I wanted to address a topic that has been on my mind for some time: Indoctrination.
Generally, indoctrination is defined as teaching rudiments and fundamentals. Hmm, sounds simple enough. But how is that different from education? Well, indoctrination is usually assumed not to be questioned (hence the term appears quite often in politics and religion) while education, by definition, generally requires critical thinking (Please note that education requires critical thinking, though academics may not).
This idea really started to rub me the wrong way when my dad informed me that he was tired of colleges indoctrinating students…
Let me clarify, this came after a debate about gay rights. I was informed that I must be gay because that is the only reason someone could care so much. I was then informed that he was tired of college indoctrination…my father the minister, the man who indoctrinates people for a living. Please don’t get me wrong, I appreciate my father very much and I love him, but because I came to college and reached my own decision, separate from his world, I must have been indoctrinated.
Well, back to the core issue. Let’s talk about this idea of college indoctrination. Most universities are institutions of education, not indoctrination. The few exceptions may be places where indoctrination is necessary to work, i.e. bible college. However, many people get lost in the fact of academia and thinking that no sane person could come to these conclusions on their own. If someone’s opinion differs, even if they are educated to a greater degree, that education is thrown out the window for the sake of “indoctrination.” I am a stout believer in education myself and have been blessed to attend some excellent institutions. I am a staunch supporter of education which includes donations to institutions that have challenged, supported, and changed me. None have indoctrinated me in my world views, though at times they have indoctrinated me to academia (see more on this point below).
Colleges and universities challenge students to develop themselves. They are forced to interact with others and develop a moral sense where they realize that not everyone has the exact same experience as them. Students have to see that other perspectives do exist and we cannot assume ours to be the one and only. This idea of a democratic citizen also has another benefit: students are forced to consider and understand their own values and beliefs. The fact that “well that’s what mom/dad/grandparents/other important person” said no longer matters. It can be a supporting fact, but if it is your only one, it holds no weight. Personal experience shapes your values and everyone has biases. I have (unfortunately) had a bias toward religion because of this harsh criticism from my father. That isn’t fair to the amazing people associated with and who work with churches. My father has a strong bis toward higher education because of my view points that have developed. That isn’t fair to the men I know who share my views and are making huge differences in the world. I remember asking one year for my birthday that my family just make a donation to a non profit I was working for and my parents said they would only do it if it was a religious organization. What?
But this is the world we live in. Challenging people’s beliefs is not a safe practice because people really don’t know why they believe what they do. For some, it is researched and thought out. For some, it is a religious reason. To some, it is just how it has always been. Regardless, indoctrination is not what should be occurring at institutions of higher learning. In both my under graduate and now in my graduate career, I am being challenged to think outside the box and really push. I have to support my ideas and explain why I hold my beliefs. I was educated, not indoctrinated. Just because you believe differently from me does not mean I am indioctrinated nor that my schools indoctrinated me.
Indoctrination in Academia:
Writing theory suggests that students write for a teacher. We’ve all had that experience where we know we have to write a certain way for a certain teacher or professor. Personally, I have had professors tell me up front that they want tests to regurgitate what they tell me. They do, however, also require deeper thinking in class discussion and papers. This is what I mean by indoctrination. It is not the same as religious or political indoctrination which require no challenging or questioning at all, but it does require some elements of it.