What is the difference between indoctrination and teaching? Some recent posts by my friend and fellow blogger The Meanderer has me pondering that question particularly in the realm of religious education. I received a comprehensive religious education in church, at home, and in the private religious post secondary university where I was a student. Was I being indoctrinated or taught?
It seems to me the key difference between indoctrination and teaching is that when you are teaching someone you are providing them with an opportunity to explore ideas, information, beliefs and knowledge and you are allowing them to ask questions, have different opinions, argue and come to their own conclusions. But when you are indoctrinating someone you are simply supplying them with the ideas, information, beliefs and knowledge in a didactic way and they are not allowed to question, or argue or demand evidence.
I think I had some experiences in my religious education that were a form of indoctrination, but generally in my home and church and in particular at the faith-based university I attended, we were taught and not indoctrinated. I also realize that others who had the same religious educational experiences I did might view them very differently in retrospect, even people in my own family.
My friend The Meanderer suggests that parents who provide for religious educational experiences for their children may be engaging in a form of abuse. I would contend that while indoctrination is abusive, teaching is not, and that religious teaching does in fact have the potential to be a positive influence in someone’s life.