Calling out people for being indoctrinators is becoming quite commonplace in the realm of education. Funnily enough, some of those doing so would likely be indoctrinators themselves.
Here is a simple test to determine whether you might be an educator or indoctrinator.
Question: When you see an institution using a book that you disagree with (regarding economics, government, or politics), which of the following do you do?
(*This does not apply to sexually explicit or inappropriate books.)
- Immediately call out the institution for using such a horrid book. You would never put your hands on this book and no student should either!
- Question the purpose of using this book. Is it possible that the institution is not preaching the book but teaching the book to students, and believes they must be exposed to all philosophies in order to find and strengthen their own?
If you chose answer (B), you are likely an educator. True educators leave their bias aside in order to help their students discover their own thoughts, ideas, and values. This means that texts from opposing perspectives are brought into the classroom whether or not the teacher agrees with the author. For example, Karl Marx and Adam Smith must both be learned fairly and accurately so that students fully comprehend the truth of each of their philosophies. Educators also value using the texts written by the author to avoid any secondary source bias. Of course, after learning the tenets of each philosophy, critical perspectives are valued to learn the strengths and weaknesses of each, further helping students identify their own values, beliefs, and arguments.
If you chose answer (A), you are likely an indoctrinator. Thinking that an institution should never include books with opposing values is part of the indoctrinator’s philosophy. They feel the need to hide the viewpoints that disagree with theirs instead of allowing students to test the truth of their beliefs. A book that is debatable scares indoctrinators; they often turn to old-fashioned teaching methods, like lectures, to keep their students from raising questions about texts and ideas. An educator who embraces accountable debates and discussions is giving their students the gift of an education, not the curse of indoctrination.
The real world has it all: Marx, Engels, Smith, Hobbes, Locke, Darwin, and those who currently live by their philosophies like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez, Bernie Sanders, Condoleezza Rice, Ron DeSantis, etc. If one hides the ideas of Marx, then a debate with Alexandria Ocasio Cortez would result in a victory for her because of your lack of knowledge about her philosophy and how she would attack yours. This is part of our argument for teaching the 1619 Project, remembering that teaching is not the same preaching. Once an idea is out there, it is not going away; it may temporarily, but at some point someone will find what has been hidden and release it to the world. For young, impressionable minds, this new perspective, no matter how faulty, could be “enlightening” especially if they never heard about it before. “I never thought about it that way,” some might say. If we present an idea like the 1619 Project to students, though we may disagree with it, it will prepare them for facing it when a pro-1619 Project socialist activist educator introduces the ideas. If students learn about it prior, they may say, “Oh, I’ve heard about this before. I know exactly what it is and I’m prepared to make my arguments.” Some may agree with the philosophy of the 1619 Project, in fact, most socialists will, but preparing our freedom-loving young Americans for handling these ideas they disagree with is a lesson they need to learn.
Teaching instead of preaching is easier said than done, but is doable nonetheless. It is important to remember the age of your students and recognize that they are just learning life’s biggest questions and only just beginning to figure out the answers. Help them find their answers that truly reflect their values by giving them the roots of different philosophies to explore and understand. Learning the definition of a philosophy does not mean that one is worshipping it; there are many different philosophies we learn about in history that are evil, but we must learn about them in order to recognize that evil if necessary today.