Tag Archives: indoctrination

Ideology ~ Indoctrination to Critical Thinking: The right fit in Teacher Education

Something has been weighing on my mind this year as I teach my courses in teacher education. I (Yiola) have been teaching a number of different courses in teacher education (curriculum, foundations, child development, assessment) and each one has been carefully crafted with the students in mind (some are Masters level courses and others are undergraduate).  Wherein lies the balance of teaching academic courses that are seeped in ideology and the promotion of critical thinking?

I believe it is inevitable that ideologies find there way into our course outlines, our lectures, our readings, our practice ~ after all, we are humans with perspectives and schemas. Knowing where we stand on issues that we teach, I think, is key to developing a course that is not only filled with information (content/pedagogy) for future teachers but that is accessible, inviting, and open to deeper understandings.  In my courses for example critical pedagogy is a framework. Students know that when they take my courses they will be presented with readings, discourses, case studies, and policies that are framed in critical theory.  I choose this for a number of reasons: I believe in equity and social justice education; I believe in equitable opportunity for learning; I believe in disclosing and deconstructing status quo in order to deepen our understanding of “what is going here”? and I believe that many student teachers are hearing of this ideology for the very first time.

And so, I am often left questioning: how far do I take this? how far can I go when presenting an ideology in teacher education? Is it fair to present a dominant perspective? Is it inevitable? Some would argue that by not expressing a point of view, we are simply adhering to one anyway and silencing many others.  Where and when  does ideology channel into indoctrination? Do student teachers feel imposed upon or offended when only one perspective is shared? but what about when its a perspective that is often marginalized? Is there even time to invite critical thinking about ideologies when teaching students about curriculum?

Let me provide an example: Literacy Curriculum in Teacher Education. Literacy education is taught in as many ways as there are literacy educators. We know from our research in literacy teacher education that there are powerful, effective, and varied ways of approaching literacy teacher education. And so, there is not one right way.  One teacher educator may teach with a critical stance while another teaches from an empirical psychological stance, while yet another teaches from a holistic perspective. If I could, I would love to be a student in each of these courses to catch a glimpse of the ways in which teaching literacy can be considered.  To the student teacher, is one way better than another? Is one way less indoctrinating than the next? Is there a way to prompt critical thinking while teaching subject content/pedagogical knowledge?

I am constantly thinking about the perspectives I bring to my courses, what gets included and what is omitted and why. I am constantly thinking about my tone and the messages I relay and the possibilities of interpretation from the learners in my class. I am interested in critical thinking and pushing boundaries of understanding. I am not interested in indoctrination.  This in and of itself is an ideology of sorts.


Helping Students Develop Their Way of Life

If we teach literacy/English and other subjects well – in a way that interests and engages students and deals with “big ideas” – we will inevitably get into life issues and “values.” This in turn will help students build their way of life. They will not have to wait until they graduate to start figuring out how to be in the world.

Teaching about values or life issues is sometimes questioned on the ground that it involves indoctrination. However, schools already push values in strong ways, e.g., punctuality, hard work, academic learning. What is needed is to expand values teaching (usually in the context of teaching subjects) and find non-indoctrinative ways to do it. Constructivism provides a solution here, because both teachers and students say what they think and everyone learns from each other. In the end, students decide what way of life to adopt, but with the benefit of input from others.

As you may know, I (Clive) am a great admirer of the work of Nel Noddings. I recently found a statement of hers in The Challenge to Care in Schools (2nd edn., 2005) that bears very directly on these matters:

I have heard teachers say, We’re not trained for [discussing values with students]. That’s a job for psychologists (or counselors, or parents, or pastors). Pressed, many will say that they do not have a right to impose their values on students, but these same teachers impose all sorts of rules – sensible and mindless equally – without questioning the values thus imposed. Surely intelligent adults should talk to the children in their care about…qualities that most of us admire. This talk need not be indoctrination any more than mathematics teaching need be lecture and rote learning. (p. 39)

Speaking of values, what could be more immoral than subjecting young people to 12 years of narrowly academic schooling with little attention to life matters? The time has come to make education much more useful to students than it has been for the past two-and-a-half millennia. This requires helping them explore values and develop their way of life.