• lkbostrom

Was it indoctrination?

The readings and class discussions on indoctrination have been lodged in my head for weeks - and I started to wonder how many times I could have been accused of indoctrinating my high school students.

an image of a handwritten flowchart to identify if you have indoctrinated your students
Version 1.0


So - obviously, as I started to reflect on some specific instances that came to mind as “potentially indoctrinatory,” I started making a flowchart to understand what types of interactions could be seen as indoctrination.


I started by just thinking about Callan & Arena’s article - and the key points that I took away from it. That effort resulted in a semi-sarcastic flowchart because ultimately some philosopher or great thinking had an argument for why most interactions could be considered indoctrination.



A handwritten flowchart for identifying incidents of indoctrination
Version 3.0

After version 1.0 I started to think more systematically about the flow chart and how different components of teaching and learning could lead to or be classified as indoctrination. I took some chronological notes from Callan & Arena which I then reorganized into Version 3.0 - in which I attempted to start broad qualifications of indoctrination and move to more specific or nuanced interpretations of indoctrination.



At this point in the process I felt more confident that I hadn’t engaged in what Callan & Arena call ‘standard indoctrination’ which entails intent on the part of the teacher to indoctrinate students.


a flowchart titled "was it indoctrination?"
Version 4.0



As I started to give shape to Version 3.0 some special cases separated themselves from the “main” path of the chart, and other connections started to show up. Version 4.0 is workable, and someone using the chart can only “exit” their actions have been qualified as indoctrination by some philosopher or other.



The colors are also become significant in Version 4.0, but get changed in the final version.




Version 5.0 includes markers for what qualifies as indoctrination according to the philosophers included in Callan & Arena’s article.

color-coded flowchart to identify instances of indoctrination
Version 5.0

Here is what the color-coding means:

Orange: questions about intent of teaching

Red: questions about the thinking process your students are developing or have developed

Green: questions about the topic or ideas that are central to the teacher's lessons

Blue: questions about the evidence provided by the materials/curriculum

Purple: question about personal indoctrination

Grey: markers of instances that could be qualified as indoctrination

White boxes: outcomes that are unlikely to be qualified as indoctrination


A note on non-standard indoctrination, this form entails a teacher indoctrinating students without the intent to do so but due to a lack of unbiased resources or the teacher being indoctrinated themselves - and it seems likely that I have engaged in this form of indoctrination.


This is also why the flowchart ends with the question “are you, yourself, indoctrinated?” It would be simple to go through the chart holding all your current beliefs and ideas and think you haven’t indoctrinated anyone - however, I don’t think it’s that simple. How can you know that you are not responsible for indoctrinating students if you haven’t thought about whether you were indoctrinated yourself?





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