Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Indoctrination v. Education

I like the way pop culture's favorite physicist champions education:
Thinking about personal meaning-making vs. fundamentalism (the whole question of how we make sense of jumbled time-space experience), I looked up  "indoctrination" from A Dictionary of Political Thought (Roger Scruton, London: Macmillan Press, 1982). 
I found it really interesting and helpful:
indoctrination. 'Indoctrination' does not mean "the transmission of doctrine," nor even education that has the transmission of doctrine as its ultimate purpose, but rather the inducement of specific beliefs and attitudes (which may lack system, cogency, or any other ingredient thought to be necessary to doctrine) by methods that are not genuinely educational, and which involve the abrogation of reason and intellectual autonomy on the part of the recipient.

All education leads to the acquisition of at least some irrational beliefs; hence we cannot distinguish genuine education from its false substitute in terms of the end result but only in terms of the methods used.
[education.  (i) In education, the rationality of the recipient is engaged. For example, he is given reasons for believing, doing and feeling things, and is not simply manipulated or bludgeoned into some finished state of unthinking acceptance of doctrine.
(ii) In education, the autonomy of the recipient is respected. He is treated as a being with responsibility for his own acts and judgements, and encouraged to view himself as such.]
Not respecting the autonomy of the recipient, indoctrination prevents the exercise of those rational faculties that it purports to develop; either the recipient remains sceptical of what he is told, or he believes it simply as dogma. 
[dogma.  In Christian theology... a truth of religion guaranteed as such by divine revelation.... it is what has to be believed if the religion is to be adopted at all. Similary in politics... {long discussion follows}.]

Indoctrination is designed to induce beliefs, whether or not they are true; 
to the extent that someone knows he is being indoctrinated, to that extent he will cease to believe what he is told without independent evidence."

I like this, but I don't agree with that last phrase at all:
a person can know she is being "manipulated or even bludgeoned" into a belief and come to believe anyway, because of emotional,  psychological pressures, with or without "independent evidence." 
 Happens in cults all the time. 

Or a person may even want to be indoctrinated, for the comfort sure and certain belief offers. 

Like John Donne, right? (Though this sonnet of his might be read as a plea for forced liberation, not forced belief. Anyway, it's related to the desire to cooperate with being bludgeoned--"battered" here---always sounded like tempura to me...)



Batter my heart, three-person'd God ; for you
As yet but knock ; breathe, shine, and seek to mend ;
That I may rise, and stand, o'erthrow me, and bend
Your force, to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurp'd town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but O, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betroth'd unto your enemy ;
Divorce me, untie, or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.

Heart Embroidery
One-of-a-kind hand-made embroidery by the artist
cotton thread on white cotton canvas,
2004 by Andrea Dezso


Zhoen said...

Love the heart/lunch circulation. Gorgeous and fractal.

Some people do seem to want that lack of choice, which baffles me. But I saw it among my peers. For me, ten years of Catholic school inoculated me against belief, but for some, it etched it into their souls. People will be perverse.

Fresca said...

ZHOEN: I love that: heart/lunch, like "The Tempura'd Heart"!
(Or, did you mean heart/lungs?)

We are indeed a perverse species!

Zhoen said...

Um, that was supposed to be lung. Didn't even catch my own typo. Whoops.