If you drive on the Black Rock Turnpike around Redding/Easton in Connecticut, you see signs up these days in preparation for the upcoming midterms, one of which is a big sign in red that says "Educate Yes, Indoctrinate No, Vote Republican." I think I know what is meant, in light of recent news stories of what is being taught in school and people on the right objecting - especially things pertaining to race, religion (or anti-religion), etc., which seem to be related to the rise of the BLM movement and other related recent events.
And so I think we all know what is intended by this sign - i.e., the maker of the sign does not like what's going on at schools and what kids are being taught or not taught. But the sign, and specifically the language and word choice in the sign seems based on a notion that there is a distinction between two things - education and indoctrination, the latter being a somewhat derogatory and inflammatory word in this country. But really, is there any real distinction to be drawn? Isn't ALL education, especially formal school education, exactly indoctrination? What is education if not indoctrination? The word indoctrination seems to suggest the putting in of doctrines into students' heads - and what are doctrines but teachings? And what is education if not the feeding of teachings into the heads of students? That's what teachers are supposed to be doing, no?
I suppose the author of this sign would probably say, No, education is not the implanting of doctrines into childrens' heads. No, education is supposed to teach them "how to think." Oh really? One certainly hears that phrase a lot in connection with education, this idea of education being associated with "learning how to think." But then nobody explains what that means. And nobody who uses this empty phrase, "learning how to think", seems to have given it any thought at all. Though it surely sounds good, and also a noble thing for educators to teach, although it's not even clear why. And if you look around, how many people do you see who have successfully "learned how to think", if thinking means anything other than reckoning and calculating the many ways and means to lie in order to make money? Or calculating how to lie in order to "get ahead" in some other way. Is "learning how to think" really anything other than that? Because that is the only manner of "thinking" in evidence among those with "education".
So no, education is exactly the same thing as indoctrination, the central doctrine being 'strive to be successful and avoid failure like the plague' (or maybe we should say covid now). Whatever doctrines or teachings the maker of the sign doesn't like being taught in schools, his (or her) issue is with a few relatively tiny little (in the scope of things) matters recently being introduced, but it seems disingenuous to suggest that there is something called "education" that is different from "indoctrination", and even the maker of the sign probably agrees with the central doctrine that we are all indoctrinated with in school from early childhood - i.e., the doctrine of worshipping success above all else, and the doctrine of despising failure. Every single thing that is taught in school is built around this central doctrine, and all of what is commonly understood by the word "education" aims at instilling this doctrine into people very deeply. The word "indoctrination" carries connotations of brainwashing, but if education isn't that, what is it? Learning how to think? Hardly.
And how successful is this indoctrination in our schools? 100% successful, or so close that the number of failures is negligible. Who in our society does not worship success and run from failure? Of course, success and failure can mean different things to different people when it comes to the particulars, but these differences, however big they may seem, are minor variations that don't matter because there is not a single soul who has escaped the central indoctrination.
And so it warrants close examination. And careful thought about this central doctrine, the truth and wisdom of which seems so self-evident. The problem is, because of how stupendously successful the indoctrination into this doctrine has been, none of us has learned to think. And so it's hard if not impossible for anyone to give this indoctrination careful thought. Hmmm. What to do.