Indoctrination and Contemporary Approaches to Moral Education

Dissertation, Georgetown University (1980)

The fourth and last chapter approaches the problem of indoctrination from another angle. It begins by questioning the possibility of designing an approach to moral education which is free of all vestiges of indoctrination. Then, the notion held by so many people today that it is of paramount importance for this to be done is rejected. It is suggested that instead of concentrating on how to eliminate indoctrination, we should ask what sort of indoctrination is least and what sort most acceptable. Approaches such as those of Simon and Kohlberg, if not as indoctrination-free as their originators have claimed, should be evaluated in terms of whether the indoctrination they effect is more acceptable or less acceptable than that effected by traditional approaches to moral education or by any other approach which has been designed. ;Given that a proper understanding of what indoctrination is has been established , next considered are the claims made by the two currently most popular approaches to moral education that they successfully avoid it. In chapter II a summary description is offered of the values clarification approach designed by Louis Raths and Sidney Simon. Next, it is shown that when considered from the perspective of the experience of the learner, values clarification is found likely to result in indoctrination. Lawrence Kohlberg's cognitive-developmental approach is treated in similar fashion . A summary description is offered, followed by an explanation of how this approach may very well result in indoctrination. ;Indoctrination, then, is seen to be a major problem facing moral education. Those who wish to deal with the problem have approached it from a theoretical front as well as from a practical front. Various philosophers have tried to define just what indoctrination is or to explain when it is that we may say indoctrination has occurred. Many educators, less concerned with precisely defining its nature, have tried to develop programs of moral education which will be free of indoctrination. This study examines attempts made on both of these fronts. First considered is the question of what indoctrination is. It is shown that most philosophers who have dealt with this topic have given misleading accounts of it. It has been held generally that indoctrination is a matter of the method used by the teacher, or the content he has chosen to convey to his students, or his intention to indoctrinate, or some combination of these features. It is shown that a proper understanding of indoctrination, while not disregarding these features, must also focus on the experience of the learner. ;Today there is widespread concern among parents, teachers, and educational critics regarding the moral education of youth in our society. Many of these people are of the opinion that the schools have not been as active or effective as they should be in providing moral education. In response, efforts are being made to strengthen this aspect of the curriculum. Moral education, of course, is not something new, but during recent years it has been either neglected or treated only superficially by many educators for fear they might be guilty of indoctrination. Though fear of indoctrination still exists, there now seems to be a growing confidence that it may be successfully avoided while still maintaining an effective program of moral education in the classroom
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