In Facebook today a friend posted a link to an outstanding valedictorian speech, and the comments include links to some more good reading such as Weapons of Mass Instruction, a book I had forgotten about but never should. These links are on the topic of mass indoctrination in an industrial world:
Gatto laid out his comprehensive critical analysis of the current education system in his previous book The Underground History of American Education. He contends that the current education system was set up from the start to serve business and government interests by isolating children from the real world. “Only then could the necessary training in boredom and bewilderment begin. Such training is necessary to produce dependable consumers and dependent citizens who would always look for a teacher to tell them what to do in later life, even if that teacher was an ad man or television anchor.” In a recent interview he summarized how he got started as a teacher, why he left the profession, why the current education system is a failure, and offers solutions to the problem. ... even Albert Einstein... wrote in his autobiographical notes:If these articles and books tell us nothing else, it is that no system of education, no society, can stand for very long without individuals of strong character at its core. Society stands or falls on the strength of families with shared moral standards. And those standards cannot be rigid controls but reasonable boundaries for an underlying conviction that the human spirit is meant to be inquisitive and creative, and the human life is meant to have purpose. A directed freedom is much to be preferred over a micromanaged mental prison on one extreme, or an aimless, narcissistic and hedonistic waste of life on the other. It is the difference between indoctrination and education.
“It is, in fact, nothing short of a miracle that the modern methods of instruction have not yet entirely strangled the holy curiosity of inquiry; for this delicate little plant, aside from stimulation, stands mainly in need of freedom; without this it goes to wreck and ruin without fail. It is a very grave mistake to think that the enjoyment of seeing and searching can be promoted by means of coercion and a sense of duty. To the contrary, I believe it would be possible to rob even a healthy beast of prey of its voraciousness, if it were possible, with the aid of a whip, to force the beast to devour continuously, even when not hungry, especially if the food, handed out under such coercion, were to be selected accordingly.”
But the churches have done no better, and in some ways have done far worse. Sunday School is indoctrination, and to a small degree rightly so. But beyond the essentials of the faith there has always been far too much spoonfeeding, too much imposed conformity. And then we wonder why students are bored out of their skulls, why they so quickly lose their externally-applied “faith” after going off to college or work, why they are so easily manipulated and controlled, and if they stay in church, why they prefer a religion of eternal spiritual childhood.
Our seminaries are veritable conformity machines churning out cogs (“pastors”) for the wheels of top-down control. The students enter with conditioned dedication and loyalty to The System and leave with the burning desire to perpetuate that system. Regardless of the content of their sermons, the underlying conformity is to the hierarchy that perpetuates itself. No one thinks to question the paradigm, and if anyone does, that person is ostracized and labeled. If you don’t believe me, just try standing up at the next convention or other gathering of “pastors” and challenge the status quo. Try telling them that the whole corporate power structure is wrong, even harmful. Try even gently suggesting that Sunday morning should not focus on The Sermon.
The church, like the so-called educational system of the world, is set up toward one goal: to put people in their places. Go to any church and they’ll say “Find a place to plug in”. Some will tell you that your place is determined by your reproductive organs or your skin color or your social class. Most will tell you which Sunday School class you belong in, where you can sit in the sanctuary for worship, where you can park your car. If you’re a seminary grad you’ll be told that your place is in The Pulpit.
But what they don’t seem to tell you, consistently at least, is what the gospel is, what it means to be reconciled to God, what it means to die to sin. They, like the secular schools, want to apply an external layer of conformity but forget what it takes to internalize values. If society is built upon shared convictions, so much more the Christian faith. But we as churches and parents have failed to go beyond indoctrination or spoonfeeding; we don’t know how to instill values in the next generation.
How do we change this? Personally, I think everything begins on a very basic level. We have to practice what we preach, and preach what we believe, and believe the Truth. If we don’t live out these values every day, then they’re not convictions but preferences. And who is willing to sacrifice for the preferences of others? Who will stand up to ridicule or be deprived of acceptance for the values held by someone else? It is this disconnect between words and living that makes our children reject their upbringing, whether it’s faith or political views.
When Jesus chose His disciples, He said He would teach them to “fish”. But we don’t do that. We hand out the fish and teach dependency and superficiality, and the church and the world we currently have is the result. If we are to change all this, we have to start with ourselves. And when others see us living our convictions, they too may want to learn to fish.