Indoctrination Definition

“Indoctrination” and  “Brainwashing”, two  similar and related words can sometimes be confused. The key difference between them is the use of force in brainwashing to compel a person against their will into changed beliefs. This evokes images of soviet dissidents or prisoners of war being forced against their will to recite slogans they don’t believe under threats of torture or violence. Both brainwashing and indoctrination seek a impose beliefs rather than seek the truth and both are involuntary, in that the person or student subjected to them has never consented to the goals of the methodology.

The indoctrinator while avoiding physical violence or threats is still involved in a stealth manipulation aimed at unsuspecting subjects and in no uncertain terms does violence to the relationship.

Indoctrination could be classified as a subset of propaganda as it relates to the fields of teaching and education. Teachers who knowingly teach subjects in a biased way to produce a certain outcome in their students are guilty.

The true educator is endeavoring to shape his audience for the audience’s own good according to the fullest enlightenment available.  The indoctrinator, on the contrary is trying to shape his audience according to the indoctrinator’s interest whether that be economic, political, social, or personal.

All indoctrination must be regarded as cynical in some degree toward those to whom it is addressed, since it has in mind something less than their welfare. It seeks not to improve them but to manipulate them by presenting matter which is untruthful, exaggerated, or incomplete in significant particulars.

From Wordbook 

Teaching someone to accept doctrines uncritically
Forcible indoctrination into a new set of attitudes and beliefs

From Merriam Webster


To teach (someone) to fully accept the ideas, opinions, beliefs of a particular group and to not consider other ideas, opinions, and beliefs


A forcible indoctrination to induce someone to give up basic political, social, or religious beliefs and attitudes and to accept contrasting regimented ideas

Consider Richard Weaver’s input on the essential elements of education and teaching.

Indoctrination vs. Education

It is easy to see how education can morph into indoctrination. I would like to include here a reprint of a letter to the editor by Robert H. Sorge, N.D., Ph.D., Townsend Letter for Doctors (Date unknown)

Editor: We hear much these days about our young adults being indoctrinated into cults, not realizing that we all can become indoctrinated into a cult or special interest group or school of thought of some sort if we fail to recognize the difference between indoctrination and education and the techniques applied by both.

Our nation today faces a serious threat of being incapacitated, even annihilated by drugs. Most of us have been indoctrinated into drugs and drug medicine since youth. Our nation’s drug problem is an extension of our drug mentality. We accept drugs, we think they’re good, we believe in them, and most of us do not think there is an alternative. We’re locked into a system that is now responsible for more sickness and disease than it is helping. This irony is iatrogenic, or drug-induced disease.

Because the news media is controlled by the medical establishment, for your own health, safety and future it is vital that you become aware of the fact that when we read a report or watch medical news on TV we tend to assume it’s truthfulness, and that’s the problem. Medical spin masquerades as news and information.

This is also one of the problems with scientific research. Science pretends to be inductive, to search for answers. Too often vested interests indicate the most profitable answers and fund scientists to research for evidence to support them. Thus politics can masquerade as science.



Uses generalizations, “allness” statements:

Lacks specific references and data.

Uses qualifiers:

Statements supported with specific references and data.

One sided:

Different or opposing views are either ignored, misrepresented, underrepresented, or denigrated.

Circumspect and multifaceted:

Issues examined from many points of view. Opposition fairly represented.

Card stacking:

Data carefully selected to present only the best or worst possible case. Language used to conceal.


Presents representative samples from a wide range of available data on the subject. Language used to reveal.

Misleading use of statistics. Statistical references qualified with respect to size, duration, criteria, controls source, and subsidizer.


Ignores distinctions and subtle differences. Lumps superficially similar elements together. Reasons by analogy.


Points out differences and subtle distinctions. Uses analogies carefully, pointing out differences and non-applicability.

False dilemma (either/or):

There are only two solutions to the problem or two ways of viewing the issue — the “right way” (the writer or speaker’s way) and the “wrong way” (any other way).


There are many ways of solving a problem or viewing an issue.

Appeals to authority:

Statements by selected authority figures used to clinch an argument. “Only the ‘expert’ knows.”

Appeals to reason:

Statements by authority figures used to stimulate thought and discussion. “Experts” seldom agree.

Appeals to consensus (bandwagon):

“Everybody’s doing it” so it must be right.

Appeals to fact and logic:

Supports arguments with impartially selected data and logic.

Appeals to emotions and automatic responses:

Uses words and pictures with strong emotional connotations.

Appeals to people’s capacity for thoughtful, reasoned responses:

Uses emotionally neutral words and illustrations.


Uses labels and derogatory terms to describe proponents of opposing viewpoint.

Avoids labels and derogatory language:

Addresses the argument, not the people supporting a particular viewpoint.

Ignores assumptions and built-in biases. Explores assumptions and built-in biases.
Language usage promotes lack of awareness.  Language usage promotes greater awareness



Educational Indoctrination

There is no one better to learn from about educational indoctrination than award-winning  author and former New York Public school teacher, John Gatto.

John spent nearly 30 years in the classroom teaching and his memorable and colorful style is sure to inspire and captivate you (He was a copywriter before he went into teaching). Reading materials on education, by their nature are tearfully dry and unexciting which is why the education section in the local bookstore is so small or so I always believed.

Here is a wonderful passage from his book, The Underground History of American Education.  You can read it online here for FREE

Nothing about school is what it seems, not even boredom. To  show you what I mean is the burden of this long essay. My book represents a try at arranging my own thoughts in order to figure out what fifty years of classroom confinement (as student and teacher) add up to for me. You’ll encounter a great deal of speculative history here. This is a personal investigation of why school is a dangerous place. It’s not so much that anyone there sets out to hurt children; more that all of us associated with the institution are stuck like flies in the same great web your kids are. We buzz frantically to cover our own panic but have little power to help smaller flies.

Looking backward on a thirty-year teaching career full of rewards and prizes, somehow I can’t completely believe that I spent my time on earth institutionalized; I can’t believe that centralized schooling is allowed to exist at all as a gigantic indoctrination and sorting machine, robbing people of their children. Did it really happen? Was this my life? God help me.

School is a religion. Without understanding the holy mission aspect you’re certain to misperceive what takes place as a result of human stupidity or venality or even class warfare. All are present in the equation, it’s just that none of these matter very much—even without them school would move in the same direction. Dewey’s Pedagogic Creed statement of 1897 gives you a clue to the zeitgeist:

Every teacher should realize he is a social servant set apart for the maintenance of the proper social network and the securing of the right social growth. In this way the teacher is always the prophet of the true God and the usherer in of the true kingdom of heaven.

What is “proper” social order? What does “right” social growth look like? If you don’t know, you’re like me, not like John Dewey who did, or the Rockefellers, his patrons, who did, too.

Somehow out of the industrial confusion which followed the Civil War, powerful men and dreamers became certain what kind of social prescription America needed, one very like the British system we had escaped a hundred years earlier. This realization didn’t arise as a product of public debate as it should have in a democracy, but as a distillation of private discussion. Their ideas contradicted the original American charter but that didn’t disturb them. They had a stupendous goal in mind—the rationalization of everything. The end of unpredictable history; its transformation into dependable framework.

From mid-century onwards certain utopian schemes to retard maturity in the interests of a greater good were put into play, following roughly the blueprint Rousseau laid down in the book Emile. At least rhetorically. The first goal, to be reached in stages, was an orderly, scientifically managed society, one in which the best people would make the decisions, unhampered by democratic tradition. After that, human breeding, the evolutionary destiny of the species, would be in reach. Universal institutionalized formal forced schooling was the prescription, extending the dependency of the young well into what had traditionally been early adult life. Individuals would be prevented from taking up important work until a relatively advanced age. Maturity was to be retarded.