Blog Post: Indoctrination is a Historic Problem Based in Sociocentrism

Linda Elder
May 05, 2020 • 167d ago
Indoctrination is a Historic Problem Based in Sociocentrism

{"ops":[{"insert":"In every country in the world, students are indoctrinated into the ideologies of their culture through schooling. This is, at present, a natural phenomenon stemming from the fact that no human societies now advance or support fairminded critical thinking as a universal ideal. Accordingly, schooling is an agent of the state, of the status quo, and of the mainstream view. Fostering independence of thought in schooling is rare. Teachers who attempt it are often marginalized, removed from the classroom, or otherwise penalized. Consider the Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925, a legal case in which John Scopes, a high-school teacher in Tennessee, was indicted and convicted for teaching evolution (in violation of the Butler Act, which made it unlawful to teach evolution). Though the verdict was overturned on a technicality, the trial illuminates the difficulties teachers face in swimming against the mainstream of the culture, even when the mainstream view is absurd.\n\tOr consider, again, our example of Socrates, going back to 399 BCE, when he was accused, indicted, and ultimately put to death for two reasons:\n\t \n1. Introducing and believing in gods other than those sanctioned by the state. (Although some accused Socrates of atheism, all evidence points in the opposite direction, including the fact that Socrates believed in life after death.)"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"2. Corrupting the young (by fostering their intellectual development and"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"encouraging them to question the status quo)."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \n\tTo understand Socrates’ views in connection with education and the problem of sociocentric thought, consider the following passage from "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"The Encyclopedia of Philosophy"},{"insert":" (1967):\n \nThere was reason for fearing Socrates as a social force. Where arete [excellence, in terms of how to make the best of oneself and live a rational life], education, and state were fused in one image, an educator critical of received assumptions was a revolutionary. Socrates not only publicly raised such fundamental questions as “What is arete?” and “Who are its teachers?” but also by discrediting through their own representatives the accepted educational channels and by creating a climate of questioning and doubt, he was suspected by conservative minds of the dangerous game of discomfiting all authority before a circle of impressionable youths and subtracting from the state the stability of tradition. It was also apparent that the values by which Socrates lived, his indifference to material wealth and prosperity, and his freedom from desire and ambition were themselves a living criticism of all institutions and of politicians who did not seem to know what they were doing or who were compromising their principles. (p. 482)"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nSocrates was perhaps the most original, influential, and controversial figure in the history of Greek thought. … [H]e was obviously at home in the best society, but he had no respect for social status. … Tradition holds that by refusing to compromise his principles, he deliberately antagonized the court. (p. 480)"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\t \n\tProminent thinkers throughout history have commented on schooling as an agent of indoctrination. Comenius, a 16th- and 17th-century educator and scholar, said that he was only one of thousands whose youth was wasted in these “slaughterhouses” of the young.\n \n\tJohn Henry Newman, a leading 19th-century university president and theologian, who penned one of the most important and well-developed treatises on the educated mind and the educated person, lamented the wretched state of instruction at the university level during his time. Here is just a sampling of his work, taken from "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"The Idea of a University"},{"insert":" (1852; 1996):\n \nI will tell you, Gentlemen, what has been the practical error of the last twenty years—not to load the memory of the student with a mass of undigested knowledge, but to force upon him so much that he has rejected all. It has been the error of distracting and enfeebling the mind by an unmeaning profusion of subjects; of implying that a smattering in a dozen branches of study is not shallowness, which it really is, but enlargement, which it is not; of considering an acquaintance with the learned names of things and persons, and the possession of the clever duodecimos, and attendance on eloquent lecturers, and membership with scientific institutions … that all this was not dissipation of mind, but progress. All things now are to be learned at once, not first one thing and then the other, not one well, but many badly. Learning is to be without exertion, without attention, without toil; without grounding, without advance, without finishing. There is to be nothing individual in it; and this, forsooth, is the wonder of the age. What the steam engine does with matter, the printing press is to do with the mind; it is to act mechanically, and the population is to be passively, almost unconsciously enlightened. (p. 103)"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nEmma Goldman (1869-1940) wrote extensively on oppressive governments and the consequences of their unethical behavior. She indicts not just governments, but all of society, for contributing to the problem. She says:\n \nHowever, it is not only government in the sense of the state which is destructive of every individual value and quality. It is the whole complex of authority and institutional domination which strangles life. It is the superstition, myth, pretense, evasions, and subservience which support authority and institutional domination. It is the reverence for these institutions instilled in the school, the Church, and the home in order that man may believe and obey without protest. Such a process of devitalizing and distorting personalities of the individual and of whole communities may have been a part of historical evolution; but it should be strenuously combated by every honest and independent mind in an age which has any pretense to enlightenment. (Goldman, 1996, pp. 434-435)"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nEinstein (Clark, 1979, p. 33) believed that most of his teaching colleagues did little more than encourage “the obedience of a corps.” Einstein speaks of the meaninglessness and hypocrisy with which most people plod through life, and of the crushing realization he experienced in seeing through dogmatism by his own self-education (Clark, 1979):\n \nWhen I was a fairly precocious young man I became thoroughly impressed with the futility of the hopes and strivings that chase most men restlessly through life. Moreover, I soon discovered the cruelty of that chase, which in those years was much more carefully covered up by hypocrisy and glittering words than is the case today. By the mere existence of his stomach everyone was condemned to participate in that chase. The stomach might well be satisfied by such participation, but not man insofar as he is a thinking and feeling being."},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":" \nAs the first way out there was religion, which is implanted into every child by way of the traditional education-machine. Thus I came—though the child of entirely irreligious (Jewish) parents—to a deep religiousness, which, however, reached an abrupt end at the age of twelve. Through the reading of popular scientific books I soon reached the conviction that much in the stories of the Bible could not be true. The consequence was a positively fanatic orgy of freethinking coupled with the impression that youth is intentionally being deceived by the state through lies; it was a crushing impression. (pp. 3, 5)"},{"attributes":{"indent":1},"insert":"\n"},{"insert":"\nReferences:\nClark, A. (1984) Einstein: The life and times. NY: Avon Books.\nGoldman, E. (1996). Red Emma speaks: An Emma Goldman reader. Amherst, NY: Humanity Books.\nNewman, J. (1852; 1996). The idea of a university. London: Yale University Press.\n \nThis section was taken from my newly release book: "},{"attributes":{"italic":true},"insert":"Liberating the Mind"},{"insert":" by Linda Elder (Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield, 2019).\n"}]}


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Posted by: Joseph Halter

{"ops":[{"insert":"Thank you Dr. Elder for sharing this section on Socialcentrism from your newly released book.\nI would like to think that sociocentric thinking has a purpose with all creatures, both positive and negative. Our native desires and feelings in humans provides a foundation for this type of thinking.\nOur customs, traditions, mores, beliefs, cultures, and other explicit and implicit guideposts provides us a path for our thinking and our behavior. This sociocentric thinking permeates nearly all facets of our lives, politically, religiously, laws, regulations, customs, etc. It provides order and stability.\nWhen should we veer away from this order and stability? When does order and stability inhabit critical thinking? I do not have an answer for this question but others may have.\nThe examples provided help us understand the difficulty of \"breaking away\" from the culture, etc if it does not foster critical thinking that leads to fair-mindness.\nIt is simpler, safer, and less stress full for many of us to comply with authority and others. It does take Intellectual Courage to break away but this is easier said than done.\nI would hope more members of the community would share their thoughts on this. Thanks\n\n\n"}]}