On Facebook a Mr. Dick was claiming that teaching of “religious-based” education was no less deserving of being labeled “indoctrination” than would an education that made no difference between homosexuality and heterosexuality. We have come to the place where we cannot even agree on the definition of Indoctrination. He made several other points but it was this one that I was most troubled by. His argument that there is no way to differentiate indoctrination from education required a response.
All cultures have deep cultural sense of norms and morals. Usually the attribution of a moral aspect to certain behaviors is a function of religion. Every culture has a Religion Genus. Say, Indian society is Hindu. But that is how it looks from outside. Inside, the various cults and sects do not know they are part of the Genus “Hindu”. America, as a part of the West has been of the Genus: Judeo-Christian. No, sir, there is no such religion called Judeo-Christian that we can point to, just as an Indian would not know how to point to The Hindu religion in India. But we can recognize that the West which up until only recently was synonymous with “Christendom” has Christianity in its bones. America, more specifically arising out of the British sense of being the bulwark and defender of Protestantism, has Protestantism in our bones. Whether one is Jewish, Catholic, or Orthodox in America matters not in the least in regard to the presence of the Protestant ethic of individual salvation, individual responsibility and the presumption that Rights are derived by God creating each of us individually.
All education is culturally indoctrinating. Other than pure math and science, everything else, which is the majority of education is immersion in the society’s culture. Typically our education stressed the connection to Christendom. Christendom arose out of the Classic Latin and Greek culture. So, we educate (or used to) our youth in Aristotle, Plato, and the novels of Medieval to Renaissance to Humanist cultures that were the phases of European literature and art. We once taught Don Quixote, Canterbury Tales, Homer, Dickens, Hawthorne, Melville, Twain and so on. As do all healthy cultures, Christendom believed its culture was superior to Chinese, or Indian or Islamic. Just as they make the same presumptions about their own way of life.
Until 1918: In 1918 the supposed superiority of The West was questioned. The carnage of the Great War humbled the Intellectual underpinning of Christendom’s superiority and its apparent Manifest Destiny. (America is The West’s West!)
Western Civilization began to study societies with the attempt to emulate the objectivity of Science. But to gain this objectivity requires losing one’s personal attachment to one’s own culture. This study necessarily demands all cultural norms and taboos be seen as arbitrary rules. Part of the exercise is to determine whether or not these particularities of culture are positively adaptive or maladaptive to the sustainability of the culture. Any sense of Morality in the study of cultures is merely the bias brought to it by the student. The entire sense of A Moral Universe was in the way and thus had to be demolished.
Western Civilization learned to study non-Western Cultures as coldly as the Naturalist dissecting and describing a new beetle. And when that same lens was turned upon itself, a totally new phenomenon occurred.
For the first time in Human History a culture became aware of itself as a culture! Self-awareness, mysterious even now despite Modern Science, somehow the effect of atoms and cells being aware, now crossed the threshold into a particular Society itself! Christendom began to dissolve as its sense of self as “morally better” changed to being merely “different”.
Our entire Religious Genus: Judeo-Christian, swiftly changed. When all of the unspoken assumptions that underlie a society suddenly are revealed as no more than arbitrary actions or utterances, ones sense of place also dissolves. This condition glorified Existentialist writers whose suicide rates seemed at odds with the superiority of knowing the “truth”. This new reality is accurately summed up as “Post Modernism”.
Our schools have been taken over by Post -Modern zealots. “Knowing” that there is no good or evil only arbitrary social rules, why not change them and “remould them nearer to the heart’s desire”? Self-awareness spawned self-responsibility, which was determined by the assumption of a higher Morality, derived from a Higher Power. Social-awareness spawned “social-responsibility”. But what can serve the place of Morality when comparing rules that are by definition arbitrary and without any moral backing? Since rules are now perceived to be man-made, it is reasonable to have humans define for themselves which ones are good, and which ones bad. But as Ayn Rand always asked, “Good for whom?”
Post-Modernists have discovered the “Whom”. It is an imaginary creature called “The Common Good”. What it is composed of is the sum total of everyone’s best interest. But some peoples’ interests are opposed to those of others. The factory worker would like cheap bread, and thus cheap wheat. The farmer wants to get as much as he can for his wheat. If Morality doesn’t count, and one’s private property rights are of a little interest to “The Common Good”, having experts rationally distribute all of societies goods and labors seems in the “Best Interest”.
Since all societies have cultures, and Religion is a major component of culture, what is now our Religion? I say it is “Post Modernism” itself!
Our traditional culture, Modernism began to wilt in the face of its self-declared failure evidenced by the Great War. But there were those who were waiting for their crisis even before WWI. They used the spectacular carnage to “prove” their point, that Christendom and all it stood for was just one of any number of arbitrary clusters of norms and behaviors. Men like HG Wells, Karl Marx, and Sigmund Freud had already been preparing the soil by ridding behavior of any moral content.
We now have reached the fulfillment of their trajectory.
Mr. Dick can seriously claim that teaching any particular culture is tantamount to “Indoctrination”. Only by eradicating any sense of Morality and from a vantage point arrogantly above that of the society does one dare judge Education as Indoctrination. Other than Math and hard sciences, what else is there to education but the inculcation of the particularities of particular cultures? By his definition all values are arbitrary and thus teaching them is indoctrination. Thus I call this argument the Malevolent one. It is the argument that places “The Common Good” as the boot on the face of Humanity forever and ever. Since there is no such thing as The Common Good, it must be divined by “experts”. These “experts” cannot be limited by musty old documents from a bygone age when people were “ignorant” and believed in a Creator!
Mr. Dick is willing to teach his arbitrary rules, but we cannot teach ours because, BECAUSE, we claim ours are NOT arbitrary! Only by denying the authority of ones opinion can it be understood as not being indoctrination! Ha ha ha! I see through the whole game.