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A former member
Post #: 19
This is all speculative and chewing the cud on a topic that my may never see the light of day as Georgi says.
I'd suggest that indoctrination is simply an emotive way of saying teaching, whichever word you use we do this to children as a matter of form on many subjects. The difference between the words is that indoctrination often requires that knowledge given is also presented as not subject to critical thinking.

We indoctrinate children not to play with fire, not to steal , not to harm ..... we don't teach such subjects to children as open to investigation and rebuttal. We leave it to later with a mature mind to deal the nuances of dealing with exceptions, and for somethings we don't present exceptions ever so they are never revised.

Here are my two examples of outcomes from religious "indoctrination" .
Ricky Gervais: The free baby sitter.­
Brian Flemming: The god that was not there.­

Ricky reasonably well adjusted adult( maybe :) ) suffering little consequence from that teaching.
Brian for quite some time broken by the logical trap of doubting that which is the least credible( the holy spirit) and knowing that was an unforgivable sin and he'd burn for it, a desperate spinning circle of trying to avoid thought crime.

Some ideas appear to be traps that do harm , both Brian and Ricky could use some degree of critical thinking but one was trapped within his version of properly basic beliefs.
Georgi L.
London, GB
Post #: 2,579
I'd suggest that indoctrination is simply an emotive way of saying teaching, whichever word you use we do this to children as a matter of form on many subjects. The difference between the words is that indoctrination often requires that knowledge given is also presented as not subject to critical thinking.
Critical thinking is one difference, yes, and I think the word 'teaching' should be avoided when talking about religion as it infers a legitimacy to something which is based upon "pretending or professing to know things you don't know". (faith). Real teaching isn't doing that in any sense or form. So indoctrination as opposed to teaching means "inculcating a doctrine". Doctrine being a codified set of beliefs. Belief being an acceptance that something exists or is true without proof. I'm sure most religious leaders would want us to think it's the same, just as they want to say that 'atheism' is just "another belief system". But how can a lack of something be 'the same' or akin to something. Emptiness isn't the same as full. A lack of delusion isn't the same as having a delusion. A lack of disease isn't the same as having a disease. It's actually the opposite.

So it's vital IMO that we are clear - religious proselytising (telling people WHAT to think) is the polar opposite of our stance ( asking for people to be allowed to think for themselves - not what to think but HOW to think)

We indoctrinate children not to play with fire, not to steal , not to harm ..... we don't teach such subjects to children as open to investigation and rebuttal. We leave it to later with a mature mind to deal the nuances of dealing with exceptions, and for somethings we don't present exceptions ever so they are never revised.
But is it done by "pretending to know things you don't know" (faith)? Is there any doubt that fire will harm a child? This is not indoctrination but rational, evidence based and empathy-based (also a form of rationality) instructions that a child needs to survive and thrive. We do not tell children they'll burn in hellfire for all eternity if they don't obey without question - rather we encourage them to question why a fire is dangerous, why if you're kind to someone chances are they'll be kind back.

Ricky Gervais - LOL " Jesus is like an unpaid babysitter"

It's the bit where he says "I knew my mum had something to hide" That's it isn't it. I wonder if he'll ever stand for election in politics. I'm looking forward to Eddie Izzard standing for mayor in 2020

Group Organizer
London, GB
Post #: 1,068
I agree with Dave. It's one thing to prosecute parents who knowingly abuse their children. It's another for the state to decide that it can direct what a parent may or may not teach their child.
If we criminalise, or even just intervene, because a parent who honestly believes in Hell tells their child that they might go there, then we have to accept that from their POV they are equally justified, even more justified in fact, in taking our children away from us because we are not teaching them about Hell.
Religious parents (on the whole) love their children just as much as we do. They are just trying to do what they honestly see as the best for them.
The important issue here is not the parents but the rights of the children. In terms of criminalising abuse as you mention, I say why not? Some will ignore it and carry on of course, but it would protect a majority of children from being mentally abused with images that are really from an '18' movie. How would we feel if their beliefs made them think it was a good idea to show a 6 year old the Exorcist? Because that's basically what they're doing. I'm generally against new laws and would certainly tear down thousands of the ones we have. But the right for children to a secular childhood should be what we strive for as a society. Lots of fairy tales have been criticised over the years for being too scary but no one stands up to what we know is a fairy tale: religious belief. It's time we did.
Group Organizer
London, GB
Post #: 1,069
Doctrine being a codified set of beliefs. Belief being an acceptance that something exists or is true without proof. I'm sure most religious leaders would want us to think it's the same, just as they want to say that 'atheism' is just "another belief system". But how can a lack of something be 'the same' or akin to something. Emptiness isn't the same as full.
Faith is an infection. They are infected. We are uninfected. Exactly as you say, it's not the same thing at all.

Extending the indoctrination discussion a bit I want to pose a scenario:

Let us suppose for a moment that a charismatic individual sets up a school and starts teaching that 2+2 = 7, and up mean down etc. How would we react to that as a society. Let's say it got to be very popular by say being very nepotistic and making it 'worthwhile' to be a part of. And so you had, after a generation, millions of adults who thought words meant things the don't mean, and that 2+2=7. Basically no grip on the basic education that we all take for granted. Would we close those schools down? Would we section the person behind it? Or would we think it's harmless and they have a right to believe that 2+2=7 and that up means down?
A former member
Post #: 21
Indoctrinating vs Teaching.
I can appreciate that I was indoctrinated through my childhood with certain views (completely unrelated to religion), some were given intentionally others were just hand me downs. Unless I encounter a conflict with them they remain nestled in my cerebrum untroubled( it appears ), but my justification for holding them could be suspect still, and in an environment where they would not be challenged ( teaching my imaginary children ) out they would spill, I cant say for sure this is would not be the case, and I cant be sure that they would all be true.

Being taught falsity does not make that teaching necessarily indoctrination. There are three states of matter I was taught , its not true ,but had I never encountered contrary evidence that would still be my view. The guys who left education earlier or went into unrelated fields may very well still think that is true, I doubt many in this group could account for all such states of matter(even me now, there are at least 6 ) and those that fail that test hold false beliefs. Even at the time I was taught this was known to not be true, but the curriculum, which is the sanctioned view for education to impart to children( is that not a doctrine ? ) stated there are three states of matter and so that is what I was taught. The list of things I was taught and were not true at the time of the teaching is quite long, many of them relating to science. I look back and cannot recall a single time where a teacher suggested that I should question what I was being told, and even when they were questioned the answer would not change the conclusion of the lesson. Nor did I ever see a teacher second guess what was required to be taught with conflicting views , potentially more informed , they may have had themselves.

Now I see no difference in the manner I describe being taught above and the manner to teaching a child other false information when the teacher is themselves a victim of the same or simply towing the line. So teaching a kid about the truth of the Christian position which is equally as false as some of my examples is just as much teaching or indoctrination as I experienced. It is the nature of the ideas imparted, and the utility of these ideas in controlling the recipient from authority where I find myself opposed. A fundamentalist parent imagining themselves the arbitrator of gods judgement in relation to their child going to hell is genuinely scary from the outside let alone what the child must feel like believing that such judgement has merit. Of all the bs flying around in that dynamic the harm comes from the parents excessive use of the the punishment reward metaphor and their delusion that they are the arbitrator for it. So the parent would be the person I'd most want to change the mind of.

So I still contend that the emotive choice of language for this situation, insistence on using indoctrination is really just a cognitive bias manifest imo, though it matters little, pots calling kettles black( no offence meant is that phrase non PC nowdays?). I hope I would always argue positively on this subject, it is the the tools to discern “truth” that are the most important things to share, pointing at people telling them they are wrong seldom achieves the results we would wish for. Being such Borghossian fans I thought some merit would be seen in this.

So I shall have to ask Borghossian which way he'd phrase the question to a theist.
“How were you taught as a child”
“How were you indoctrinated as a child”
If you feel that phrasing the question in the first manner is how you'd do it, though you'd take any answer as being to the second then you are misleading yourself. Both ours and the theists psychology are coloured by such presuppositions to meanings, our cognitive biases. If you were to ask them the second question they will simply tell you to go screw yourself, so by asking the first did you get the same answer to the second , I'd suggest not, and to draw the conclusion you did makes me uncomfortable. I've seen Atheists argue morality with theists and both are unaware they are using different contexts for good and evil but they presume they are talking about the same thing, needless to say they don’t bridge any gaps.

Are you describing Oxbridge? From my political standing I can see a resemblance ;)
If you are asking if obviously falsehood should be allowed to propagate then the answer is simply no. But I don't think that your hypothetical addresses indoctrination, or harm.

Edit : Just in case you think I'm a splitter and have joined the peoples front of judea. I'm opposed to faith schools, and teaching any bs as education . I'm rather a rationality fascist really.
Neil M.
user 137566492
Brentford, GB
Post #: 44
What you are describing, vis-a-vis the education system, is not indoctrination. When we educate young minds it is necessary to simplify the information taught so that it can be understood. It is not a lie to teach that there are 3 states of matter (because there are at least 3 states), it would only be a lie if they taught that there are 3 and only 3 states of matter and that there cannot be any other states. Indoctrination is imposing a doctrine, a set of beliefs, on an individual. Science taught in schools is not a set of beliefs, it is a simplified view of the scientific world. To teach that it is set in stone and immutable would be indoctrination, as it is, students learn, as they progress through the education system, that what they were taught in high school is not the whole picture and that a little more is revealed as you progress. Just as we learn the basics in primary school, we learn how to add up, multiply, divide etc, but we don't learn about calculus. This does not mean that basic arithmetic is a lie, just that it's not the whole picture. To my mind, this is the difference between education (teaching part of the truth) and indoctrination (teaching something that has no basis in truth).

Some people like to live in ignorance, believing what they were taught in school but not exploring it further, and others like to watch QI! smile
A former member
Post #: 22
Hey , I value your view for obvious reasons, hoped to get more chance to talk to at the social meeting last time , next time maybe ...
I never said it was a lie to teach that there were only 3 states of matter I said it was wrong, and known to be wrong at the time I was taught. Nor was the notion that this potentially was not the final answer shared or implied. The robustness of the certainty of knowledge is never mentioned until much later in your education, how many areas of the given knowledge from secondary school might not be updated by your undergrad specialization, quite a few I'd suggest.
Basic arithmetic is not superseded by calculus and the validity of each is independent of the other for practical purposes.
It may be that education has changed since I was child( do kids still play chase the antelope with flint spears ? :) ) , but more recently I've met a few teachers who feel that the constraints on what they can teach and the manner in which they are required to teach it is ,I'll say very restrictive. So deviation not being allowed for student or teacher is a sign for my argument.

Again, as I stressed indoctrination is not required to relate to false information. The distinction between indoctrination and being taught is in to the nature in of the relationship between teacher and the recipient.The indoctrinated recipient should always accept the position given by the teacher. Nor does indoctrination mean that imparted knowledge is not subject to change, but when the teacher says it has changed the recipient had better listen. Its like giving someone a key to your mind and saying fill it , they are not required to abuse that situation, but you have to accept what they do on trust. Is that description so far removed from your role you find it alien?

I'd suggest most people do not pursue expanding their knowledge beyond their education beyond that required for their career. I cant say I blame them its hard work with the demands of adult life on top of it.

QI always an eye opener or two on that program :)
Georgi L.
London, GB
Post #: 2,581
I agree that teaching methods leave a lot to be desired. We rely too much on rote learning to pass exams, without necessarily an understanding. That's not what this discussion is really about though IMO.

The essential difference between teaching and indoctrination, to my mind, is very Boghossian.

Is what is being taught as unquestionable something that we can't or don't know?

If yes, that's indoctrination. Simples smile
A former member
Post #: 40

Going off on a tangent here, but I recall bringing Khan Academy to the conversation at some point during a meetup, so I thought I'd share this.
Below is a very interesting TED Talk where Salman Khan talks about how this virtual academy came to be and what it his vision for the future.
I won't ruin the surprise for people who haven't seen it, but I'll comment on how the data grabbed by KA pretty much debunks the old concept of "some kids are gifted, some are slow" with real life, real *time* data, immediately available to teachers themselves.

Note that the presentation is now three years old, and much has improved in the website, especially in content, which now includes biology, physics, chemistry, cosmology, history, etc, in addition to a whole curriculum in maths.

Salman Khan: Let's use video to reinvent education

Salman Khan talks about how and why he created the remarkable Khan Academy, a carefully structured series of educational videos offering complete curricula in math and, now, other subjects. He shows the power of interactive exercises, and calls for teachers to consider flipping the traditional classroom script — give students video lectures to watch at home, and do "homework" in the classroom with the teacher available to help.
PS.: Bonus Bill Gates at the end.

If that ticked your inner bug:
Khan Academy
Neil M.
user 137566492
Brentford, GB
Post #: 48
Education should be a way of opening the eyes of the student to the wonders of the universe, leading them to question and critically analyse the world around them. Students are positively encouraged (in good schools) to question the teachers because through doubt and questioning do we learn more.

Indoctrination is the process of imparting information without that element of exploration or questioning. It always has an element of brainwashing and is almost always negatively viewed. That is not to say that some indoctrination, for instance in regards to lab safety in chemistry labs, is not a good thing, but on the whole it is considered to be bad. The reason that people in authority (particularly religious authority) use it is because they don't want the students to question it. The only reason, in my book, that they don't want their teaching questioned is because it isn't true and any questioning will reveal the falsehood.

Georgi, I agree that our current education system is skewed. The government choose to measure how good an educational establishment is based wholly on success (% of those who start the course who then go on to pass the course). The problem with this is that it removes the option of failure. All students must pass, regardless of how. The government, mostly Michael "Idiot" Gove, thinks that we need to make exams tougher; no Mr Gove, you need to change the way you measure success so that poor students, those that don't try hard enough, can fail. Take the pressure off the teachers to pass everyone, and you will get a better education system. The point here is that students are there to learn. If they have learned properly, it doesn't matter how they are assessed (exam or coursework) as long as they can show that they know what they are supposed to know.

Jorge, thanks for the Salman Khan stuff. I'll have a look and perhaps we can discuss this further at the next get together.
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