When I was younger I operated to what I held as a strict, innate moral code. I believed I was, by my very nature, a good person. As time has passed I have behaved in different ways, learned new things and been exposed to many more people. This has caused me to realise the fallacy of my earlier beliefs. It seems to me now, that humans are, without passing judgement on any individual, simply base animals. What appears to set us aside from other animals is our development of complex culture, language and society. Obviously this is due to biological differences, but as DNA has shown this represents a relatively small difference. The way I see it now is that our biological differences have, over time, tiny step by tiny step, allowed us to build up a facade of non-animal behaviour. This behaviour is passed from generation to generation, and as such allows us to maintain a continuous history of relatively steady behaviour. Over time we have come to see this behaviour as being innate: something that makes us different (superior) to other species. Cases of humans “raised by animals” show us clearly that a single generation, removed from our societal constructs, reverts with alarming speed to “primitive” state.

If this belief is accurate, then, the most important question we can ask is what are the mechanisms through which society is reproduced from one generation to the next? I would propose that the traditional answers of family and school are at the centre of this issue. Over the last 100 years I would also imagine, certainly in Western Europe and North America, that mass media has largely displaced the Church as a means for social reproduction.

As both a parent and a teacher-to-be, this line of reasoning has really made me pull up and think for a minute. How can I play my part in this continuum of human behaviour? Which aspects do I wish to propagate and which do I wish to subdue? The answers to these questions might have to wait for another time…