Doctoring the indoctrination

There's a time to be straightforward and a time to be indirect with our message. There is content that calls for simply telling people what it is and content that calls for working with people's complex ways of thinking about it for themselves. There's a time to give people clear explanations and a time to give people more to talk through with others.

When we get this timing wrong, we come across as propagandistic. We appear to be brainwashing the people we intended to inform. We seem to be indoctrinating them, instead of educating, encouraging or engaging them. We give off the impression we're telling people what to think, instead of how, when and why to think things through differently. At these times, we need to "doctor the indoctrination" we had presumed to be harmless and helpful.

Indoctrination can prove to be mildly poisonous. It can induce a significant loss of interest, curiosity, attention and self motivation. It can provoke defensive postures, closed minds and opposing arguments. Indoctrination can even undermine the presenter's credibility, earned respect and leadership following. It can undermine implicit cooperation with tactics that appear controlling, coercive and manipulative. It can ask for passive compliance instead of initiative, integrity and self reliance. Indoctrination is usually bad medicine which deadens the recipients.

There are many ways to doctor indoctrination that I've had success with when making my presentations, conducting my workshops and teaching my classes. In this next series of blog posts, I'll review what has worked for me thus far, and explore some new ways I've discovered recently.


  1. Damn this one's important!

    I have lived & taught in communities that were being shredded by battles to save the local environment. Both sides approached educators to incorporate aspects of the situation into the activities of the classroom. Both sides were peddling propaganda. Neither side could hear when they were informed that they wished to brainwash the children.

    It was assumed (correctly) that I was of a greener hue & therefore my perceived recalcitrance on the requests was condemned by all right thinking folk - as a traitor to the cause on one side & stooge of the hippy/greenie/commies on the the other.

    No one was interested in even discussing the best interests, pedagogically, of the children who themselves formed into factions.

    This was a couple of decades ago but I bet it's happening all over as I write.

    Meanwhile, just yesterday, I heard myself slipping into a carping, lecturing tone when 'correcting' someone's ignorant statements about a scientific issue. Fortunately I did hear myself & stopped & listened & in due course was able to offer some information about where more data could be found if they were interested.

    The siren call of being 'right' & correcting everyone else.

  2. Whenever we get provoked into a limbic hijacking, I wish we could only bark like a dog or shriek like an ape. Sadly we can speak words that others comprehend, but it comes across as propaganda. Happily, there are those such as yourself, who can catch oneself getting hijacked and interrupt the auto-pilot flight to brainwash others. Catching ourselves mid flight is quality of emotional intelligence (EQ). If we cannot bark when provoked, perhaps we can break our own patterns as you did. Thanks for adding a rich bunch of personal episodes to this, minh!!