with their own personal morality. This Manson-type morality is exactly the same morality which is taught to your children in the schools. . .

The techniques for morally corrupting your children were worked out at the universities: Harvard, Carnegie-Mellon, Boston and Rockefeller Universities being among the most notorious. The chief architect of a particularly insidious moral development program is a Harvard professor named Lawrence Kohlberg. Working with grants from the Cooperative Research Branch of the United States Office of Education, The W. Clement and Jessie V. Stone Foundation, the Danforth Foundation, and the Joseph P. Kennedy Foundation, Kohlberg developed techniques which are easy to teach and which effectively serve to break down the personality so that past moral teachings and moral development are forgotten and discarded to be replaced with the Manson-type morality. . .

The April 1976 issue of SOCIAL EDUCATION is devoted almost exclusively to promoting this 'Cognitive-Developmental Approach to Moral Education.' The fact that the goal is to break down the moral principles is clearly stated. However, one would have to attend a few seminars and teachers' meetings to understand how insidious the techniques are and how easy it might be to be taken in by all the nicey-nice words and phrases, such as, 'sanctity of life,' 'moral development,' 'higher moral state,' 'principled moral thought,' 'commitment,' and 'moral dilemma' which are tossed about. Those who participate often walk away and say like Susan Adkins and Charles Manson, "There is no wrong, I have no guilt in me."

Kohlberg's moral development theory is based on oversimplified statements of how people arrive at moral conclusions rather than the intelligence and decency of the conclusions themselves. A completely self-developed moral code represents Kohlberg’s highest stage of moral development. Kohlbergian morality and Mansonian morality are one.

Because social studies curriculum designers tend to be of the bean counting type they generally assign numbers to human activities. Thus, Kohlberg moral reasoning is divided into three levels, each consisting of two stages. The most important thing to notice is what happens at Kohlberg's Stages 4, 5 and 6. The following are Kohlberg's levels and stages:

I. Preconventional Level

The child responds to simple labels such as good or bad, right or wrong. He learns which things are bad or wrong by being punished. He learns about good or right by experiencing pleasure. This level has two stages.

Stage 1: A child will judge something bad if he is punished for doing it rather than decide that something is bad on the basis of the human value or meaning of what is being done.
Stage 2: At this stage, right action means something which fulfills one's own needs, or sometimes the needs of others.

II. Conventional Level

Stage 3: Correct behavior is that which pleases or helps other people and which other people approve of.
Stage 4: Right behavior consists of conforming with the laws of the society by doing one's duty, showing respect for authority and maintaining the social order.

III. Post-Conventional or Principled Level

This level goes beyond justifying actions on the basis that the society has passed a law which should be obeyed. At this level, the individual tries to define moral levels and principles for himself even if his personal definition differs from that of the law.

Stage 5: Right action is defined in terms of general individual rights and of standards which the whole society has examined critically What is right becomes a matter of personal values and opinions. The emphasis falls on changing laws by examining rationally whether laws, or a particular law, are useful.

Stage 6: Here the individual defines right action in terms of his individual conscience established in accordance with self-chosen ethical principles. These principles are abstract -- the dignity and worth of the individual -- rather than concrete -- the Ten Commandments. From such principles an individual can justify civil disobedience, which cannot be justified by anyone at stage 4. He can also justify revolution by abstract principles.

Actually, he can justify anything. Using the Cognitive Developmental Theory of Moral Reasoning, all he needs to do to justify his behavior is to claim he is acting on self-chosen ethical principles, and that no one has a right to criticize or condemn his principles. In other words, he has the right to behave in whatever manner he chooses, but you have no right to say what you think about it.

To help children believe they are forming personal values and opinions and establishing self-chosen ethical principles, prepackaged moral discussions complete with format, questions, and audiovisual aids can be purchased. Anyone who can read and talk can become a moral counselor ala Kohlberg after one or two easy lessons--thanks to F&F funding.

Discussions leading children to adopt a Stage 6 Manson/Kohlberg-type morality are tricky. They begin with a dilemma. However it is not really a MORAL dilemma. It is either a contrived fictional situation or a dilemma resulting from a moral error. Someone has already lied, stolen, become inconveniently pregnant, etc. What results is merely an argument about the most expedient way to clean up the mess. The class discussions, whether based on a situation resulting from a moral error or on a fictional dilemma can never lead to a moral decision because it is too late. The dilemma is a consequence of a moral error. The point-of-no-return has been passed; but students, for the most part will not be aware of the distinction.

Teachers are programmed to use the following strategy for guiding the so-called moral discussion:

Step 1. Present the dilemma.
Step 2. Create a division in the class on action that ought to be taken.
Step 3. Organize small group discussions in which students share, rank, and justify their reasons for choosing a particular action.
Step 4. Guide a class discussion in terms of consequences, previous dilemmas, and analogous dilemmas.
Step 5 Use probing questions to clarify, raise specific issues, raise inter-issues, examine other roles, examine universal consequences.
Step 6. Bring the discussion to a close. Summarize reasons. Reflect on actions. Choose an action. State reasons for choice.

The arguments could go on forever because a dilemma is a situation in which there is no right answer. Whatever option is chosen it will have disagreeable consequences. That is what a dilemma is – choosing between undesirable alternatives. But whatever course of action a student chooses he/she learns to claim that the action is right for him/her because it was chosen after reflection and moral reasoning. Anything can be justified. Children who have gained limited knowledge in school, but who have learned next to nothing from the world, are programmed to commit themselves to emotion-arousing opinions, plan future courses of action, and argue with each other on what actions should be taken.


The curriculum guide for teachers requires them to lead students through the decision-making process at every class level. However, to insure that eventually students will come up with the right judgments according to the conceptual framework, they are given clearly defined criteria to guide their thinking. The criteria are not self-chosen as suggested in Kohlberg's Level 6. They are abstract moral principles which have been chosen by the curriculum designers.

There is a special irony about the fact that Kohlberg's moral reasoning has become so much a part of the social studies curriculum. While hundreds of millions in F&F funding were promoting its use, Dr. Kohlberg, himself, was deeply troubled and uncertain about the moral reasoning process. It is as though the process has gone forward and left him behind. F&F funding is like that. It is frequently found to be financing experiments on people on the basis of unproved and incomplete theories.

Dr. Kohlberg was especially concerned about Stage 6 in the Moral Reasoning theory. During an all-day seminar at Mount Mary College in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin on March 18, 1985 Dr. Kohlberg stated that he was still struggling with problems of his own personal development. Also, he was having a problem trying to define the highest stage of moral thinking. In addition he stated that he questioned some of the philosophical assumptions in his 1984 book, THE PSYCHOLOGY OF MORAL DEVELOPMENT, and the assumptions he made in 1981 that the 6th stage centered on justice. He later thought the 6th stage has to be centered on a special integration of justice and beneficence. But then he went on to question the wisdom of retaining stage 6 at all.

During the question period I was amazed by his openness and willingness to accept negative comments about his lifetime labor. When I stepped up to the microphone I expected to be silenced by caustic remarks as soon as he caught on to the direction I was traveling. This had been my experience in the past with many other speakers. But it didn't happen. Instead, Dr. Kohlberg seemed to encourage further probing.


I started by saying: "It seems to me there is a great deal of arguing about what is moral and what isn't moral, and it is very difficult to come to a decision in this moral reasoning. And in studying some of the problems that are brought up, for instance, abortion or premarital sex and all these thing, it seems to me that many times students are arguing what they seem to be considering to be moral choices and actually they are at the stage where there no longer is a moral choice. When you're arguing about abortion, you're not arguing moral reasoning or about anything moral at all. When that baby was conceived--after that choice was made--the next choice is based only on expediency. And then it's a matter of whose welfare is the most expedient choice. It's no longer a matter of what is moral and what is immoral. Once you have passed the position where the point-of-no-return is reached there is no longer an opportunity to make a moral choice at all."

DR. K.: "We could get in a long moral dialogue about this. I would say this. The situations you mention are moral in my terminology because they involve respect for persons and the fetus is a person, and respect for the mother as a person, possibly other people also. You said that the morality thing goes back to the issue of conception in the morality of birth control. Really, whether birth control is moral or not. As I understand, you push the moral choice back from the time of abortion to the time of conception. Now, I think people would take many different stands on this point of view because the point of view is, when does an ovum become a person to be treated as a person. This is a point on which different people think differently."

ERICA: "In order to have any kind of moral thinking whatsoever you have to be dealing with intelligent people. Now, if a person does not want to have a child it is not an intelligent thing to put yourself in a position where you know you might have a child."

DR. K.: "I see what you're saying."

ERICA: "I think morality involves intelligence. Christ said, Come to me with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and it seems to me if a person gets to a point where he has to indulge in all this moral reasoning and moral discussion it is because somewhere or another--way back--I don't know how long ago, he didn't use his head."

DR. K.: "I see what you're saying. You’re saying that in a way that the kind of dilemmas I've been talking about , the hypothetical dilemmas are kind of remote from human life."

ERICA: "I'm not saying they are remote from human life. They are remote from intelligent life. I think it's very foolish to get people arguing, arguing, and arguing about the dilemma that is created when a wrong moral decision is made because then you can only make an expedient decision. And that decision is going to be expedient for the one who is the stronger. The person who has the most power to bring about his decision is the one who is going to win. There is no real argument. The stronger person is going to win."

"The reason we have morality and the reason that Christ told us the things he did is so we can think about things, and use our heads about them, and do the right thing. Well, once you've gone past the point where you can do the right thing, there's no sense arguing any more. Then it's expediency.

"The same thing about those three people in the boat. My son pointed out to me what the decision is going to be. You’re not going to sit and reason. You're going to have the two people who are the stronger give the heave-ho to the third."

DR. K.: (Laughed)

ERICA: I don't even think you can talk morality unless you talk about God, and you're trying to be scientific about it, and it's impossible.

DR. K.: Now I think you've raised a very important point about not being able to talk about morality without God. You've raised a number of interesting issues which we can continue on discussing.

At this point another questioner took over. Dr. Kohlberg answered several more interesting questions in a very cordial manner before the presentation ended. I have since regretted that I did not make an effort to have a personal discussion with him after the Mount Mary Symposium was over. Now, however, the opportunity is gone. On January 12, 1987 Dr. Kohlberg disappeared. On April 6, 1987 his body washed ashore in the marshes at the tip of Logan Airport, an apparent suicide. He was 59.

In my own mind I no longer blame Dr. Kohlberg for continued use of the problem-centered, decision-making curriculum in the social studies. Dr. Kohlberg was left behind and his Moral Reasoning was taken over from the first moment he expressed personal doubt. I believe it took exceptional courage and honesty for him to say the things he said at Mount Mary College about his own work.

For those now responsible, look to the National Council for the Social Studies, Harvard, Carnegie Mellon, and other universities with their F & F funding. And look to state governors and legislators who do not have the sense, responsibility or courage to say 'no' to free money even when it is used to buy moral and intellectual poison for the minds of Children.

Other articles by Erica Carle:

Get rid of sociological stupidity in schools | Government religion in the United States

The Chamber of Commerce  | The Chamber of Commerce: Blanket over the world

The Intelligent Student's Guide to the New World Order

© 2007 Erica Carle - All Rights Reserved


Erica Carle is an independent researcher and writer. She has a B.S. degree from the University of Wisconsin. She has been involved in radio and television writing and production, and has also taught math and composition at the private school her children attended in Brookfield, Wisconsin. For ten years she wrote a weekly column, "Truth In Education" for WISCONSIN REPORT, and served as Education Editor for that publication.

Her books are GIVE US THE YOUNG--$5 Plus $2.00 P&H WHY THINGS ARE THE WAY THEY ARE--$16 PLUS $4.00 P&H BOTH BOOKS -- $25 Total. A loose leaf collection of quotes titled, SIX GENERATIONS TO SERFDOM is also available--$15 Plus $2.00 P&H. Mailing address: Erica Carle; PO Box 261; Elm Grove, WI 53122.


E-mail: ericacarle@sbcglobal.net