Hitler, Bush, and my own thoughts on indoctrination

Sixth-grade teacher gives kids homework to compare George W. Bush to Hitler. See story here.

Obviously, I have very different feelings about these two men, so I don’t agree with this homework and feel it is grossly inaccurate indoctrination…

But it did make me think: is it possible to NOT indoctrinate kids? Isn’t all pre-adult education = indoctrination?

We have our heroes and our villains, and we give them to the kids on no uncertain terms….even if we pretend we are letting them make up their mind. For example, even textbooks that try to be unbiassed by being as dry as dirt… still pick which facts to include, which scandals & massacres to mention and which to gloss over, etc…


5 thoughts on “Hitler, Bush, and my own thoughts on indoctrination

  1. It’s an interesting question. I don’t know a lot about pedagogy, but I’m inclined to think there are certain kinds of “indoctrination” — perhaps using a more archaic sense of the term — that are good and age-appropriate…like the teaching of catechisms. 🙂 I guess the next question, maybe a harder one, is how one builds on that foundation to teach kids/youth to reason theologically.

    You weren’t necessarily talking about theology, I know, but that’s what my mind jumps to.

    1. When I was younger, I thought there was a difference. I think I call it “indoctrination” when I think what they are teaching is wrong/false, and “teaching” when I think what they are teaching is correct. But that doesn’t make a difference to the process of it.

      The most frustrating is when people call their set of facts “critical thinking”, pretend it is unbiassed, and then selectively teach history in a way that is still completely polemical. (e.g. go into some atrocities and skip others–in order to get kids to jump to conclusions, this is most evident in the double standard towards Nazi & Communist ideologies in causing atrocities–e.g. racial/religious hatred is bad but secularist/class hatred is great–or talk about My Lai alot and gloss over all the stuff the communists did when the Western press looks away).

      We might as well all be honest that we have a point of view, and then pull out our catechisms. Then at least, we would be honest with the kids, and they would also know we are deliberately trying to indoctrinate them; and not pretending we aren’t while manipulating the whole time.

      It is like the difference between the parent who is direct and blunt and states out behaviors with their consequences. You always know what you are being spanked or rewarded for. And then the other kind of parent, that pretends to be hands off, but is constantly guilt tripping or verbally/emotionally pressuring the kid, but pretending it is all up to the kid’s choice.

      1. Do little kids understand the distinction? What would it look like to acknowledge “point of view” with your five-year-old before doing the day’s catechism lesson?

        These are honest questions, because I’ve spent comparatively little time around children.

      1. Mmm . . . I guess I mean something like “discernment.” As we mature, our questions, the situations we encounter, become stickier and less black and white. And we need a foundation from which to deal with them; we don’t just start from scratch every time. That’s why a basic understanding of the broad story of scripture, a basic hermeneutic, a basic theological understanding are so important.

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