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Children and Indoctrination

  1. Sep 18, 2010 #1
    I'm starting this thread as I would prefer not to keep posting comments regarding the above subject in the French Burqa thread.

    Throughout a child's life they are subject to various cultural and possibly religious doctrines and they can have a significant impact on the way that child thinks and lives in later adulthood.

    So what are your views on indoctrination of children?

    I understand we can't shield children from everything, and the local culture where you live is going to have an effect on them whether you like it or not. But what about other influences in their life?

    Personally, I don't think children should be subjected to any form of religion (or specific beliefs) until they are old enough to make the decision themselves. But as someone in the other thread pointed out, you then face losing the parents culture / religion / belief. For me this isn't a good argument, the way I see it, if a religion truly has good ideas and views on life they will attract new people and so nothing is lost. If they do not, then yes they could be lost, but at least it would be because people chose not to accept them because they didn't accept their views / ideas.

    Now I don't want this to be some religious bashing thread, I would simply like to know what people think of parents imposing their view on their children (particularly when their minds are so young and vulnerable)?

    (I'm not speaking of only religious, this goes for all influences they may face and it would be nice to see other items, non-religious being discussed.)

    And perhaps we could expand to discuss what effect it can have on people in later life.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 18, 2010 #2
    well, i live in the US, and religious freedom is central here. i think it has served us well.

    the soviets, the chinese... they have tried revolutionary means to redefine their cultures, and the results were tragic.

    i prefer the social evolutionary model, myself.
  4. Sep 18, 2010 #3
    I agree, people will only move on when they are ready or when something has a major impact on their lives. I wouldn't want to enforce my beliefs on anyone, and I would like to be shown the same respect back.

    I'm just curious why people feel the need to impose their beliefs / culture on their children? Is it because they feel closer to the child, that they want to include the child in their life? When put like that it doesn't sound too bad.
    I don't like the way people will refuse to allow their children to be taught any other system (much like creationists arguing it should be taught as fact in schools instead of evolution). If you expose your child to as much different culture and teachings as possible, it surely serves to help develop the child into a more open and accepting person of other cultures, or am I way off? I don't understand why the need for closing off children from other cultures and religions.

    Going to a public school, I was exposed to a variety of beliefs and cultures, I feel it helped me become more accepting. If my parents had made me go to a Catholic school, I don't know how much interaction I would have with other cultures and don't know whether or not I'd hold the same views I do now.

    I was never forced into any clubs / groups and was to allowed to make all my choices in life by myself, from school subject choices to university. So my parents have never had much influence in my education / extra-curicular life, although they always encouraged me in everything I have done.
  5. Sep 18, 2010 #4
    YES! of course they feel closer to their children. their children are their legacy. their child's survival is their own survival, their own genes (tho they don't think of it quite this way, but it is instinct, yes?) persevering. and it is not simply their child's "spiritual" welfare that they are concerned about. they believe that by teaching them in their faith, they will make fewer mistakes (sins) in life. they believe that in doing so, they will be more productive, healthy members of society that will go on to provide an even better life for their own children.

    they fully realize that kids will grow up one day and make decisions on their own. and some (can't remember if it's amish or mennonite) even send their kids out to discover the world on their own for a while when they're grown.
  6. Sep 20, 2010 #5


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    Once my kids are 18, they're free to screw up their life however they please. Until they turn 18, it's my job as a parent to screw up their life for them, using whatever resources my limited intelligence, limited education, and limited experiences give me.


    What else would you consider raising a kid except indoctrination?

    A parent should indoctrinate their children to the best of their ability. And, yes, often the parent's background is very limited and that will have a profound affect on what that parent imparts to his/her children.

    I'm really curious as what kind of solution you'd suggest for situations where you feel the parent is just too stupid to raise kids. And I'm not being facetious, either. At the extremes, there's a lot of controversy about whether the mentally impaired (Down's syndrome, etc) should be allowed to reproduce when they lack the mental faculties to care for themselves, let alone children. The idea of taking children away from people that teach their children 'undesirable beliefs' is just taking that further (although about a giant leap, 17 skips, 30 steps, and 57 stone's throws, and even about 23 ballparks further).

    There's almost nothing that would motivate me to social violence, but some external organization telling me what beliefs to teach my kids would probably be the one.
  7. Sep 20, 2010 #6


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    Do you think the only way to raise kids is to teach them that your personal tastes are the only correct ones? (that's basically what I think of as indoctrination)
  8. Sep 20, 2010 #7

    Ivan Seeking

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    So you would leave it up to a five-year-old to make the distinction between right and wrong?
  9. Sep 20, 2010 #8


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    Perhaps the degree of homogenation of the culture has an influence on the importance of 'indoctrination'.

    Here in the US, we have a lot of variation in our populace, like a cultural quilt - lots of subcultures. There's everything from Silicon Valley code monkeys to those who eschew modern life; young-Earth creationists to atheists; Rastafarians to Mormons...you name it. So if you're in one of these 'patches' in the American quilt, you would certainly want your children to be in that patch with you.

    Indoctrination wouldn't be as big of a factor in a smaller, more homogenous society.
  10. Sep 20, 2010 #9
    Obviously, you do not have any children. Raise a few and get back to us. :)
  11. Sep 20, 2010 #10
    Teaching a child what is right and wrong does come down to personal views. My problem is when people teach their children that their view of what is right and wrong is the only view and it is the correct one.

    Once into adulthood, a person should be able to make their own decisions about what is right and wrong and amend the views they were brought up with as they see fit. But there are people who teach their children that everything else is wrong, no matter what evidence they are shown.

    Bring your children up to be open minded and sceptical. Teach them how to make their own decisions and judgements on their own and not to blindly believe what they are told. You may call that indoctrination, but the difference is you're putting them in a position to decide for themselves how they live, you are not forcing them into one belief system and thought path.
  12. Sep 20, 2010 #11


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    It is and has been for millenia for parents to provide ideas and values, including beliefs, to their own children. Those ideas are then supplemented by others from the community.

    How would children form ideas or beliefs without the assistance of their parents? Hopefully parents teach children to thoughtful (and objective), kind, considerate, honest, and otherwise basically decent human beings. Sadly that is not universally the case.
  13. Sep 20, 2010 #12
    Let a child grow up creating their own belief system is simply uncaring and destructive. For some reason evolutionary forces made it necessary to "love" our children which causes us to pass on what has worked for us as parents to our children for the sake of their survival and the survival of our genes. As humans without a moral framework and self discipline will follow the path of least resistance.
  14. Sep 20, 2010 #13


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    Of course not. Did I imply that in my post?
  15. Sep 20, 2010 #14
    Like I said, you should try to bring them up in a way which teaches them to be open minded. Obviously parents will influence their children, but the key is not to put your child into a mindset that only those views are correct. Only the views of the parents are the right ones and everything else should be dismissed. That is what I don't like.

    Children should be taught right and wrong by their parents (as Astonuc said), but they should be taught not to maintain a closed frame of mind, they need to be able to evolve their beliefs. To bring a child up to believe A is right, B is wrong no matter what you are told otherwise, is just plain wrong.

    It's like bringing up your child to be racist. You teach them all your life that white people are better than anyone else, and they will firmly believe that. They won't be able to tell you why they believe that, at least not without some form of irrational justification that has been drilled into them. They won't accept telling that racism is wrong.
  16. Sep 20, 2010 #15
    Your opinion is all well and good but is simply not practical to enforce. Nor would we want it so. Provided the children are not neglected or in an abusive environment, parents are free to impart their value systems. It's an integral part of parenting. It is unenforceable to dictate to parents to teach their children to have your version of an "open mind". It could be argued that your version of open mindedness is close minded.
  17. Sep 20, 2010 #16


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    I'd like to see that argument!
  18. Sep 20, 2010 #17
    So would I.
  19. Sep 20, 2010 #18
    This is a political and world affairs forum, not a philosophy forum. :)
  20. Sep 20, 2010 #19


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    Good point. I've asked to have the thread moved. I see no reason why it should be in P&WA rather than philosophy or GD. Hopefully, you'll get your chance to make that argument! :biggrin:
  21. Sep 20, 2010 #20


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    Good point. Instead of indoctrinating their kids, parents should socialize them.

    To do things like say "Please" and "Thank You", which serve no functional purpose unless you're handing something dangerous, such as an axe, to someone (saying "Thanks" conveys the additional information that the person taking the axe actually has a grip on it).
    Last edited: Sep 20, 2010
  22. Sep 20, 2010 #21
    i think your entire premise is wrong. because almost all children become open-minded at the appropriate time: their teenage years.

    raise them to believe A, they will choose B just to spite you. in another teen of years, when the part of their brain responsible for making good judgement is matured, they may change their mind again. or not. it will depend more on what they think at this point.
  23. Sep 22, 2010 #22
    But why socialize them to say, "thanks" instead of "got it?" . . . but that wasn't the reason I responded to this post.

    The distinction between socialization and indoctrination is barely relevant, in practice, at best. In fact, the whole practice of distinguishing cultural imperialism with other forms of cultural transmission is really just identity politics. The reality is that all forms of culture must be transmitted, including language, ideas, gestures, expressions, aesthetics/tastes, etc. etc. Why is it considered worse to indoctrinate children into the belief that vegetables are healthy instead of socializing them to eat vegetables in conformity to others?

    Ultimately, socialization to conform is worse than ideological indoctrination, imo, because at least when there's ideology behind a certain cultural practice, the individual has some power to reason about whether the ideology is ultimately valid or not. When children are just socialized into conformity and obedience, they simply learn not to question or think about how reasonable a particular cultural practice may be.

    Still, whether you favor reasoning and individual self-determination or obedient conformity; there's still no getting around the fact that culture gets transmitted from those that have it to those that don't (yet). Is it only imperialism when the cultural transmission is identified as inter-ethnic? Ultimately, if you ignore the identity labels, ethnic or otherwise, of people transmitting and receiving cultural information - it is always a form of indoctrination one way or the other.

    The only other option would be to allow children to develop everything for themselves from birth onward, including their own words and communication practices. Of course, not only would this hinder them tremendously, how would you prevent them from picking up cultural practices from watching their parents or others?

    The more important question, imo, is whether to allow monocultural logic that allows people to indoctrinate their children into the belief that certain cultures are simply incompatible and therefore that they have to avoid certain religions, languages, etc. because they can't learn from multiple sources and form their own individual beliefs/culture. Monoculturalism is of course the flip side of conformity in which people believe that individuals join collectives and practice common culture instead of individuals drawing on multiple sources and developing their own unique hybrid culture as a result.
  24. Sep 22, 2010 #23
    I think that's what I'm going for, although I may have been somewhat off the mark with my attack at indoctrination.
  25. Sep 22, 2010 #24
    Well, the public schools are some of the strongest instruments for promoting monocultural logics that conformity is necessary for children and schools to function well. These schools are legally forbidden to indoctrinate religious ideology b/c of separation of church and state, but that doesn't prevent them from indoctrinating conformity through standardized curriculums and scheduling and organizing personnel into hierarchical chains of command that ultimately answer to a central principal, superintendent, and/or schoolboard. If you want to have children free to learn from multiple cultures and develop their own individual beliefs, you could better go to a charter-school model or use private vouchers to funds schools. That would result in diversity, but then you would have to make it possible for them to enroll in multiple schools or change schools/cohorts every so often so that they would get exposure to different beliefs, philosophies, methods, etc. instead of just the one that their particular school/cohort focusses on. The other possibility, of course, would be to allow diverse beliefs and methods within a single school, but you're still stuck with the problem of school-wide rules and systems for organizing scheduling, coordinating curricula, etc.
  26. Sep 28, 2010 #25
    To teach a young person to be aware of their environment is a part of the function of saying "please" and "thank you". And, teaching a child how to make decisions is quite different from teaching them what to think. This is a part of the differences between socialization and indoctrination. This forum serves as a part of a socialization process. On the other hand, being a part of this thread isn't about indoctrination. Socialization is more the natural process of observing the dialog and relationships in society. Indoctrination implies that you have a specific "doctrine" to convey, usually ideological or beliefs based rather than value based.

    Every society understands that peace and security are important aspects of a productive society. And I'm pretty sure that bigotry and prejudice aren't a part of any normally functioning socialization process where peace and security were the goal. Anything less would be self destructive and counterintuitive to prosperity, health and security.
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