Justin P. McBrayer recently argued in the New York Times that our children don’t think there are moral facts. Here’s what I take his argument to be:
- Premise 1: Common Core defines ‘fact’ as something that is true about a subject or something that can be tested or proven.
- Premise 2: Common Core defines ‘opinion’ as what someone thinks, feels, or believes.
- Premise 3: Common Core says all sentences are either facts or opinions.
- Premise 5: Common Core labels all value judgments (any claim with good, bad, right, wrong, etc) as opinions, never as facts.
- Conclusion: Common Core teaches that there are no moral facts.
- Premise 1: Common Core teaches that there are no moral facts.
- Premise 2: The school teaches that students have certain responsibilities such as “do your own work.”
- Premise 3: Premise 1 is inconsistent with premise 2.
- Premise 4: Outside of school, if there is no truth of the matter about whether cheating is wrong, then we cannot hold cheaters accountable.
- Premise 5: We do (and should) hold cheaters accountable.
- Conclusion: Outside of school, there is a truth of the matter about whether cheating is wrong (i.e., there are moral facts).
- Conclusion: We should reject the Common Core teaching that there are no moral facts.
I agree with most of McBrayer’s argument. It is a rather elegant one. But his argument has come under serious attack by Daniel Engber over at Slate. In what follows, I shall defend McBrayer’s argument against Engber’s attack. I think Engber has built an elaborate strawman, but when he takes him down, McBrayer’s argument still stands tall. (more…)