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The Nature of Indoctrination and Its Role in a Proper Education

  • Author(s): Lopez, Michael Edward
  • Advisor(s): Normore, Calvin
  • et al.

This dissertation offers three accounts as a way of answering three questions. The questions are: (1) What is indoctrination? (2) Why is it harmful? (3) Is there a role for indoctrination in a proper education? The three accounts that are offered are an account of indoctrination and its harms, an account of meaningfulness that grounds a life worth living in intersubjective value, and an account of education in which at least one of the more important purposes of education is coming to possess the tools for living a meaningful life.

Indoctrination has classically been characterized as something that necessarily is concerned with the instilling of beliefs. I argue that indoctrination, taken as such, is at least as much about values and deliberation as it is about the holding of beliefs, and that a successful indoctrination shapes the way in which a subject approaches evidence ex ante. I argue that indoctrination is harmful to the extent that it prevents a person from authentically expressing themselves, and in inhibiting that expression, prevents a person from living a truly meaningful life, but that any such harm is also contingent on the particular pre-existing values of the subject and how those particular values relate to the facts of and content of the indoctrination in question. Finally, I argue that the living of a meaningful life is most certainly one of the proper ends of education, and that while indoctrination can certainly thwart that goal when it is employed in such a way as to cause its characteristic harms, indoctrination also remains the only way to accomplish that goal in the first place. Indeed, the very enterprise of institutional education is indoctrinative in its very conception.

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