I teach, you persuade, they indoctrinate
David Shariatmadari is asking what is indoctrination and is it such a bad thing?
Of course, for many, the idea that anyone should spend their whole lives believing something wrong is bad. Those who are convinced of the truth of Christianity, whether they suffer or not, have been convinced of a lie, so the argument goes. But why single out religion? Lots of people believe lots of things that are probably wrong: they cleave to political and social hypotheses whose benefits are hotly contested, and sometimes impossible to test. Most of our working models of the world are based on a very fallible combination of imagination and experience, not scientific truth.
It’s not so much the spending one’s whole life believing something wrong, that I think is bad – it’s the being told things that there is no reason to believe, that I think is bad. That’s especially the case when the things are large and consequential and fundamentally arbitrary. It’s the lack of reasons more than the wrongness that I think is suspect.
Why? Why does it matter? Why do I think it matters? Because we need our ability to sort through beliefs, and detect which ones are likely to be false. We need to be able to reject unfounded truth claims. We need that for all sorts of reasons, both practical and intellectual. That means that early training in accepting reason-less truth claims delivered by authority is not useful. To the extent that indoctrination matches that description, it is not a good thing.