We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]


Wise words from Zed A. Shaw:

To me indoctrination is the enemy of education because it creates people who can’t think for themselves and can only function in the culture they’ve been raised. It makes them into little mental slaves that can’t question what’s going on and see the world for what it really is.

Instead I want people who will question the way things are, try to find out how things are really built, explore the world and build new stuff without worrying about whether they’ll anger some community. They can’t do this if their thinking is constrained by these arbitrary social norms that only exist to keep them in line with what the community wants, or worse what the leaders of the community want.

When you teach people social norms as if they are universal truths you are actually indoctrinating them not educating them.


Then again, this is probably the reason these social mores are enforced and taught. Teaching social mores as universal truths keeps people dependent on […] use of them.

Keep in mind though I’m not saying teaching these social mores is wrong and should be avoided. I’m saying teaching them as if they are the universal truths is bad. I teach them too, but I teach them as if they are just arbitrary bullshit you need…

I am probably being unfair by quoting him so out of context. Shaw is writing about programming. But still.

6 comments to Indoctrination

  • Alsadius

    Some social mores are far from bullshit. Private property, for example, is a social more that needs to be impressed on children very strongly.

  • RRS

    I have no idea of how today social norms or social mores are taught; if indeed they are taught at all; that is, to the extent they exist as such.

    My understanding of the purpose of instruction in those that existed some 80 – 85 years ago was to provide an understanding of the “community” into which one was being injected; to grasp its unifying (or coalescing) principles (as P M might suggest).

    The mores (customs) some of which constitute the morals of a social group are dependent on a process of transfer. There is some question of the deterioration or perversion of that process in our latter times. But, that is a different matter.

    Enforcement comes in more subtle forms and loses effect as the nature or pupose of the “instructions” change.

  • Reaction to this probably depends on specific examples. More generally, standards of behaviour can either be rationally argued or not. Universal truth is rare outside of mathematics. The notion that one must pay one’s taxes is a social more that it would be helpful if people thought more freely about. Private property can be argued for, we don’t need to proclaim it a universal truth. (It’s not arbitrary bullshit either, though. Perhaps I should have cut that phrase as applicable only to the programming example in the original.)

  • chuck

    I wouldn’t call those words wise, I’d call them shallow. Mores matter. The fact that they aren’t universal matters not. Morals likewise fail the test of universality, yet morals matter. Culture matters. Progress requires a bit of flexibility, but that flexibility must be based on a solid basis.

    In programming, adhering to coding standards is useful and should be second nature, not a burden. I can’t speak for the Ruby community, perhaps they truly are code lawyers who spend there time splitting hairs. But to generalize that, which seems the intent here, is not justified.

  • Alisa

    Linguistic nitpicking alert: the singular form of ‘mores’ is mor/mos, not ‘more’ – it is Latin, not English.

    I now return you to your irregular programming.

    BTW, there’s nothing wrong with indoctrination per se – it all depends on what the particular doctrine is, and whether critical independent thinking is part of it.

  • Paul Marks

    Some so called “social mores” ARE universal principles – in the sense that violating them has terrible consequences (regardless of race or geography).

    Some of these principles have already been mentioned in the thread – private property being one.

    HOWEVER, it was the great fallacy of 19th century liberalism to entrust THE STATE with teaching such principles.