26 June 2019

I have been reading a bit on the subject of propaganda language of totalitarian/authoritarian regimes. (here are my notes in pdf format ). And so I came across an interesting encyclopedia article by Charlene Tan that defines the term authoritarian indoctrination, as well as its opposite link – I think it is noteworthy that the article does not use the term anti-authoritarian education for the opposite concept.

As I understood the meaning of indoctrination: all incoming information has to be understood exclusively by the subject in terms of the main doctrine; also the school system has to actively instill the doctrine and expunge all doubts and heresies.

Now the problem is that the doctrine is defined as a system of control beliefs, defined as ‘psychologically strong beliefs that are cherished and integral to a person’s life and personal identity’. Now any system of education is based around a set of control beliefs, a lack of such control beliefs would constitute some kind of vacuum. The opposite of authoritarian indoctrination is define as follows: ‘a healthily enculturated person is allowed and encouraged to inquire into and even revise one’s control beliefs if necessary, as well as to interact with and learn from other traditions’ - now my problem is that by actively calling control beliefs into question one would invalidate them as such.

I think that there are other possibilities of a middle ground that are not discussed in this short articles: one could try to go for a historical approach – try to explain how core believes and paradigms came about; how the thinking on a subject changed over time and why it did so. One example: once upon a time people were quite sure all planets were turning around the earth; this was not due to pure ignoreance - they had some good reasons for reaching this conclusion. Still some problems remained with this explanation that could only be explained with an earth at the center of the system. Khan Academy on Geocentrism

I think this could possibly allow to present alternatives without invalidating the ‘core beliefs’

My notes on the article

Indoctrination by Charlene Tan

  • Indoctrination – negative term, ‘associated with authoritarian education’. for ‘indoctrination’ you need a system of ‘control beliefs that promote a totalistic ideology’
    • control beliefs := ‘psychologically strong beliefs that are cherished and integral to a person’s life and personal identity They are usually embraced by the person without question and are most resistant … to change.’
    • ‘a totalistic ideology severely limits one’s intellectual horizon by constricting the person to a simplistic and binary ‘We versus You’ worldview. Affectively, such an ideology incites an all-or-nothing emotional alignment through intense affection and loyalty for one’s leaders and fellow group members, and a corresponding hostility and hatred towards those outside the group. What follows in behaviour is a mobilisation of extremist thoughts and destructive emotions to protect one’s ideology, advance its cause and eradicate all obstacles and enemies at all costs.’

Features of an indoctrinated person

  • indoctrinators strive to isolate their pupils from all factors that challenge their believe systems - they strive to educate a set of core believes that are described as abstract and unchallenged positive value (the capital letter truth)
  • all incoming information has to be in alignment with the doctrine: ‘these control beliefs determine the person’s identity and control one’s entire life, making the person interpret everything through the lens of the control beliefs. These beliefs stubbornly withstand the external challenge and even distort reality by filtering all incoming stimuli and re-interpreting new information in alignment with and support of one’s control beliefs. This is possible because the control beliefs are fortified by a small but carefully implanted and deeply embedded cluster of intertwined beliefs. ‘
  • everything that does not fit the doctrine is rejected ‘an indoctrinated person’s control beliefs screen and censure new inputs that challenge, or are inconsistent with, the existing control beliefs by forming new beliefs to reject them, such as “This thought is from the devil”’
    • “develops intense affection and loyalty for “Us” and a corresponding hostility and hatred towards “Them”. The end result is that the person, feeling privileged to have been ‘chosen’, is obsessed with removing all hindrances – human and otherwise – to fulfill one’s ‘higher calling’ to protect and propagate one’s ideology.’”

to make it stick with the pupils: all this must be pushed by ”a community of believers who share the same tradition. An indoctrinatory tradition is a discourse or social process that seeks to entrench control beliefs that promote a totalistic ideology”

  • “there must be a deliberate, systematic and sustained process by the indoctrinator(s) to implant control beliefs that advance a totalistic ideology. “
  • “By dogmatically insisting that it has the monopoly of the truth, it trumpets its own infallibility, resists genuine learning from other traditions, and censures alternative worldviews. In the process, it fosters closed-mindedness and undermines the basic social conditions for its members to grow and mature in their thought, emotions and actions. “ “incapacitates its members’ development of strong rationality and strong autonomy. Such a tradition may grant its members weak rationality in the sense that they are capable of giving reasons to support their beliefs by assuming the truth of their own tradition. But strong rationality is denied as its members are prohibited from examining or critiquing the tradition itself, considering alternatives, and learning from other traditions.”

on the opposite of indoctrination: “ But these (core) beliefs are not held in such an extreme way that they become impervious to doubt. A healthily enculturated person is allowed and encouraged to inquire into and even revise one’s control beliefs if necessary, as well as to interact with and learn from other traditions. The willingness and ability of a normally enculturated person to question one’s own beliefs, consider alternatives and order one’s life autonomously are largely absent in an indoctrinated person; the latter is one who blindly clings on to a totalistic ideology as the person’s cognitive, affective and behavioural growth has been paralysed. “

A very interesting exchange that i had on the subject of raising kids: link that includes the discussion

RobertRoberts [-]

I found that as a father teaching my children to confidently, and respectfully, challenge me has brought a tremendous amount of peace to the family.

Sometimes you are wrong and you really need help to overcome the emotional baggage that blocks you from admitting it.

Having people in your life that are strong enough to deal with the discomfort of confrontation with the singular goal of peace is more valuable than your pride.

But it also allows the same interaction to be reciprocated when others are wrong in the family and it’s a self supporting system to overcome arrogance, angst and many other negative events and emotions.

MichaelMoser123 [-]

how old are your children? At what age did you start to teach them in how to challenge you respectfully ?

RobertRoberts 22 days ago [-]

The first moment it happened was when my oldest was about 7 (My oldest is 22 youngest is 13) and she yelled at me for doing something wrong. (I was a lousy parent early on) But she was right and I was wrong, and it hurt really bad (emotionally/pride) but I admitted she was right, but I asked her to speak to me respectfully about when I am wrong.

This took years of patience and still my oldest doesn’t do well with this, but the other kids are fairly ok with it.

It’s not perfect, we all still have some conflict, but the resolutions are swift and emotions don’t linger after a conflict.

It’s taken more time for me to figure out how to treat others well than it has to teach my kids. Once I figured something out, getting them to behave like I am is the easier part.

MichaelMoser123 [-]

fascinating. Now what is your immediate reaction upon criticism? Do you respond to the issues raised or do you refrain from reacting? A second question: how do you react when the criticism stops to be respectful?

RobertRoberts [-]

what is your immediate reaction upon criticism?

Sometimes mad, sometimes I have to pause and take a breath and think about what is happening. Sometimes I know I am wrong and in the heat of the moment I hope someone says something, and I am glad when they do.

Do you respond to the issues raised or do you refrain from reacting?

Sometimes I can say sorry immediately, sometimes I argue for a bit, or explain myself and what is going on. Nothing happens in a vacuum, so there’s other events occuring that need to be addressed. (ie other people’s behavior)

Very very rarely do I feel the need to step away and cool off, though my wife has historically preferred this. But the more control over situations I have gained over the years the less she needs to “cool off”.

It’s like if anyone in the room has a cool head and can calm others down and it’s generally agreed in the group that this is the goal, then it only takes that one person’s input and energy to affect the situation.

how do you react when the criticism stops to be respectful?

No one is perfect, and I express this. I say “you know I want open criticism, but do it respectfully please”. Or something along those lines. The reason this works though is that I acknowledge when I have failed along the same lines.

I often have to say “sorry, I overreacted, but the main issue is still important to address…”.

I have an expectation of failure in my interactions now. This means if a child attempts to intervene with input or criticism, the first thing that child gets is praise for the attempt. Even if everyone is still angry and yelling, I will address the child’s successful choice in trying to do the right thing. Their heart was in the right place, then second they get a criticism for their poor behavior in their attempt. And then I respond to their specific statement. (usually requiring a change in my own behavior or an apology)

This is all logical and easy to say, but it only works because I’ve been practicing it for a long time. And I openly state (even when failing spectacuraly) that it’s important for all of us to get good at this. And that we will fail repeatedly, but that’s ok.

Keep in mind that the more I do this and the more my family does this, the less situations occur where these kinds of actions are needed. It’s a curious quasi-paradox.