On Religious Indoctrination
I ran across a graphic the other night while perusing my Facebook news feed proclaiming loudly that the U.S. Government hasn’t, in fact, banned prayer from public schools. All that’s forbidden, the graphic states, is school-sanctioned prayer, but students can still lead it if they so desire.
The reason? The government wants to favor education over indoctrination.
It’s neither here nor there how I feel about public school prayer. What I do care about is that oh so dirty word that people get so afraid of: indoctrination.
Indoctrination has developed into one of those buzzwords “modernists” and “progressives” use as a reason to disagree with more traditional-minded folks, often following its use with their idea of high-minded education: that which includes no mention of anything having anything whatsoever to do with any religion of any kind, ever.
The thing is, indoctrination, in my mind, can go both ways.
For the sake of the argument, let’s stick to the reason why indoctrination as it relates to religion is so hot-button. Faith, particularly Christian faith (I’m using this because it’s what I’m most familiar with), has a lot of “requirements” if a person is going to follow it. More often than not, those requirements are a tad uncomfortable, that is, they wouldn’t necessarily be your first choice (giving someone else the 5 bucks in your pocket instead of buying a Starbucks? If you have a 100% track record with that one, then I’m Miles Davis). People tend to equate uncomfortable feelings for bad feelings these days, so naturally anything that makes you uncomfortable should be seen as bad.
The discomfort manifests itself in two ways, too. Not only does it make people want to say “No” to the things it asks, but this kind of faith seems to make nonbelievers uncomfortable, too. (Disclaimer: I’m not talking about Christians who get in people’s faces and tell them they’re going to Hell for not believing in Jesus, I’m speaking about the people who say “I’d rather not tolerate Christians” and complain out of selfishness)
So, because Christianity makes people uncomfortable in more than one way, nothing relating to it should be taught in our school system. Sounds reasonable, right?
Reasonable enough, but there’s another side of the coin that, in my opinion, doesn’t see the light of day very often. Even if a curriculum moves away from one set of guidelines, it must move toward another set. Those guidelines are used to teach students a government-mandated curriculum from which most students have no other choice but to learn. Regardless of its contents, the curriculum will have an agenda, an expressed purpose for educating students that may make them uncomfortable.
But what would happen (purely hypothetical) if it so happened that students became uncomfortable with the public school curriculum and asked for it to be changed for what appeared to be the same reasons people didn’t like a curriculum with religious influence?
My guess? There wouldn’t be any regress, for starters. (These are “progressives”, remember).
Let’s pause a second. I’m not writing this to slam educators in any way, shape or form (Seriously). I have tons of relatives and close friends who teach young people, and most of my early childhood role models were teachers. The world would literally cease to operate effectively without the influence of teachers.
What I am slamming, instead, is the double standard of “indoctrination” when it comes to religious vs. non-religious influence in education. I’m a pragmatic guy. I like using the actual definitions of words, so when I use “indoctrination”, I mean it as it was originally intended: To teach someone to fully accept the ideas, opinions, and beliefs of a particular group and to not consider other ideas, opinions, and beliefs.
Oddly enough, that sounds more like the public school way of thinking and the opposite of the Christian way of thinking. Am I saying the American public school way and the Christian way are 1) opposites; and 2) bad and good, respectively? HECK no. But I am drawing attention to the fact that, as far as this definition is concerned, indoctrination seems to be what’s being (and been) done to us as American public school students more than it involves anything the pope, as one example, would advocate for.
Again, I’m not pledging my dis-allegiance to the Flag by bringing this up. I’m a proud American, I enjoyed my public school education, and I’m thankful (not as often as I should be) for having been born in a country where I’m free to do things so many others in this world can’t. All I want is a fair assessment by lefties and progressives seeking to “advance” society by excluding all things faith.
To those aforementioned modernists, I don’t care if you keep trying to remove religion from public schools, the public square, or even America as a whole, because I know the Truth doesn’t get eventually squished out or change with the tides like your ideologies do. I just think pointing the finger at “indoctrination” is a poor excuse for people who claim to use higher thinking.