Indoctrination Is Not Education

Plato is credited with writing that we should ignore loud voices that come from the minds of the untrained. His rationale? “The untrained mind keeps up a running commentary, labelling everything, judging everything. Best to ignore that commentary. Don’t argue or resist, just ignore. Deprived of attention and interest, this voice gets quieter and quieter and eventually just shuts up.”

The twentieth century is quite unlike the days of Plato. Millions of people claim to be educated, while they are actually trained in activism. This means their voices only get louder when ignored. In fact, minds that are trained to think and act based on emotion may become jaded and hyper-judgmental. To be sure, this phenomenon is not lost on a rapidly growing number of twenty-first-century American students.

Progressives and radical leftists in the United States are not quiet about indoctrinating the nation’s youth and, in certain instances, radicalizing them toward a social cause. This is not the purpose of education, historically. In fact, it is far from the classical education that students need today. Susan Wise Bauer of the Well-Trained Mind agrees: “Classical education depends on a three-part process of training the mind. The early years of school are spent in absorbing facts, systematically laying the foundations for advanced study. In the middle grades, students learn to think through arguments. In the high school years, they learn to express themselves. This classical pattern is called the trivium.”

Indoctrination can be also defined in tripartite fashion. First, indoctrination imbues students with a usually partisan or sectarian opinion, point of view, or principle. Second, indoctrination teaches students to fully accept only the ideas, opinions, and beliefs of a particular group. Third, indoctrination teaches students to accept these ideas, opinions, and beliefs uncritically. All three parts of this definition add up to indoctrination, not education.

Indoctrination Is Not Education

Manisha Kumar argues that indoctrination is not education because “education involves the seeking of facts, and learning about what is the truth, and what is not. Indoctrination is aimed at influencing people to believe in facts, without being able to back up these newfound facts with anything but opinion.” Based on this, it becomes clear why one particular hallmark of education is missing in indoctrination: critical thinking. The lack of critical thinking means that disagreement with the narrator of the narrative, or the classroom instructor, is not allowed. Therefore, obedience to a given ideology is valued more greatly than any one person’s individual thoughts or objective truth.

When students are indoctrinated in schools, there is often no option to remove them from the indoctrination. Stories have come in from across the nation in which states and school districts require certain programs that must be attended by students. In some cases, school districts tie these programs to state-adopted curriculum, and even to graduation requirements for middle or high school. Action civics, social-emotional learning, and sex education are examples of these required programs.

The indoctrination of students involves selective and biased instruction, which includes a non-negotiable, but slanted, worldview. When this type of instruction takes hold in the minds of students, they are moved from having to agree with the bias to acting on it with unquestioned obedience. When this transition occurs, radicalized activists are born.

Comparing Indoctrination and Education

The following table summarizes five major differences between indoctrination and education. The reader should take note of the verbs emphasized in each of the columns as they are compared side by side.

Indoctrination Education
1. Students are led to believe facts as told by an influencer. The influencer is unable to back up the facts with anything other than ideology and opinion. 1. Students and teachers seek facts and truth, examining and analyzing both the facts and the truth to assess validity and accuracy. There is objective truth and the observation of universal facts, which inform conclusions.
2. Can occur as a result of belonging to a political party, a cult, or a biased belief system. Ideology is elevated over other beliefs, and only the select ideology is considered as the latest truth. 2. Grows with the addition of more facts, through trial and error and reassessing. Enables maturation of a questioned belief system, arrived at through critical thinking and not a mandate by an ideologue or influencer.
3. Uses universal language that applies to groups and individuals. Shapes thinking in one direction. Examples include: “all Christians believe myths,” “Democrats are dishonest,” “MAGA proponents are violent,” etc. 3. Often supported by data. Confidence levels rise with evidence and facts. Critical thought enables logic and reason to assist in the deeper understanding of concepts. Example: The evidence is clear that not all Christians believe in myths.
4. There is only one way to think in solving problems. Solutions are crafted by ideology. Dissent or secondary thoughts come from troublemakers, bigots, or racists. Examples include: “America is a racist nation and must be dismantled,” “Whites are oppressors, and BIPOC are the oppressed.” 4. Allows for different, thought-out solutions to problems. Dissenting opinions and varying conclusions are welcome. Students develop their own beliefs after a wide range of exposure to positions and experts. They are always free to modify and accept another viewpoint.
5. Drives students to the beliefs of a teacher, social activist, or marginal group. Unquestioned allegiance to an ideology is expected. 5. Strives to be unbiased. Best demonstrated by the neutrality of the teacher in class. Teachers avoid influencing students to a predetermined ideological end and provide options to consider.

When teachers indoctrinate students, they often do so within the setting of compulsory education. However, this is not always the case. Christian schools, for example, teach doctrine and expect parents to sign forms that acknowledge the indoctrination that their children will undertake. However, there is one major difference between public schools and private schools. Private school parents know in advance what will take place and have the option to go elsewhere. In a compulsory setting, parents are not as fortunate.

[Related: “Brutal Minds and Brainwashing: A Close Look at Leftist Mind Control”]

According to Clark McCauley, in his article titled “Understanding Political Radicalization,” the greater the indoctrination, the greater the chance of radical actions by the indoctrinated. Across the public education spectrum, parents have been kept in the dark about what is taught in their children’s schools. They are speaking out regarding how radical their children have become. The effects are now rearing their ugly heads as a radical movement sweeps the nation under the guise of identity politics.

Progressive Ideologies and Sex and Gender Indoctrination

Progressives assume that conservatives are the true radicals in America. One of the more progressive ideologies that has made its way into schools is called queer ideology, or queering. It undergirds much of LGBTQ+ politics, transgenderism, and even queer theology. The main goal is to bomb psyches with twisted information, to make it seem that something “queer” is as normal as heterosexuality, or as religious as evangelical Christianity—the very norms progressives wish to overthrow.

Their sex and gender indoctrination is uncompromising. If students dare to question this indoctrination, they run up against ridicule, bullying, property damage, and threats of violence and death.

Recently, public school librarians around the nation came out in support of the sexualization of young children. The selection of LGBTQ+ books with graphic content places school librarians front and center in this controversy. Once parents discovered what was actually on the library shelves for students, much of which was chosen by librarians, it set off a tidal wave of reaction.

Progressives think parents want to ban books. The reality is that graphic content restrictions are not the same as book bans. Guarding students’ minds can be accomplished in many common-sense ways. Simply ask, “What could be the purpose of supporting sexually graphic library books beyond the maturity levels of children?” Conversely, do progressive parents want their children exposed to conservative books, or do they wish to ban these books altogether?

Teachers are instructed by the National Education Association, through the support of LGBTQ+ advocacy groups, that children as young as ten should learn how to put on condoms. Such activities are within the “practice” sections that come with the newer sex education curricula. They are supported by groups who aim to expose children to a variety of sexual choices. Doug Mainwaring is not alone when he writes that American sex culture has a new normal.

Within this new normal are many students who have already experienced trauma through child sexual abuse. Even so, secular sexuality continues to be jammed into their minds. Consider how quickly the transgender movement has taken center stage—and that’s not all!

Abigail Shrier, in a recent speech at Hillsdale College, reported the following statistics:

• In 2007, there was only one gender-focused clinic in America.

• In 2018, there were approximately 300 gender-focused clinics in America.

• Planned Parenthood now dispenses testosterone during first visits.

• Depending on the state, Planned Parenthood also dispenses testosterone to minors upon request.

• Planned Parenthood in Oregon gives testosterone to 15-year-old girls at their own request.

• Kaiser Permanente dispenses testosterone more freely now.

• Depending on the state, minors may not need parental approval to undergo “top surgery.”

• The fight for transgenderism is primarily driven by biological men.

• California and Washington allow biological men to transfer into women’s prisons. There are currently thousands of applicants.

• In Washington, under Senate Bill 5599, shelters would not be required to notify parents when a child comes under their care if there is a “compelling reason” not to.

Furthermore, the National Education Association “advocates for programs that cover abstinence along with birth control, family planning, prenatal care, parenting skills, substance abuse during pregnancy and issues associated with teen pregnancy. It also recommends that topics such as sexual orientation and gender identity, sexual harassment, homophobia, consent and sexually transmitted disease be covered thoroughly.” Where are the parents through all of this? 

Whose Kids Are They?

There must be no question about who is responsible for public school students. “The final authority over the education of children has long been settled: it is the parents—not the schools or the teachers. . . . National educational organizations readily concede this long-established legal fact, even if they don’t always appear to be following it.”

[Related: “In the Face of Indoctrination: Fight, Not Flight”]

Bonnie Snyder, former director of high school outreach at the Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression, shares five important steps that parents and sympathetic teachers can take.

• First, “educate yourself and others on the ideologies behind curriculum changes. Don’t take seemingly innocuous terminology like equity, anti-racism, or ethnic studies at face value, but instead take a dive into the literature which unpacks enthusiastically promoted concepts so that you can equip yourself with the knowledge required to understand and discuss these topics circumspectly.”

• Second, “speak up. If you are a tenured teacher, now is not the time to sit back and shut up. Do what you can to help and defend the untenured, who may find they have much more on the line than you do.”

• Third, “be hypervigilant about diversity consultants. Unpacking deceptive terminology will provide you valuable insight into the minds and motivation of those who work to narrow the opinion corridor. Oftentimes, questionable ideology is smuggled into schools through diversity, equity, and inclusion consultants who use such concealing terminology. Once you are well versed in the ambiguous language they use, you will realize the tremendous amount of baggage that comes with accepting many of the recommended ideas and programs.”

• Fourth, discover “what values are being promoted with DEI programs or initiatives.”

• Fifth, “be aware of complicit administrators. Insist that administrators uphold and enforce existing ethical standards among staff. Insist that teachers refrain from teaching outside their area of training/competence or in the private realm of values or dispositions. Reject the notion that a short training seminar by an outside consulting group qualifies teachers to be instructing on complex and values-laden topics such as justice, equity, or social justice.”

Developing Strategies to Battle Indoctrination

Developing strategies to prevent schools from exceeding their authority and indoctrinating students is important in the fight against radicalism. The sad reality is that, in some cases, parents might think that it is too late to change anything. But it is not too late. This battle must involve frustrated parents and others concerned about what is being taught in their children’s schools, as well as who is teaching them.

Snyder agrees: “The solution to classroom indoctrination . . . must be led by determined parents, grandparents, principled educators, concerned citizens, and legislators prepared to oppose unhealthy school degradation with sufficient energy and necessary stamina. Addressing the current problems requires transparency, organization, determination, and effort, but it can—and must—be done.”

Parents should also understand that one of the very best tools they can give public school children is to teach them to become advocacy partners. Parents should teach their kids to disengage when horrible discussions, name-calling, or debates marginalize people with views different than those of the teacher. It’s perfectly fine, writes Snyder, “for them to say, ‘I’m not sure how I feel about that. I need some time to think about that.’”

Hope on the Horizon

Parents are rising up and taking stands all across America. Parents’ advocacy groups, such as Moms for Liberty, Parents Defending Education, No Left Turn in Education, the National Parenting Education Network, Focus on the Family, and dozens of others are influencing legislation.

The progressive response is similar each time. They freeze their target with a pre-packaged media narrative and give the target a new moniker. Then, they repeat the new moniker in public, ad nauseam. A good example of this was the “Don’t say gay” bill in Florida. The bill had nothing to do with the term “gay.” It had everything to do with stopping the radical sexualization of children in grades K–3. But the progressive media outlets repeated the narrative in support of radical LGBTQ+ activists.

Without laws such as those in Florida and other states, arrogant teachers will force children to listen to books that celebrate the teacher’s own sex and gender and expose them to more confusion. This happens more often than parents are aware.

[Related: “Graphic Content Restrictions Are Not Book Bans”]

For example, in 2022, childhood development teacher Danita McCray of the Sacramento City Unified School District gave a presentation at a California Teachers Association conference. McCray’s presentation explained to teachers how to incorporate gender ideology into early childhood education. She told the attendees that if parents did not like this instruction, then they should move their children to another class.

Parents must continue to lead the charge against indoctrination and radicalism in schools. Those who receive their power from parental votes will either pay attention or be forced out by recall, or at least by the next election. There is hope. Most radicalization can be stopped in its tracks at the local level.

Fighting Indoctrination the Practical Way

If parents see indoctrination in classrooms, there are ways they can combat its effects. Snyder, and others, list three suggestions for parents in the battle against indoctrination. These are addressed in expanded form below.

1. Ask for reasonable alternatives for unacceptable lesson plans. Parents have every right to access the curriculum that is being taught to their children. Submit an in-person request to the local school principal to examine the curriculum frameworks for your children’s teachers. Request also to tour the school library to better understand the grade-level literature accessible to your child’s teachers.

2. Go public. If the school principal refuses to comply with parent requests to view the curriculum, to tour the school library, or to examine the adopted series of academics, then submit a request to speak at the next school board meeting and share the denial with the board.

Additional steps include: (a) engage other similarly minded parents in the requests, (b) file Freedom of Information Act lawsuits, (c) partner with support organizations promoting classical liberal education and fighting biased indoctrination, and (d) offer to create clubs that celebrate free thought but support common sense in education.

3. Inoculate your kids. Discuss with them the truth about what is taking place at their schools. Standing against indoctrination means holding teachers, principals, and school boards accountable. Parents should not be afraid to use online groups and supportive media sites to bring the battle against indoctrination to others across the nation.

Families can model strategies to combat indoctrination. Parents can teach their children skills, practice these skills, and help their children confidently counteract many forms of indoctrination. Parents want their children “to be able to cope with a certain appropriate amount of intellectual challenge” and to question ideas, which stimulates character development. Moreover, “role modeling from parents is essential in well-functioning character education.”

Clearly, America’s schools have become radical indoctrination centers. The hierarchical system of education is itself a top-down bureaucracy that reaches all the way down into America’s classrooms. No public school teacher ever escapes his district’s mandates. No public school district escapes the mandates that come down from the state, from state departments, or from offices of public instruction. The same goes for state education money that flows downward from both the federal and state levels.

As an educator, fighting against these mandates is nearly impossible. Add to the mix teachers’ unions and associations that supposedly represent teachers in times of conflict. The unions claim that teachers know better than anyone what children need in order “to learn and thrive.” And so, it goes as it has gone for many decades.

Parents are cast aside in the education process—only and until they speak up and step up to form parent boards to review curriculum and school policies. The good news is that this type of involvement is still welcome in many schools.

In addition, parent volunteer boards can often make more progress by establishing fundraising events, giving general advice about holiday parties, and the like. This just illustrates the importance of both electing the right school board members and turning out the radicals. The time is now for parents to mobilize and take back their local public schools. Our children and grandchildren are worth it!

Image: Adobe Stock


  • Ernest J. Zarra, III

    Ernest J. Zarra, III, Ph.D. is semi-retired and is now a full-time education researcher and writer. Ernie has worked as a secondary teacher and district professional development leader in California’s largest high school district, presented as keynote speaker for various national educational organizations, and served as assistant professor of teacher education at Lewis-Clark State College.

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17 thoughts on “Indoctrination Is Not Education

  1. Thanks was insightful and public first response confirmed a suspicion I based on a speech I could see a reaction happening at the same time with the graduates. The speaker spoke on family matters ,being a catholic school I couldn’t believe the leftist crusaders had performed their sinister trick of the mind to create a self serving state of mindless work drones for the state. Activists have Hijacked the schools on a massive level and told to blame of stripping them of their individual nature’s and free spirit their outcomes in life .
    The education system is going to come under heavy scrutiny, deservedly so from a viral speech showing in real time these graduates had thousand yards looks. I immediately suspected the plant took root and now likely have to play out. Leftist ideologies already responsible for 300M+ deaths all of them. Josef Mengele would be proud as would Hitler They deserve to stand in judgment by their fellow man for these crimes committed for state.

  2. Ian, rather than “asserting,” the poster in question has been found to be “inserting.” Foot-in-mouth practice is quite common among those who are lazy thinkers.

  3. Everything I have ever done as a public school teacher has fallen in the column you call Education. The indoctrination column sounds like what people do in religious schools. And if people want a religious education for their child, and that is fine. That is not what we do in public schools. We teach students to analyze and think critically based on scientific consensus, and evidence-based curriculum choices.

    You expressed some extremely negative viewpoints towards transgender people and gender science. You are not going to find your viewpoints to be respected in the field of education. You are expressing bigotry. And your viewpoints are not supported by good science.

    1. That’s great. I trust you are in a hard sciences content area. You claim not to indoctrinate. If you are, then you would know there is no “science” of transgenderism. There is no bigotry in stating facts. Show me in the research where there is error and it will be corrected. That’s what you would claim for yourself and your students. But making any such claims, or assumptions to the opposite indicates its own form of closed-mindedness. That is the essence of indoctrination. Thank you for your comment.

    2. “We teach students to analyze and think critically based on scientific consensus, and evidence-based curriculum choices.”

      THAT is indoctrination.

      There is not, and never has been a “scientific consensus” since the Enlightenment. We are doubling our scientific knowledge every seven years and a lot of things which we once thought to be true simply aren’t. And it would be a major ethics violation to have a truly evidence-based curriculum.

      To say that someone’s “viewpoints are not supported by good science” is textbook fascism.

      And as to Fascism, a century ago the “good science” of Eugenics was building the foundation of the Holocaust.

      1. Hi Ed! It is quite obvious that there is a certain intellectual laziness associated with the uninformed–especially when it is glaringly obvious the article was not read. “Emote, rather than devote” time to become informed. Thank for your comments.

      2. Still held dear in their hearts with teenage girls all in favor of abortion as a prevention measure, no concern for anyone involved including current subject and into a next generation by influencing children to not procreate and if accident happens to use abortion. So with methods of indoctrination yo kill two generations off.This sounds reasonable to educators?

    3. There is no such thing as “gender science”. There is a thriving pseudo-science around “gender” (others describe it in more scathing terms as “genderwang” or “genderwoo”), but the relevant science of sex is biology.

    4. Lol. So at first you claim to Education approach and immediately engage in activism and told oinjecton collegues. It shouldn’t be a subject at tall. The fact the concept is introduced at all is more than a little concerning.
      Your response confirmed suspicions I had on agenda with the catholic school Butker speech is an indictment in educators. You became an activist in a two minute window. Most public schooling is overwhelmingly left wing to the point of collective group think. Amazingly you all come to the same conclusions that also align with current political sentiment.

    1. Hi Ferrel! Parent clubs still exist at some schools. In many cases, they are handpicked “volunteers,” by the school admins. Their primary goal these days is fund raising for the school, and adding a few $$$ to teachers in their classrooms. I have to say, I cannot get that Harper Valley PTA tune out of my head. Thanks a lot! LOL

    2. Parent teacher association’s are very active in schools. They just are not usually full of people who are bigoted.

      1. Parent groups are not active everywhere and they are certainly not even like those of just a decade ago. I’ve been in school where parents do not even show up for conferences. You obviously missed the allusion to Harper Valley PTA. That’s OK. While rushing headlong into the claim of bigotry, you missed the very point of the questioner. By doing so, you illustrated that you are “unreasonably attached to a belief, opinion.” This is a nice slice of a portion of the definition of bigotry. Thanks for you “youthful” comment.

      2. You are merely asserting that people with opinions that differ from yours are “bigots”. Firstly, this attributes a motive to their expression that you don’t actually know. Secondly, it’s an ad-hominem attack instead of a reasoned counter-argument. Thirdly, it’s a bullying technique designed to shut down debate. Fourthly, it’s an aggressive and offensive attack on a differing political identity and is as such, hate speech.

      3. Even the teachers are exhibiting all the clasic behavior of being subjects. Stupid begets stupid. And introducing transgenderism into the impressionable minds of children in an effort depopulation agenda is mind rape. Playing God their body and brain. This gives you moral high ground? Lmao

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