Teaching for Commitment

Teaching for Commitment: Liberal Education, Indoctrination, and Christian Nurture

ELMER JOHN THIESSEN
Copyright Date: 1993
Pages: 344
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt80cf2
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  • Book Info
    Teaching for Commitment
    Book Description:

    Thiessen calls for reconstruction of the Enlightenment ideal of liberal education from which the charge of indoctrination typically arises. He argues that liberal education necessarily builds on nurture and therefore needs to be more sensitive to the traditions into which a child is initiated. The ideals of autonomy, rationality, and critical openness - all closely related to the ideal of liberal education - need to be modified if they are to be both realistic and philosophically defensible. Once this is done it can be seen that confessional religious education without indoctrination is possible.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6395-7
    Subjects: Education

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-7)

    One of the central objections against religious instruction as it occurs in the home, in the church, and in church-related schools and colleges is that such instruction often, and even necessarily, involves indoctrination. For example, Robin Barrow and Ronald Woods, in their popular introductory text in the philosophy of education, open the topic of indoctrination with a description of a paradigm case, a Catholic school in which all the teachers are committed Catholics, where all the children come from Catholic homes and have parents who want them to be brought up as Catholics, and where the entire school is committed...

  5. 1 The Charge of Religious Indoctrination
    (pp. 8-32)

    “Indoctrination” is a word which, by and large, has strongly pejorative overtones. It was not always so. In tracing the evolution of the concept of indoctrination, Gatchel notes that, until a little over half a century ago, the term “indoctrination” was no more offensive in educational circles than the term “education” (1972, 9). In fact, most dictionaries today still define indoctrination as a neutral term, as something akin to teaching and education. But the ways in which words are used can and do change over the years. Indoctrination is one word whose meaning has been so radically altered in the...

  6. 2 Liberal Education: The Context of the Charge of Indoctrination
    (pp. 33-58)

    In order to respond to the charge of religious indoctrination, it is important first to clarify the context out of which this charge arises.¹ Clearly, indoctrination is related in some way to education and teaching. It has already been suggested in chapter 1 that the term “indoctrination” is used today primarily as a derogatory term. Indoctrination is generally viewed as the opposite of true education or good teaching. But just what kind of education or teaching is indoctrination being contrasted with? I will argue in this chapter that when indoctrination is viewed as the opposite of true education or good...

  7. 3 Content of Indoctrination and the Scientific Ideal
    (pp. 59-86)

    Indoctrination is usually associated with a certain kind of content. One writer goes so far as to make content, and only content, the necessary and sufficient criterion for determining whether a person is indoctrinated (Kazepides 1987, 233). Most others make the more modest claim that content is one of several necessary conditions of indoctrination. What is generally assumed here is that indoctrination is in some way related to a certain kind of belief - namely doctrines, sometimes also identified as ideologies or world-views.¹ R.S. Peters, for example, argues that “whatever else “indoctrination” means, it obviously has something to do with...

  8. 4 Methods of Indoctrination and the Ideal of Rationality
    (pp. 87-116)

    Most philosophers closely associate the content and methods criteria of “indoctrination.” In other words, discussions about the content of indoctrination are most often linked with concern about the way this content is taught. Alan Peshkin, for example, in his study of Bethany Baptist Academy (BBA), links doctrine with methods when he argues that BBA indoctrinates its students, “refusing to treat issues to which doctrine applies as matters for discussion” (1986, 284). Christian nurture is here being charged with indoctrination both because ofwhatis taught andhowit is taught. Another interesting example is provided by Kazepides, who, though he...

  9. 5 Intentions of the Indoctrinator and the Ideal of Autonomy
    (pp. 117-143)

    Although there continues to be fundamental disagreement about the meaning of “indoctrination,” if there is any hint of a move towards consensus, the favoured approach seems to define it in terms of intention.¹

    What is it that is suspect about the intentions of the parent or teacher as an indoctrinator? There are a variety of answers, though a common thread is apparent. McLaughlin (1984) provides a common description of indoctrination as the intentional inculcation of unshakable beliefs (cf. White 1972a, 119-20). Snook (1972b, 47) similarly argues that a person indoctrinates who intends that the pupil or pupils believe what is...

  10. 6 Consequences of Indoctrination and the Ideal of Critical Openness
    (pp. 144-174)

    I argued in the previous chapter that an analysis of “indoctrination” in terms of intention invariably seems to make reference also to the consequences criterion. Snook defines indoctrination as teaching with the intention that pupils believe something “regardless of the evidence” (1972b, 47).¹ McLaughlin follows J.P. White in describing indoctrination as intentional inculcation of unshakable beliefs (McLaughlin 1984, 77-8; White 1972a, 128). Although White and Snook object to the consequences criterion, what really carries the burden of their pejorative characterization of indoctrination is the way in which indoctrinated individuals hold their beliefs. Various other writers have suggested that consequences, frequently...

  11. 7 Institutional Indoctrination and the Democratic Ideal of Liberal Institutions
    (pp. 175-203)

    So far I have examined four criteria often associated with indoctrination: content, methods, intention, and consequences. In the next chapter, I will come to a final assessment of these criteria as ways of defining “indoctrination.” There is, however, another dimension of indoctrination which is by and large ignored in the literature. I want to suggest that, implicit in past treatments of indoctrination, there is really what might be considered a fifth criterion of “indoctrination” that deserves separate consideration.

    I want to refer to this fifth criterion as the “institutional criterion.” By labelling it the “institutional criterion,” I call attention to...

  12. 8 Religious Indoctrination vs. Liberal Education: Some Conclusions
    (pp. 204-242)

    We have seen that concern about indoctrination grows out of the Enlightenment ideal of liberal education. Indoctrination is generally understood to be the very antithesis of liberal education. As such, indoctrination is considered to be immoral. My primary concern has been to examine the charge of indoctrination applied to Christian nurture as it occurs in Christian homes and schools. Christian nurture is also sometimes identified as a confessional approach to Christian religious education. While my arguments could for the most part also be applied to Hindu nurture or to a confessional approach to religious education that would be used in...

  13. 9 Some Practical Suggestions
    (pp. 243-278)

    “Ideas have consequences.” This ancient and profound truth, captured in the title R.M. Weaver ([i948]1971) gave his oft-reprinted book, also serves as a fitting introduction to this final chapter. Philosophers need to be reminded that ideas reallydohave consequences when they remain in their proverbial ivory towers absorbed in abstract and theoretical arguments, without ever demonstrating the important differences their ideas make in the ordinary lives of people. The purpose of this chapter is to show the concrete implications of the often abstract arguments of the previous chapters concerning our understanding of liberal education and indoctrination.

    Not only do...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 279-300)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 301-320)
  16. Index
    (pp. 321-332)