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What Is Indoctrination And Avoidance In Education?

Upbringing and education used to be synonymous. In the 20th century, ideological training was defined as teaching the fundamentals and principles of any science or belief system. Today, however, the phenomenon has more of a negative connotation. One of the most frequent accusations against scientists is that they are brainwashed and indoctrinated with new ideas.

Indoctrination is one of the important topics in modern education. But there are also many other important aspects of both student education. In this regard, WowEssays answers the questions that arise when studying education and provides valuable advice for students attending college or university. So you can be sure that this article will answer the following questions What is indoctrination? And if it is as terrible as it is portrayed, then how can we protect ourselves from it? Let’s talk about that in this article.

What is Indoctrination?

Indoctrination (from the Latin “doctrine,” a doctrine, scientific or philosophical theory, system, guiding principle) is the process of repeating and indoctrinating an idea, belief, or doctrine to someone until he accepts it without criticism or unnecessary questions. In simple terms, indoctrination is ideological processing for different purposes.

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This phenomenon can manifest itself in different spheres, in one way or another, related to a person’s thinking, state, and behavior under other life circumstances.

Ideological processing has existed at all times under different names. Still, due to a noticeable aggravation of interstate relations and increased political activity in society, its manifestations have become especially noticeable. Varieties of this phenomenon in the information space of almost all modern countries are:

  • rumors;
  • information dumping;
  • falsifications;
  • misinformation;
  • concealment of facts.

The purpose of indoctrination can be the introduction into the mass consciousness of a special idea to form and strengthen like-minded groups to unite them. But sometimes, the purpose of indoctrination is to counter other people’s doctrines, protect the country’s interests, or preserve the influence of existing leaders.

Some may wonder: what is the difference between indoctrination and propaganda? The latter is one of the levers of influencing the masses’ consciousness and controlling their mood. It is with the help of propaganda slogans and appeals that an interested party has the opportunity to introduce the values, ideals, doctrines, and views it needs. These methods help draw attention to the ideology advantageous to the government and strengthen its position.

The term “indoctrination” was coined by ethnologists who specialized in studying human behavior. A well-known representative of this science Irenius Eibel-Eibesfeldt argued that indoctrination is expressed in the acceptance of group characteristics and identification with them, which, in turn, contributes to group cohesion.

According to these ideas, indoctrination is the most important part of a person’s social adaptation. Its mechanisms are involved in all types of socialization processes, as the main goal of this process is to stimulate and maintain the unity of the social group. These mechanisms, for example, underlie parental influence on children and are included in the processes of education and maintenance of rules of behavior in family and group.

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However, not all scholars of evolutionary and social psychology hold this view.

Scholars Jack and Linda Palmer, for example, by indoctrination of society mean indoctrination and the imposition of a certain point of view, views, or principles. They especially emphasize that we are talking about “fanatical or sectarian” views, which have a pronounced negative coloring in this case.

Indoctrination is a universal feature of all human societies, but the ideological influence on group members can vary significantly. Since virtually all ideologies of social control are based on the human capacity to trace and impose group interests, it is possible, through ideological processing, to force all group members to identify with its goals and interests.

Some ethologists define this phenomenon as a deliberate imposition of a certain doctrine, characterized by constant suggestion, repetition, deception, and even coercion.

Indoctrination can be spoken of:

  • in the study of a special psychological state of a person;
  • when it comes to the process of appropriation of other people’s ideas;
  • In the case of teaching and imposition of ideas using zombification, “brainwashing,” or other methods of influencing people’s consciousness.

Some theories of indoctrination consider this phenomenon in a negative context because it is often characterized by an attack on personal independence and is accompanied by immoral methods of influencing a person. But, for the sake of justice, it is worth noting that this interpretation of this phenomenon does not fully reflect its entire essence.

That is why it is important:

  • expand the understanding of ideological processing and not perceive it exclusively in a negative context;
  • to get rid of cardinal judgments and recognize that indoctrination as a phenomenon has the right to exist and plays a certain role in the process of social evolution;
  • Understand that this phenomenon is not always a consequence of ethically condemned methods and can appear due to a relatively mild impact on the individual.

Speaking of ideological processing, one should not assume that it consists exclusively of negative components. For example, young children assimilate new ideas that adults broadcast. With their help, they grow, learn to think and socialize. This exposure is not through aggressive methods but through dialogue, fun games, and voluntary learning.

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The Emergence of Indoctrination

The process of changing from one ideology to another in a person’s mind is purely individual and is separately studied by researchers.

There is an opinion that people who cannot think critically, are not endowed with high intelligence and creativity, and have a narrow outlook are more susceptible to indoctrination. Moreover, there are whole techniques for releasing psychological violence (e.g., the influence of sects) aimed at developing critical thinking and general erudition.

Scholars who study social psychology and developmental psychology try to assess the presence or absence of a person’s tendency to uncritically accept other people’s ideas. Some of them suggest that indoctrination results solely from external influences on consciousness. However, evolutionary psychology suggests that the phenomenon arose precisely due to evolution.

According to researchers, the human nature for survival includes a tendency to conformism – adaptation to generally recognized correct behavior and thinking. Non-critical perception of other people’s ideas and views, which occurs in some people, is its extreme manifestation.

But it is worth noting that this hypothesis remains only a hypothesis, as several examples refuting it. For example, prominent Soviet professors who had more than one higher education and wrote dozens of works were ardent supporters of the ideology of communism. High intelligence, however, did not prevent many of them from believing in Party-imposed ideology.

Under the influence of indoctrination, a double morality can emerge. For example, many political dissidents noted that when they were young, they were fans of Communist ideology, which was actively indoctrinated into all sectors of the population. As they grew up, they fully understood all of its disadvantages and began actively fighting it, using the same methods as the communist propagandists.

They became indoctrinated again, but in the opposite direction. On the psychological level, nothing has changed in their minds, but due to different circumstances, they began to advocate diametrically opposite ideas.

It is also curious that adolescents who were not ardent admirers of the ideology of communism most often did not become opponents of it later on and, in general, took little interest in the new doctrines.

Nowadays, one can observe many retired persons who attend church and observe the tenets of the religion. However, many of them were convinced atheists during communism might even have led to anti-religious propaganda.

Interestingly, the policy of double standards was caused by the indoctrination of dissidents or human rights activists. They will defend the ideas and views close to them, using any means and means necessary while ignoring human rights violations in other situations and spheres.

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Indoctrination in Education

The problem of indoctrination arises when knowledge is no longer offered but imposed. The more indoctrination was used in a political context, the more negative its connotations became.

The general meaning of the term envisioned extreme situations: “training” of young Nazis, brainwashing, totalitarian propaganda, etc. Ideological indoctrination of children was one of the most effective methods of strengthening the totalitarian regime in the country.

Indoctrination always implies an authoritative relationship. In education, the teacher is notoriously empowered and trusted by the students. It is good if the teacher uses this power for good and if his or her main goal is to transfer knowledge to students without imposing his or her viewpoint on a certain issue.

Teachers have intellectual authority (students’ perception of their expertise) and practical authority (the ability, by their position, to set grades to enforce rules).

No matter how hard they try, they cannot avoid this authority, but they can choose how to treat it: to impose their point of view authoritatively or to respect each student’s opinion.

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Is it Possible to Fight Indoctrination in Education?

Does this mean teachers should no longer bring up socially relevant topics in class? Should they disclose their political beliefs in the classroom? Or should such poignant points be circumvented?

David Gubler, associate professor of English and Gender, Women’s and Sexuality Studies at the University of Iowa, believes there are no easy answers to how to handle sensitive topics in the classroom.

In his view, teachers should seek to avoid unduly influencing students’ political beliefs for at least two reasons:

  • To avoid unethical use of one’s authority. Using this authority to indoctrinate students into their opinions about an issue would be improper.
  • It is not a teacher’s job to change his students’ beliefs. They are supposed to help students develop by giving them choices, not changing their view of the world.

That said, according to Gubler, educators should not pretend that, for example, sensitive political topics do not exist in nature. It would be better if they were as frank with their students as possible.


Indoctrination is the uncritical acceptance of ideas imposed by opinion leaders and shared by most people.

Sometimes a person, unknowingly, may become a victim of yet another ideological treatment or manipulation of his or her mind. Instead of desperately proving to everyone that this is his conscious choice and voluntary decision, he should critically evaluate the situation and ask himself, “What exactly made me think this way?”

This rational approach to any information offered makes it possible to soberly assess everything going on and protect oneself from any influence on one’s consciousness.


Vicki Mata is an educational blogger who began her thorny path as a writer by writing a column at the university. She is fulfilling her academic experience with the WowEssays blog.


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