Indoctrinating the Young

The illusion of neutrality can be shown in the education of the young. Any teacher of young people will inevitably present information in a certain light.

My kids attend a local AWANA club, which is a Christian organization. They play games, hear stories, and memorize parts of the Bible. It’s a lot of fun for the kids and they end up hearing and memorizing a lot of Scripture. All well and good. But I am always struck by the unquestioning acceptance with which all the kids receive what is taught to them. It makes me slightly nervous. I get the sense that if an atheist saw us doing this, they would cry out: “Indoctrination! Brain-washing!” And of course, they would be correct. Not unlike how many Christians, looking at the public school system, or a liberal college philosophy class, might cry out: “Indoctrination! Brain-washing!” 

One man’s proper education in the truth is another man’s indoctrination. So what is the difference? I’m not sure, aside from the content taught and the truth therein. Structurally and functionally they are similar. I know that when I teach young people, I try to make them think. You know, using their brains. Indoctrination usually does not encourage that, because thinking is what cures indoctrination, and therefore is a threat to it. Happily for the indoctrinators, thinking is not all that popular.

The AWANA theme song that they sing every week is this rousing battle-march hymn that, I’m sorry to say, always makes me think of the Hitler Youth. Not because anything nefarious is going on, but because it is awfully easy to hype up a bunch of young people and get them to believe in things. But this is just they way children are – like sponges. The problem is not that children are undiscerning sponges, or that adults proceed to teach them various things, but specifically what is taught and what such teaching will lead to.

But of course not everyone will agree on these matters, which is why it is so important that we enjoy the freedom to teach our children according to our convictions. Is it a dangerous freedom? Sure. Any nutjob or cult can wreck a few childhoods with lies and deception. But the alternative is some sort of government statist control where the state is trusted to teach all the children some “neutral” set of truths – truths which (surprise!) turn out to serve the interests of the state and whatever collection of ideologues currently sit in the government offices.

I still love teaching young people. Knowing how receptive they naturally are, all of us in that position carry a great responsibility for the shaping of these young minds.

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