Too many times I have read, heard, or seen someone accusing a teacher, or teachers, of “indoctrinating” students. This frustrates me to no end. First, it frustrates me because I know it happens. Second, it frustrates me because it shouldn’t be happening. The classroom is not a place to support, push, or encourage a specific agenda or ideology. The classroom is not a stage for political advancement, nor is it a place to push one’s ideology of what is right or wrong.
The classroom is a sacred place where learning should be happening. It is the job of the teacher to guide students in HOW to think, not WHAT to think. If a student does not believe or think the same way as the teacher, the teacher has no right forcing their opinion or ideology onto the student. It is the job of the teacher to challenge thinking by asking questions. It is the job of the teacher to guide students in using skills that help with critical thinking. The classroom should be a safe place for students to express themselves, their thoughts, and their ideas.
There are times when a student’s thinking may not reflect facts or truth. In these cases, it is the teacher’s responsibility to share the facts, show the truth, and then let the student decide what they want to believe. At no time should a teacher degrade a student for their way of thinking, nor should they be treated any differently. A teacher should ask questions, encourage critical thinking, provide factual evidence, and then allow the student to make their own choices in what to think.
There is a parental role in all of this as well. Those who accuse teachers and the public school system of “indoctrinating” their child, I have one question for you. If you are really that concerned with “indoctrination,” why are you not teaching your child at home in the ways you believe to be right? Or, is there a chance that you need to change the way you think? You see, the majority of teachers do what I just explained above. The majority of teachers do not use their classroom to push agendas or ideologies. The majority of teachers have classroom expectations that reflect kindness, respect, compassion, and empathy...something I see missing in today’s world.
So the question then becomes, what exactly are teachers “indoctrinating” students in? Well, in my classroom I guess I am guilty of “indoctrinating” my students to work hard, never settle for okay, to be kind to everyone, to respect all people, and to live a life of integrity. If this is wrong, then I don’t think I am the one with the problem. Marian Wright Edelman once said, “Education is for improving the lives of others and for leaving your community and world better than you found it.”
The classroom is not a stage. It is a place to encourage skills that will help students become successful. I want my students to be successful in being hard working, kind, caring, respectful human beings in a ruthless world that is trying to indoctrinate them to be the opposite.