From simple clothing styles to the Nazi Youth movement one thing is common, indoctrinated behaviors prevail. Across all cultures and time, that humans can remember, indoctrination has guided and shaped human lives. Let’s look at how indoctrination might have originated and why it is so effective.
Indoctrination for Evolutionary Survival
Somewhere along our evolutionary path human DNA adapted by making ourselves vulnerable to indoctrination. Some of our ancestors children must have had a higher chance of survival if they mimicked adults behavior. This behavior goes farther than merely following directions, it is duplicating behavior regardless of personal thought. We are genetically, as a species, susceptible to indoctrination. Although, some of us can and do break free.
Indoctrination Behavior Among Primates
In National Geographic’s “Ape Genius” documentary research is done to show the differences between chimps and human children. In the studies they found the chimps out performed the children especially when the children watched an adult perform the task first. For example when extracting an item from a puzzle box both the chimp and the child would watch an adult open the box. The adult would tap on the box, a ritual, then perform the trick to open the box. The chimp would skip the ritual and just perform the trick to open the box. Amazingly the child would still perform the useless ritual before opening the box. It is natural for human beings to replicate behavior regardless of it being useless.
Exploiting Our Own Weakness
Since it is natural for children to want to copy our behavior we need to ensure we are giving them good behaviors to copy. This is why it is so important to analyze our actions with critical thinking. We can teach children to not be susceptible to indoctrination by teaching behaviors which cause the child to naturally grow out of this susceptibility. The same process that makes us vulnerable to learning irrational behavior can be exploited to teach rational and logical behavior. The solution has to start somewhere and it has taken thousands of years for us to reach a point where we can even question ourselves on indoctrination practices.
The Gift That Keeps On Giving
Any teaching system that stifles questions and critical thinking is detrimental to the growth of the human species. After all we are only as advanced as the sum of our collected knowledge/technology, without it we would be reduced to rags and wooden spears. There is one valuable thing that can survive without technology and that is a cultural behavior which promotes critical thinking, love of knowledge, and a searching for truth. So let’s teach our kids to love to think about thinking, to seek new knowledge, and value truth and we will have given humanity a gift that keeps on giving.