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Okay. It’s the school year, so naturally I’ll probably be posting more on politics and social theory than much else. (Sorry, people. It’s not my fault.)

Today, we’re going to talk about indoctrination. (No, don’t say that word, Erin! That’s a nasty word. It’s a dirty word. It’s an ugly word.) Well, maybe not so much as you might think.

Indoctrination is one of those words that people like to throw around in conjunction with the viewpoint that they themselves do not espouse. It’s a way of attempting to scare off debate by using words that, let’s be honest, we don’t really understand (ask two people what political correctness is, for example. You won’t get the same answer from both. I can tell you that much.) It’s one of those words we don’t really understand. It appears very often in correlation with the words “them,” which is another logical fallacy that I’ll be posting on soon. (Who are “them”? Well, that’s a post for another day.)

Let’s look up the word “indoctrination”, shall we?

Here, let’s look at Merriam-Webster Online:


verb \in-ˈdäk-trə-ˌnāt\

: to teach (someone) to fully accept the ideas, opinions, and beliefs of a particular group and to not consider other ideas, opinions, and beliefs of other groups.

in·doc·tri·nat·ed | in·doc·tri·nat·ing

Full Definition of INDOCTRINATE

transitive verb
:  to instruct especially in fundamentals or rudiments :  teach
:  to imbue with a usually partisan or sectarian opinion, point of view, or principle.
Okay, there we have three different definitions. Sadly, they all (ultimately) mean the same thing.
(Now there’s radical for you, right?!)
To understand why, we have to go waaaay back. Back to kindergarten, in fact.
Or, further back still; the early days you spent after going home from the hospital with your mom and dad.
Back in those halcyon days, every moment you spent was a learning experience. Even in your mother’s womb, you were learning, from the music you could hear outside, to touch, to the difference between up and down. After you were born, you spent your time learning to recognize mom and dad, siblings, things that made you happy and sad…
You were building up a knowledge base. (Some psychologists use the word syntax, or alternately schema.) You were learning every minute.
When you got older, your parents began to teach you the basics–right from wrong, left from right, opposites, and shapes. Your political beliefs (naive as they were) were the beginnings of what you believe today. The Bible says “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” People have a hard time veering sharply away from all that they’ve been taught their entire lives.
Thus, your parents indoctrinated you. (Nothing against them, personally. All parents do it.)
Then, when you got older, if you were not homeschooled, you started going to a public or a private school. (Unless you live in some states. Then your homeschool was a private school. Yes, that’s how it works in certain states! Homeschools operate as private schools–which is seriously cool.) You had new authorities in your life, new experiences. You began to think in different ways than you did when you were too little to go to school. (You probably don’t remember the change. I don’t. It happens slowly, and unless you have a shocker moment, you’re not likely to remember it at all. Scientific studies have proven it, though.) You were the responsibility of your teachers when you were at school, and subject to their authority. And they (quite unintentionally) impressed their own worldviews on your psyche. If they conflicted with those of your parents, perhaps you didn’t care and were able to somehow reconcile them within your own mind. If you did care, you now had an identity crisis and had to decide which to follow: parent’s worldview, or teacher’s.
Again, you were being indoctrinated. Perhaps re-indoctrinated.
And finally, in high school and college, you came to understand the meaning of the word “indoctrination.” You began to think in new ways, perhaps with new depth. It was a defining moment in your indoctrination (though certainly not the final one, even if you were no longer in your formative years afterward.)
I can’t speak much for after-college experience. I’m still only in my sophomore year. (Sophomore is a fun word. Literally, it means a “wise fool!” Which means that I’m probably not as smart or learned as I’d like to think.)
But anyway, at every level of your life you were indoctrinated. Humanity needs a worldview, its rose- or green- or blue-colored glasses through which it sees the world. Indoctrination is necessary. Think about it. We don’t normally know what to think of someone until we know what their opinions are. We don’t tend to read forward in articles if we realize the writer doesn’t agree with us (shut up, you know you’ve stopped reading at these points; so have I. But mostly only if I was bored as well as objecting. If the writer has a good point to make or makes a fascinating argument, I’ll read on, and I’m certain there are other people who do. But if the writer doesn’t agree with me, I may just deem it not worth my precious time.) And we’re always pushing our viewpoints onto other people. (No objections. And we’re not to be blamed, actually. Most of the time, we don’t even realize we’re doing it!)
And yet, indoctrination is considered a dirty word. Mostly because this is a case where both sides are actually in the right. When they’re accusing the other side of indoctrinating people, they’re right. People on every side indoctrinate others. (Brainwashing, such as happens in Soviet and Communist concentration camps, is an entirely different matter. When I figure out exactly how it’s different, I’ll tell you. I just know that it’s different.)
Seriously. We need to re-think our social theories here.