This is a continuation of our “Why Read” discussion. Remember, we started by defining the three broad reasons to read. Then we talked about pleasure and education. Last week, we continued our discussion by looking at two beautiful Greek words that give our reading perspective.
Today, I want to talk about three concepts: education, socialization, and indoctrination. Each word carries a little different connotation. If you were to ask Noam Chomsky, he’d tell you they’re all potentially related depending on how they are deployed and how the target reacts to the technique. To a certain extent, I would agree. Your insurance policy against being unduly influenced by education, socialization, and indoctrination is your reading. Let me use three examples to show you what I mean:
An Example of Education, Socialization and Indoctrination
1. EDUCATION: You teach a kindergartner his ABCs in a couple of different languages so he has a basis for comparison and understanding.
2. SOCIALIZATION: You teach a kindergartner his ABCs in English only.
3. INDOCTRINATION: You teach a kindergartner his ABCs in English while you ridicule other alphabets like the Greek alphabet as looking like nothing but gibberish.
These three examples are obviously built for purposes of demonstration, but I think you could honestly label the first example education, the next example socialization and the final example a fairly extreme, if not ignorant, form of indoctrination. Working on an impressionable kindergartner you might even argue that indoctrination borders on a fire-able offense in some schools.
A New Perspective on Our Example
Let’s flip the example on its head, though, and instead assume the student being taught is an intelligent 20-year-old Greek immigrant. Let’s assume the Greek immigrant has read and studied at the sophomore level at a college or university. Now, let me ask this: Do you think the 20-year-old Greek immigrant is more or less likely to be influenced by the teacher in scenario three than the kindergartner? The answer is obvious, right? He would likely leave the class and seek a better source of instruction.
I use the most simplistic example I can come up with to make the point. Your experience, education, and perspective are brought to bear on how easy a target you are of improper forms of indoctrination and socialization.
For the reader, the benefit of reading is the experience, education, and perspective you gain from sources other than those in your immediate geographical vicinity. A citizenry of highly educated people are less likely to fall victim to evil forms of indoctrination and socialization, because, like the 20-year-old Greek, they have the background to know when to put their guard up.
When faced with potentially ignorant forms of education, socialization, and indoctrination you are better off being in the position of the 20-year-old Greek than the kindergartner. It is a mistake to rely on socialization and indoctrination from your own small community to tell you how the world works. If you do that, you are, in effect, reducing yourself to the kindergartner’s status. Don’t rely on socialization to teach you about your world, instead stand on the shoulders of giants. Read widely. Read often.
To answer the question in the title, then, “are education, socialization, and indoctrination positive or negative ‘ions?’” It’s all a matter of perspective.