Indoctrination vs. Teaching, Part II
- 3 February 2008 by Author 0 Comments
Indoctrination vs. Teaching, Part II
By Richard Larsen
A few weeks ago we addressed here the issue of education versus indoctrination. Therein I provided anecdotal evidence of a few teachers not teaching, but instead, indoctrinating. The evidence was drawn primarily from each of my children’s experiences from public secondary education through their higher education experience at Idaho State University.
One such referenced experience was an upper division literature course that my daughter took last semester. The instructor for that class, an adjunct instructor in the Foreign Languages Department, took exception to the allegations that he was indoctrinating instead of teaching. In a letter to the editor last week he identified himself by name and knew he was the instructor in question based on how I recounted my daughter’s experience in the class.
I questioned the propriety of pursuing this any further, even after his acrimonious letter. I’m accustomed to such criticism, and actually take solace in such attacks when they are aimed at me, for then I know they lack the substance to debate the basic tenets of my theses. Having substantially lost the argument, they must resort to ad hominem attacks against me personally.
I was also reluctant to pursue this any further because there are two segments of our citizenry in this great country who are my heroes: those who have or are serving in the military, and teachers. But considering that a few abuse their role as teachers, and indoctrinate rather than teach, it is incumbent upon us to stand up and seek to correct this impropriety. After all, we taxpayers pay their salaries and entrust them with our children to be taught, not to be opined to day after day.
The course in question was a critical theory class that according to the description in the university’s Course Catalogue was about “The application of critical theory to the reading of world literature.” If the course syllabus as provided by the instructor had on objective different than that, as the instructor indicated in his letter last week, his syllabus did not conform to the Course Catalogue. Consequently, he may have taught the wrong course, or at the very least, was guilty of “bait and switch” with the students.
In typical fashion for those who assume an unwarranted arrogance due to their position, the instructor questioned how I could pass judgment against his indoctrination efforts in the classroom when I had not even attended it. I would remind him that common in the practice of law and other segments of our society, is witness testimony. Witnesses testify and provide evidence that prove or negate allegations. In this case, not only the testimony of my daughter, but that of another older member of the same class afforded such testimony affirming what was previously alleged.
Both said when the assignment material was covered, the class was enjoyable and the instructor engaging. But, in the words of the other class member, “Almost every single day of class he would lecture us about how the United States was so bad and how France and Europe were so great. Whether the lessons called for such comparisons or not, almost every day was the same. One day I asked him to tell me one good thing about the United States and after a long pause he told me that you could get rich quick in the U.S. I was amazed.”
Perhaps the instructor can elucidate for me how this is not an effort at indoctrination. A critical study of world literature would necessitate some comparative cultural analysis and their respective weaknesses and strengths. But a daily denunciation of the U.S. as one of the students indicated, “like it was an obsession to him,” can hardly be labeled “teaching.” The instructor marveled in his letter to the editor how I could “portray [him] as a cardboard cut-out and [his] class as an indoctrination session.” Actually, I didn’t have to. He did that perfectly well on his own. In his own words, “Yes. The commies and socialists have arrived.”
He continues his defense in his letter stating that he implements “a discursive, Socratic method of teaching.” Based on the experiences of the witnesses, it was genuinely discursive, as regular digressions to proselytize his anti-American venom were in great abundance. Socratic? There wasn’t too much evidence to support that claim. A true Socratic method would have proposed both sides of the U.S. issue and challenged students in a defense of the U.S. as well. Perhaps when he focused on the material, it was a viable educational experience. It’s when he digressed beyond that with the daily rants against the country that allowed him the freedom to bash it that it was no longer teaching, and had crossed the line to indoctrination.
Daily spewing of dogmatic ideology that is not supported by fact and that may have marginal relationship to the educational material is indoctrination, not teaching!
As stated before, I received an absolutely superb education at ISU because of the incredible professors I had. Not only were they extremely proficient in their disciplines, but they were not dogmatic in their instructional style. As their lectures coincided with current events, they were open to contrary opinion and divergent perspectives. They allowed open discussion without intimidation, in true Socratic fashion, only demanding of the students that they know and understand the facts, and be able to substantiate their conclusions accordingly.
While none of my ISU professors taught as ideologues, they nonetheless had their firmly held opinions and they shared them as warranted. However, even though their opinions were expressed, their lessons and discussions were open and engaging, and they taught us how to think without telling us what to think.
As adamantly and publicly as the instructor in question defended himself, he may not actually know the difference between teaching and indoctrinating. Some of my professors are still there, and I would encourage him to attend classes taught by Ron Hatzenbuehler, Jack Owens, or Rick Foster. They know the difference. They have never been “stuck” in any decade as the instructor accused, and continue to enlighten.
We as taxpayers pay our teachers to teach, not opine ad nauseam nor indoctrinate. As parents, we entrust our children to them to be taught. If the instructor insists on substituting teaching with incessant opining, and hates America as he daily told his students, perhaps he should go to Venezuela. I’m sure they’d welcome him with open arms.
Richard Larsen is President of Larsen Financial, a brokerage and financial planning firm in Pocatello, and is a graduate of Idaho State University with a BA in Political Science and History and former member of the Idaho State Journal Editorial Board. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.