Moral standards protect from "whatever" mentality

As the political grudge matches drag on, even the most optimistic among us are bound to be cynical about the direction America is likely to take over the next few years. It bears remembering that the lawmakers of our national and state capitols are a smal l, though powerful, portion of the population of the United States. Ordinary citizens like us have power in the way we set and meet standards in our daily conduct.

Poor choices regarding standards are the root of many of our problems. We often simply choose not to even try to define the standard for "the right thing," so we are left to do "whatever." Our "question authority" society has decided to remain in its "ter rible twos," responding to every difficult standard with "Why?" then doing whatever seems easiest, regardless of the consequences.

At the college level, we see that if difficulties arise with the courses we take, or the lifestyle choices we have made, or the people with whom we have relationships-anytime things seem too hard to bear-we attempt to get those around us to lower the stan dards to our comfort level. It would be better if we put in a little more effort, seeking support if we need it.

To some struggling in a general education course, it is a waste. We are told the standard is too high and we are asked to change the rules so students can simply take classes in their own career area. What is ignored is that the standard is there to help us realize that our career area is just a tiny portion of life, and that we need to put in some time to learn about the other areas of life in order to be whole people.

Similarly, students who choose to go out partying before an exam want us to believe that the professor's standards are too high, and that only nerds with no life passed the exam. Everyone bombs an exam on occasion, and often it is because something else l ooked more attractive than studying, but we should not blame the professor. We must admit our mistake and study more for the next exam.

On a more drastic scale, a Tucson teen, Selfa Silva, chose to become sexually active and became pregnant. Scared of her otherwise supportive parents' reaction, she hid the pregnancy, gave birth in a friend's bathroom, and strangled the child. Recently, a judge ruled Silva would not be tried as an adult.

The whole situation is a sad one. Silva first lowered the standard of saving herself for a committed man in marriage. Then she made it harder on herself by not seeking help for herself and for the baby. Ultimately, the child's life was brought to an awful end, as the standard of respect for innocent life was lowered. Now our system struggles with where to set the standard for her trial.

We must firmly, but kindly, hold each other to reasonable standards, for the good of us all. If we respond to the brutality of this crime by seeking revenge in a sentence so severe that it is usually reserved for hardened murderers, we will only make a tr agic situation worse by hardening the weaknesses in Silva. At the same time, however, we do not want to set the dangerous precedent that cold-blooded murder somehow becomes more acceptable if there are extenuating circumstances. We cannot get the baby bac k, so we are left torn about what to do with Silva.

In our lives, we do not enjoy being told we are wrong. Today it is common to hear that we have the right to do as we please as long as we do not think we are hurting anyone else. This is an evasion of responsibility. Just because we have rights does not m ean that any foreseeable use of those rights is morally acceptable. We can and do harm others. This is true regardless of whether we have any religious beliefs.

If we do not set moral standards, it is true that no one will be discouraged by breaking them. But if we do not set moral standards, we will not like the results.

Kristen Roberts is an Arts and Sciences sophomore. Her column, 'Life in Balance' appears every other Thursday. Her homepage can be found at