Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Education versus Indoctrination

When does education turn into indoctrination? Can one be separated from the other?

The dictionary meaning of the two verbs seems clear enough -

/ˈɛdʒʊˌkeɪt/ Show Spelled [ej-oo-keyt] verb,-cat·ed, -cat·ing.
–verb (used with object)
1.to develop the faculties and powers of (a person) by teaching, instruction, or schooling.

/ɪnˈdɒktrəˌneɪt/ Show Spelled[in-dok-truh-neyt] –verb (used with object),-nat·ed, -nat·ing.
1. to instruct in a doctrine, principle, ideology, etc., esp. to imbue with a specific partisan or biased belief or point of view.

However, one could say that definitions can be molded to fit an argument that supports your own reasoning or rhetoric. In this case too the meaning of the phrases - `to develop faculties` or `biased belief` simply depends on an individual’s point of view.

Was there a difference between the men who led the infamous `Charge of the Light Brigade`; Japanese kamikaze fighters; those who flew airplanes into the World Trade Towers (9/11) and the Jehadi’s who stormed hotels and homes in Mumbai (26/11)?

Japanese history provides a fascinating study of how myths and history can be invented, and how, within a span of a few years, an entire generation can be indoctrinated and driven over the edge like lemmings.

At one point of time during the Tokugawa period, the emperor had become such an insignificant person that he would not be recognized on the streets. Then came the Mito Critique, and thanks to the sweeping educational reforms initiated by the Meiji oligarchs, the mindset of a whole country was transformed.

By early 1900s, Japanese soldiers sincerely believed what they had been taught all through their formative years - that they were a superior race; that the rest of the Asians were sub-human who could be slaughtered and raped without batting an eyelid, and that the entire war-effort was for the glory of their God-Emperor.

Perhaps it was no different from the constructed self-belief that inspired the colonists from western Europeans (18-19 century) or the carefully calibrated rage that drives the Islamic fanatics today.

No comments: