How education became indoctrination

Um, yeah. What she said.

Some time ago, I wrote a post on socialization I’ve been meaning to revisit. I began with a definition:

The process by which culture is learned; also called enculturation. During socialization, individuals internalize a culture’s social controls, along with values and norms about right and wrong.

This isn’t about playing nicely with other kids and getting along with a diverse group of people. It is about shared values and norms. In the original post, I passed off enculturation as equivalent to indoctrination and moved on to this internalizing of social controls. In a Spacious Place composed a very thoughtful response.

Enculturation is not synonymous with indoctrination, but it is similar. To indoctrinate means:

  1. To instruct in a body of doctrine or principles.
  2. To imbue with a partisan or ideological point of view: a generation of children who had been indoctrinated against the values of their parents.

In common usage, we refer to this in a derogatory sense, ie., that indoctrination means to encourage one to accept these doctrines or principles without critically analyzing them. The connection is perhaps made more clear in this definition of socialization:

The process whereby a child learns to get along with and to behave similarly to other people in the group, largely through imitations as well as group pressure.

It is subtle, transmitted rather than critically analyzed and adopted through imitation and external pressure.

While there may be some groups who desire to isolate themselves, the vast majority of homeschoolers are preparing their children for life in our society. We want our children “socialized” but in so doing, we reach to the highest ideals our culture has to offer. I found Willa’s mention of Rousseau interesting, because in many ways he is responsible for the shift in the modern world’s view of education. He profoundly influenced Friedrich Froebel, the inventor of kindergarten, and other prominent educators of his day. And his theories can be seen echoed in many teaching programs around the country, particularly those highlighting thematic learning, whole language and a general move away from learning facts. (In many ways, he was the first “unschooler.”) He proposed the creation of the perfect society through the perfect education which would teach children to let go of traditional beliefs and values.

As Rousseau sets himself up as a fictional tutor for the fictional Emile to explore his thoughts on education, he states:

Emile is an orphan. No matter whether he has father or mother, having undertaken their duties I am invested with their rights. He must honour his parents, but he must obey only me. That is my first or rather my only condition. (On Education, Book 1, paragraph 97)

An orphan, whether or not he has parents. If that does not describe the modern state’s view of its role in educating children, I don’t know what does. Another interesting quote:

It is no part of a child’s business to know right and wrong, to perceive the reason for a man’s duties. (Book 2, paragraph 257)

This sort of an education is not really about “socialization.” In fact, perhaps we could switch the argumentation around. Public education has nothing to do with socialization because it is not about introducing a child to his culture. Instead, it has become about molding him to shape a new culture, a new set of values, a new set of beliefs. It is about disenculturation, desocialization.

And since that implies unlearning the little bit of culture a young child may have already learned from his parents, it is of little surprise that Rousseau wants full responsibility for his charge from birth.

Or, as Dr. Chester M. Pierce stated in an address to the Childhood International Education Seminar in 1973,

“Every child in America entering school at the age of five is insane because he comes to school with certain allegiances to our founding fathers, toward our elected officials, toward his parents, toward a belief in a supernatural being, and toward the sovereignty of this nation as a separate entity. It’s up to you as teachers to make all these sick children well–by creating the international child of the future.”

Even Start begins at birth, as well.

Interested in more from Life Led Homeschool? Sign up for my newsletter and receive updates right in your inbox!

Related posts:

Leave a Reply

Be the First to Comment!

Notify of
Dancing Boys Mom

Gee, if that last quote doesn’t send chills down your spine…


Bravo! I like how you distinguished enculturation and disenculturation.


“Make no mistake about it, what those teachers are doing is indoctrinating their students minds into an unquestioning obedience to the collective.”

I think that article was very enlightening. The quote above is curious because that’s exactly what others accuse Christian parents of doing–creating robots with no thoughts but those of their parents or their church (which, I may add, I am NOT doing. I am raising reasoning adults, not “yes” men and women.). I guess the educational system is jealous and wants that job for themselves, no?


Anna-Marie, I think it is because they ant to break free from tradition. For a family to do so is one thing; for the state to do so is quite another.

“the vast majority of homeschoolers are preparing their children for life in our society” I absolutely disagree. A vast majority of homeschoolers are very conservative Christians who are preparing their boys to be Godly leaders and their girls to be “keepers at home”. While there is a growing movement of secular and moderate homeschoolers, surveys ALWAYS produce “religious reasons” as the first and foremost reason parents homeschool. This majority is indeed indoctrinating their children, and it isn’t any better than the liberal socialization of public education. They both result in single minded culture, with the homeschoolers breathing heavy upon the… Read more »
Dana Hanley
Thanks for stopping by, Doc. A vast majority of homeschoolers are very conservative Christians who are preparing their boys to be Godly leaders and their girls to be “keepers at home” That has been our society for a long time, but that isn’t what I am trying to point out. I am a Conservative, Christian homeschooler and I am teaching my children religious values. I am not, however, teaching them to secede from the world and to live in an isolated little enclave on the fringes of reality. In a pluralistic society, we have different views, beliefs, values, whatever. We… Read more »

Gee…wouldn’t it have to be a typo that would get me to the first blog I tried to start?

This is me.


Very informed and thoughtful post.


Well said. Even in your comments.