Is polarized morality as a children lesson a good idea?
I was watching a children’s show this morning and one of the characters said “make sure you do that to the bad guys”. You may have seen it as well in movies and TV shows: there’s the good guys and there’s the bad guys. There’s no in-between.
That got me thinking that the world is not as simple as “good guys” and “bad guys”, but we’re given that explanation as children as to understand moral grounds and then be able to refine our concepts of ethics.
But since usually presenting a poor representation of the world for children will generate unrealistic expectations (if not corrected soon enough), is it a good idea to present such a polarization in this case?
Are there alternatives?
Well, yes. At the very least, we could leave out the characterization of “good guys” and “bad guys” and start talking about “good actions” and “bad actions”. Characters could be redeemable through the execution of morally good actions or even drifted away for treason unexpectedly. This would make up for interesting plot twists.
Inclusion of neutral parties could also be interesting. Not everything is good or bad, and making that statement also helps in developing a richer moral compass. The problem for shows it that this is usually boring. If it doesn’t help and it doesn’t become a problem, then main characters cannot judge them. But then, wouldn’t that be an interesting lesson?
“I’m sorry, Superman. I can’t tell you where the robbers are hiding.”
“But you’re the police chief. You should know.”
“You’re right, but we’ve been investigating and still haven’t found them. Sorry I can’t help.”
“I don’t blame you. You did your best.”
And it’s not just for children
All in all, morals and ethics are still something grown ups are struggling to understand. Let’s give kids a head start so that they can get better at it than us.