Personal Professor Peeve Number ??? …

With any job or career one will experience pros and cons. In any position one will encounter extremely qualified and talented and those who lack even the most rudimentary qualifications and skills to perform the expected task. I’ve never attempted to gather data for a statistical analysis, but I’m confident that if such a study were possible the results would show that the majority of people are between great and bad. If a median could be established, a by-the-book bell curve might be the result. I’ll just take one of my primary teaching mentor’s observations in that 10 percent of professors are very good and 10 percent should not be in a classroom, laboratory, or conducting research. The remaining 80 percent of professors are adequate as a whole but may excel or be abysmal in one or two of the three headed responsibilities of teaching, research, and service.

Whether at the top, bottom, or in the middle, a routine charge is that all or most professors indoctrinate students. Miriam Webster defines indoctrinate in this manner:

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

Sadly some professors are guilty. I can’t give any tangible numbers or statistics to prove my contention. Once I did not renew the contract of an adjunct because in the opinion of full time professor reviewing that adjunct who brought an issue to my attention and based upon my personal observations with the class in question and conversations with the adjunct felt that the adjunct did promote too many theories and opinions as facts. I have had numerous complaints from students about instructors, and I did find a student’s accusation of indoctrination to have merit. In that case, however, the instructor chose to cover some diametrically opposed scholarship as complete works in separate class sessions instead of interspersing bits and pieces as compare and contrast themes. Each individual class session was in fact extremely one sided, but when taken together the instructor prevented an impressive array of diverse scholarship. With members of my departments, indoctrination has not been a major issue although accusations of such are becoming more common.

What bothers me today is that it seems like fewer and fewer people comprehend what actual indoctrination would be.

In the history and political science courses, some students cry indoctrination at anything that will not fit neatly into their personal feelings. Inside a classroom I love to play the proverbial “Devil’s Advocate” and oppose every position proctored. It really does not matter if I agree or disagree with the position. My responsibility is to highlight both strengths and weaknesses of multiple sides. Honestly I do not know if it is possible to teach in a Socratic style where the teacher simply agreed with everything said by any student.

Admittedly the classroom dynamics can become frustrating at times. That fact, however, is one of the realities of being a teacher. What scares me, however, is the idea that many of these students and observers do not realize that they are being indoctrinated. That indoctrination is coming from the press and society at large. Seriously when any questioning or challenge of a previously conceived notion is taken as a threat or as an attack, what does that imply?

In my opinion it implies that we are not looking at different perspectives and thinking things through. It implies that we are too reliant upon and accepting of “simple” solutions to complex issues. It means that we are not studying to learn but to merely “prove” what we want to believe. It means that others are doing the thinking for us, and we fail to see that our allowance of that “indoctrination” by people who tell us what we want to believe limits ourselves not just today but also our potential as individuals, a nation, and as inhabitants of this world.