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Why Johnny Can't Tell Right from Wrong: And What We Can Do About It Paperback – September 1, 1993

4.6 out of 5 stars 17 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

About the Author

William Kilpatrick is the author of several books, including Psychological Seduction and Why Johnny Can't Tell Right from Wrong. His articles on Islam have appeared in Investor's Business Daily, Front Page Magazine, Jihad Watch, Catholic World Report, the National Catholic Register, World, and other publications. Professor Kilpatrick taught for over 30 years at Boston College from 1970 to 2001.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster (September 1, 1993)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671870734
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671870737
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #446,001 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
This book makes its point without self-righeousness or preaching of any kind. The author argues that the mission of schools has changed from building character and citizenship to addressing social problems (i.e. drug and sex education, multi-culturalism), and the focus has changed from conveying a shared culture to a focus on the process of learning itself. The author argues that virtues can be taught by offering up heroes to emulate through classics, song, and story, as an antidote to relative values. The last section of the book contains suggested children's literature, by age group. I found this book to be riveting and profound, offering a unique perspective, evenly and logically presented with no trace of fanatacism (religious or otherwise) such as might be expected in a book of this sort.
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Format: Paperback
While I originally borrowed this book, I had to buy it to keep it's valuable list of recommended readings on hand. I am a child psychologist who, like Dr. Kilpatrick, is totally disillusioned with the misapplication of "expert psychotherapeutic principles" to our school-aged children. The problems that most children exhibit are not due to "blocked feelings" or an overly strict conscience. Rather, by virtue of their age, most children have underdeveloped consciences. It is our job, as adults, to strengthen children's characters, rather than assume they have some "innate wisdom" that will automatically lead them to do what is right. I have successfully used story-telling in my work as a child psycholgist because it gets messages across in a compelling, easily digested way. As a parent, I will look forward to exposing my daughters to the recommended readings in the extensive bibliography. (I can use some inspiration by re-reading many of these books too.)
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Format: Paperback
I saw the author of this book speak on C-SPAN, and also this book was recommended to me, as I am researching educational issues. This book explained so many things that I heretofore did not understand. If you are disturbed by the erosion of morality in this country, then read this book. Do you wonder about the effectiveness of drug prevention programs? Do you suspect that sex education actually increases sexual activity and pregnancy among teens? Well, it does, and the author tells how and why, in an objective, clear way. Does your child have a "psychologized classroom," with unearned self-esteem as the main goal? This book will tell you the full details on educational theory and practice in this country and the far-reaching consequences. Funny thing--social science supports many of the things traditionalists have been saying. I warn you, though, after reading this you may want to put your child in a private or home school, instead of allowing him or her to be at the mercy of educational experimenters who use our children to try out the latest intellectual fashions, with diasatrous results.
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Format: Paperback
I have taught in pubic school, private school, and home school. This is one of the few books I have ever read that changed my life and made me just want to jump off the couch and become an agent for change. The author got the inspiration for his title from the famous book, Why Johnny Can't Read, written years earlier, which also sounded the alarm about systemic problems within the public school system and the ivory tower world of the liberal education professors. The educational establishment, though perhaps often well-intentioned, is steeped in group-think, and fails to stick to real evidence of results when deciding to use a particular educational approach. Rather, they cling to favorite ways of teaching and favorite program simply because they like them, because they appeal to them personally (rather than because they get results and produce desired student outcomes), or because they have some kind of political or philosophical agenda they are trying to impose. You may not agree with every point, and some information may be becoming out of date as the years go by, but this is still an eye-opening must-read for everyone! [...]
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While my biggest critical question of this book is how it would approach moral education in the year 2012 (have there been any changes in the systems dicussed? Different systems?) I must say Kilpatrick is right on the mark in discussing the essentials of morality and what goes into raising your basic good kid. In fact, I recognized the legitimacy of many of his ideas even as they contradicted notions I already have (had?) in place. While I do find some of his statements a little too attached to certain specific cultures, there is nothing wrong in the essence and one has to wonder if we can separate proper morality from its stereotypes. A wonderful and thoughtful book.
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Format: Paperback
For decades a swelling chorus of journalistic lament and breastbeating has decried the lack of morality in America. Whether one considers the Charles Keating-style con-artists who subverted the Savings and Loan industry or beholds the teenagers "wilding" and "whirlpooling" in our urban jungles, something is clearly askew in America's morality. But exactly what's lacking, exactly why we're so troubled, is generally more obscured than clarified in TV and newspaper presentations.
To help remedy this vacuum in the public's understanding, a professor of education at Boston College, William Kilpatrick, has published Why Johnny Can't Tell Right from Wrong: Moral Illiteracy and the Case for Character Education (New York: Simon and Schuster, c. 1992), providing a probing and disquieting analysis.
What we face is a crisis of moral illiteracy which overrides the crisis of cultural illiteracy (or simple illiteracy, for that matter). We live in a society where increasing numbers of men and women have little sense of propriety, minimal confidence in moral standards beyond their own personal constructions, no belief in moral absolutes. In part, this results from the growing influence the popular media, especially music and television, exert on impressionable youngsters. Far more deeply than the precepts of parents, teachers or preachers, the media saturate the minds and shapes the hearts of our kids. In the judgment of Kenneth Myers, a TV critic, "'Television is . . . not simply the dominant medium of popular culture, it is the single most significant shared reality in our entire society. . . . In television we live and move and have our being'" (p. 264).
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