Indoctrinate

If you ever want to see the amount of hypocrisy that goes on in politics, there is only one word you need to know: indoctrination.

The right accuses the left of using public schools as liberal indoctrination centers. Creationists are accused of trying to indoctrinate students with their attempts to get creationism into the public school biology curriculum. And last month I received an e-mail from the organization "Vision2America" that said this:

The Radical Homosexuals infiltrating the United States Congress have a plan:

Indoctrinate an entire generation of American children with pro-homosexual propaganda and eliminate traditional values from American society.

Their ultimate dream is to create a new America based on sexual promiscuity in which the values you and I cherish are long forgotten.

I hate to admit it, but if they pass the deceptively named "Student Non-Discrimination Act," that’s exactly what they’ll do.

Better named the "Homosexual Classrooms Act," its chief advocate in Congress is Rep. Jared Polis, himself an open homosexual and radical activist.

Oh no! The "radical homosexuals" want children taught that a different sexual orientation is not a reason to hate a person. Oh God! They must be stopped such that America won’t be pummeled by hailstorms of rock and brimstone and our "traditional values" of discrimination against gays because they are gay and would dare have sex with someone of the same gender can be preserved. And to stop this legislation, your money is needed. So if you’re a good Christian, you’ll donate your money to stop this assault against traditional values and preserve discrimination based on sexual orientation.

Oh, dear God, when will the insanity end?

Now it’s no secret that social conservatives do not like homosexuality and any attempt to "promote" it. It was only two generations ago that pushing the idea that all people are entitled to equal protection of the law regardless of the skin color was considered a radical idea that could destroy America, but I digress.

Indoctrination can be informally defined as simply this: teaching children an idea to which you object or show disagreement. And this is currently almost-always lobbed at liberals. And in some ways I do have to agree. Look at

  • the 10/10 project’s commercials featuring children being blown up for not wanting to participate in carbon-reducing activities1
  • students at a B. Bernice Young Elementary School, a public school in Burlington Township, NJ, reciting chants to the President and singing a song to the President whose music is the melody to the "Battle Hymn of the Republic"2
  • a mother who, on the Glenn Beck radio program with her 6 year-old daughter, talked about chants her daughter recited from memory that mentioned "boycott" and "petition" with regard to corporations seen as not being environmentally friendly3

Now in partial defense of the last point, the chant the girl had memorized was, for the most part, relatively neutral. It discussed ideas that are demonstrably good ideas, such as recycling, biking instead of driving where it is practical, not driving alone in your car (I’m guilty of this, I admit), and a couple other good ideas. Where it crossed the line was when it mentioned "boycott" and "petition". On a right-wing blog I left this comment about that:

Trying to explain boycotting and petitioning to a six year-old is about the same as telling a child they must avoid or not like the kid across the street while answering "Because I said so" to the barrage of "why" questions that will inevitably spawn from such an order.

Formally, to indoctrinate is to "instruct in a doctrine, principle, ideology, etc., especially to imbue with a specific partisan or biased belief or point of view".4 Indoctrination is distinguished from education in that the doctrine or ideology is not to be questioned or critically examined, merely accepted. The above examples are attempts at indoctrination, especially the first point above as threats or exercise of death or extreme injury have been used to force people to accept a certain ideology unquestionably.

If the person being educated questions the ideology and still accepts it after the questions have been adequately addressed, to the person’s satisfaction, the person cannot be said to have been indoctrinated.

As I said, when it comes to educating students on ideas that parents or the community do not particularly like or toward which they hold a disagreement, the word "indoctrinate" or "indoctrination" gets thrown around. The word exhibits a very strong emotional response from parents. The idea that their children are being indoctrinated should offend parents, yet they often don’t see their own hypocrisy.

If you are raising your child in a religious fashion, and teaching them that they must accept the doctrines and tenets of your own faith without question, you have indoctrinated your child. Forcing your child to accept tenets or beliefs for which there is no evidentiary support is indoctrination, plain and simple. Most children raised in a religious household are indoctrinated. There is no escaping that reality as they are told they must believe and cannot question any part of their religion, for if they do hellfire awaits their eternal soul. The indoctrination doesn’t have to be direct, but if you’ve ever answered "Because I said so" or "Because the Bible says so" in response to questions your children have regarding your religion, then you’re indoctrinating them.

And the indoctrination by way of religion runs very deep in the United States and much of the rest of the world.

The one thing that is interesting is that religious individuals tend to say that science classrooms are also indoctrination centers. Except there is one overwhelmingly important difference between what is taught through a science book versus what is proclaimed and preached from the pulpit: what is in a science book has been demonstrated to be true over the course of decades of research so such ideas are accepted and referenced by the scientists that write the science books. And where evidence instead of assertion is the tool of education, indoctrination cannot exist by definition.

Indoctrination may also exist among sports fanatics. At St. Clair Hospital in Upper St. Clair, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh, their neo-natal ward wrapped newborns in "Terrible Towels", the well-known relics of the Pittsburgh Steelers.5 Justin Eitel of Mt. Lebanon, PA, another Pittsburgh suburb, said of his newborn daughter, "She can choose her religion, but she can’t choose what team she likes." Sports fanaticism is something I’ve never understood and likely never will understand. And in actuality, I’m glad I will never understand it.

But the one thing that is clear: hypocrisy exists when you scream "that’s indoctrination" at your ideological opponents while seeking to indoctrinate children in your own ideologies. And it is clear that both the left and the right, liberals and conservatives, are seeking to indoctrinate children.

Now if you want a kind of indoctrination you can readily accept, might I suggest the libertarian indoctrination? It’s quite simple: leave unto others to do what they like, so long as in so doing they don’t cause demonstrable harm to anyone else.

"But why?" chants the five year-old.

"It’s always best to leave others to their own accord," I answer. "After all, such is the Golden Rule."

References   [ + ]

1. "Epic Green Fail!!!". Posted October 1, 2010, on YouTube by user HowtheWorldWorks.
2. "Review Ordered of Video Showing Students Singing Praises of President Obama". September 24, 2009. Foxnews.com
3. "Beck interviews mother taking on school over indoctrination". Posted April 29, 2011, on the blog "The Right Scoop".
4. indoctrinate. (n.d.). Dictionary.com Unabridged. Retrieved May 01, 2011, from Dictionary.com website: http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/indoctrinate
5. Boren, Cindy. (2011, January 31). "Super Bowl: Terrible towels bring extra layer of absorbency to Pittsburgh newborns". The Washington Post.