Changed Definition of Right and Wrong

“Now this is just wrong,” said the little voice in my head. That was the day, in grade school, that I stole two pieces of penny candy from a small grocery store. The cashier did not see me do it. However, a girl from my class did.  She told the store owner who called my mother. Mom frog-marched me back to the store where I apologized and paid for the candy. I knew what I had done was wrong and this event was enough to permanently end my “life of crime”.

This episode is one of many found in my first book, “Billy the Kid” which tells of the lives of children in our small town in the 1950ties. Order at

Even as children, my friends and I knew the difference between right and wrong. While we did not always do the right thing, when we did the wrong thing we knew there would be immediate consequences. Every adult in town was watching us and our parents would find out. There was no parental defense claiming that their child had been wrongly accused or punished.

How things have changed. Here is a recent news story out of a Pittsburgh public school. A female grade school teacher, following school policy, confiscated a cell phone being used in class by one of her young, female students. The phone was returned at the end of the day. As the teacher drove home, the student’s mother and three male associates were waiting in a car. They chased the teacher’s car until stopping it. A brick tossed through the car window, struck and seriously injured the teacher.  The mother said, “I told you I would get even with you.”

How can things like this happen (as they all too frequently do these days)? It starts with a dramatic change in the definition of right and wrong. Today, right is whatever I decide it is. Wrong is whatever others do that I disagree with them about. This parent thought her daughter was right – the teacher was wrong.

In the example above the child did learn. She learned disrespect for adults and that she could do no wrong. Rules don’t matter and do not apply to her. All that learned in one day at school in the classroom of a young and talented teacher who is now questioning her career choice.

Incidentally, all involved were of the same ethnicity so there were no racial overtones.

About authorbillramsey

During his forty-year professional career, Bill Ramsey wrote magazine articles and business newsletters. Now retired in the mountains of western North Carolina, he writes a blog and has published four books. Bill's 2015 collection of concise, real-life essays is titled "What Do YOU Think?" He has also written "Me Now - Who Next? (The Inspiring Story of a Traumatic Brain Injury Recovery)" and "Now That I Think About It. Bill's books and are available from and on all e-readers. See Follow Bill on Facebook at
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1 Response to Changed Definition of Right and Wrong

  1. Might have something to do with “…depends what the definition of ‘is’ is.” Just sayin’.

    (Conflicted? “1950ties”) 🙂


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