Saturday, June 28, 2014

Individual Desires Eclipse Sense of Social Duty

Following is a quote I wanted to share that I appreciated this week.  It comes from the book When Fathers Ruled:Family Life in Reformation Europe, by Stephen Ozment.  My husband read it to me during a dinner discussion that we were having about the differences in the way that children are trained (or not trained) today and the way they have been taught in times in the past.  The main difference we were discussing had to do with table behavior and conversation, but it applies to all conduct and decision-making.  Manners taught in times in the past (for instance, at the table) were a reflection of a greater value system where kindness to the group was more important than individual expression.

"In the sixteenth century children were raised and educated above all to be social beings; in this sense they had more duties toward their parents and society than they had rights independent of them. This did not mean that the family lacked an internal identity or that loving relationships failed to develop between spouses, between parents and children, and among siblings. Privacy and social extension were not perceived contradictory. The great fear was not that children would be abused by adult authority but that children might grow up to place their own individual rights above society's common good. To the people of Reformation Europe no specter was more fearsome than a society in which the desires of individuals eclipsed their sense of social duty. The prevention of just that possibility became the common duty of every Christian parent, teacher, and magistrate."

1 comment:

Jennie and Julie said...

Interesting quote. I think it is quite scholarly, and I don't think Grandma will understand it. I had to think over each sentence, and I came up with this: how did that thinking play out? How exactly did they train their children? And what did family life around a dinner table look like? Does the book tell us? I would be interested in a follow-up post.