Education as Indoctrination of a Peculiar Kind

Allan Bloom in his controversial 1987 book The Closing of the American Mind (one that Chomsky even mentions in his answer) once made this interesting statement regarding the conception of students about the nature of truth:

[The students] are unified only in their relativism and in their allegiance to equality. And the two are related in a moral intention. The relativity of truth is not a theoretical insight but a moral postulate, the condition of a free society, or so they see it. They have all been equipped with this framework early on, and it is the modern replacement for the inalienable rights that used to be the traditional American grounds for a free society. [1]

I think Bloom has an interesting insight in respect to the current attitude of students towards the function of the education system and its relation to (what Bloom considers) the “proper” American democratic model. One may disagree with Bloom and Chomsky where they say students have been indoctrinated (see Bloom, p. 26), but the fundamental issue is to consider as to what kinds of human beings the educational system are trying to produce.

Allan Bloom I think rightly makes the point that the best character that is supportive of our democratic regime is the democratic man (although he has currently evolved not to be such – he has rather turned into a “democratic personality”). As Bloom explains:

We began with the model of the rational and industrious man, who was honest, respected the laws, and was dedicated to the family [ … ] Above all he was to know the rights doctrine; the Constitution, which embodied it; and American history, which presented and celebrated the founding of a nation “conceived in liberty and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.”

A powerful attachment to the letter and spirit of the Declaration of Independence gently conveyed, appealing to each man’s reason, was the goal of the education of the democratic man. This called for something very different from the kinds of attachment required for traditional communities where myth and passion as well as severe discipline, authority, and the extended family produced an instinctive, unqualified, even fanatic patriotism, unlike the reflected, rational, calm, even self-interested loyalty [ … ] required in the United States. [2]

___________________

Notes:

  • [1] Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind, 25th Anniversary edition (Simon&Schuster: 2012) p. 25
  • [2] Ibid., pp. 26-27
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