Blogging about life in Minnesota, raising our six kids with Down syndrome while battling Breast Cancer.

Be the kind of woman that when your feet hit the floor in the morning the devil says, "Oh shit! She's up!"

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Voice of God: Developing a Conscience, pt 1

 con·science   [kon-shuhns]  Show IPA
1. the inner sense of what is right or wrong in one's conduct ormotives, impelling one toward right action: to follow thedictates of conscience.
2. the complex of ethical and moral principles that controls orinhibits the actions or thoughts of an individual.
In the late 1700's, philosopher Jeremy Bentham, in an attempt to address legal and social reform, proposed a design for a prison. He called it the Panopticon.

Bentham's theory was that criminals had no conscience. We develop a conscience as very small children. If you're a parent, you know that you never have to teach a child to be bad. They do it all on their own without any coaching. Instead we have to teach them to be good! We model good behavior, we teach them the meaning of "no", etc. Conscience first happens when children behave well because they know Mom and Dad are watching; they are "God" in the child's eyes. About the same time they are also developing empathy, which helps with the development of "conscience". In the Christian community, around age 3 or so children begin to understand that "God" is the next parent, the ultimate parent, if you will, and that he is all-knowing. We do good and act well because that is what God wants us to do. God...or the thought that God is watching, becomes our conscience.

In Bentham's Panopticon prison, the cells are situated in a circular pattern with the guards in the center, allowing them full vision of the prisoners. Tubes were run to each cell to be used like an intercom system so the guards to tell the prisoners to stop doing whatever it was they shouldn't be doing. They would become the conscience for the prisoners. Soon the prisoners would think before acting, "Who's watching me?" eventually developing a better sense of right and wrong. They developed their own conscience. Although Bentham's plan wasn't accepted, later generations were influenced by his thinking.

Now lets look at a child raised in an institution similar to where Axel was raised. They spend much, if not all of their early years sitting in a crib alone. They don't play with other children. They don't learn the meaning of "no". In their confined world behind the bars of a crib, there is no need to develop a conscience.

Enter into my life a boy named Axel.

To be continued.....

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