I’ve been thinking a lot about indoctrination lately. There is often a push to keep certain religious teachings out of school, because people don’t want their kids learning about the Quran (it’s most often the Quran that’s being complained about) while those same people complain that the reason we have problems is that we “took God out of the schools.” It’s shit that I see online a ton. It doesn’t make much sense to me, it feels disingenuous, like “Hey, we don’t want the kids being indoctrinated with your fake God, but by our real God instead.”
The other big ‘indoctrination’ thing that people keep talking about is the ‘fact’ that kids don’t say the pledge of allegiance any more in school. Now, I have seen this a ton online, but have tried to research it, and come up with no evidence that it’s actually true. I mean, I went to Catholic school for the last 8 years of grade school, so things are a bit different, but I haven’t heard anything about “you know I asked my kid about the pledge, and they don’t say it.” My own kid is too young to be saying it either way. But this got me to thinking about the pledge of allegiance, and how it’s kind of an intense piece of patriotic indoctrination. We are (or should be if you believe the people saying it’s not done anymore) having our kids “pledge allegiance to the flag,” I will be honest and say I get the flag as a symbol, but have never gotten the level of obsession people give the symbol; “and to the United States of America,” in theory, assuming the country does the right thing, this isn’t problematic, if you believe that the country does the right thing, and that if it doesn’t you believe that children (or adults who’ve been told it since they were children) will be able to disconnect that ‘pledge of their allegiance’; “and to the Republic, for which it stands,” alright, now that I can agree with; “One nation under God,” you can tell that’s been added after because it just doesn’t fit the rest of it; “Indivisible,” I’m assuming we’re talking about the country and not God on this one, and so I have no objection to it; “with Liberty and Justice for all,” now only a real asshole could disagree with that part.
So on the whole I think the pledge is fine on it’s face, but it is weird to be pushing it into kids heads when they’re so impressionable. Why not just say “it’s an imperfect system, but hopefully if we keep working together, we can keep improving it,” which inspires conversation and dialogue as to how that can happen, and explain the process of democracy. A rote pledge isn’t helpful, it’s too religious. It requires no thought, and when I think of rote things you’re “supposed” to say or think, I tend to think there is someone who doesn’t want you to really think about it.
Like I said, I went to Catholic school, and was raised Catholic, and there was something that I learned fairly early on, and that was that questions, even earnest ones, tend to be the enemy of organized religion. Then as I grew up, I started realizing it wasn’t just religion, it was any organization, with power, didn’t want me or anyone else to think or to question.
I have not considered myself a Catholic in a long time, but on occasion when getting into a conversation with non-Catholic Christians, I’ve caught myself saying “us Catholics” or “as a Catholic,” because it’s ingrained in me in a way that despite not believing it has (at least in part) become part of my identity. That’s fucked up.
There’s a degree to which it’s impossible to not leave some imprint on kids, I know that. I have a 2 year-old who loves superheroes and Star Wars, and so I cannot think that he just came to that conclusion on his own, but as he grows, I have to try to let him explore outside of it because I want him to be a fully realized human with his own thoughts, and feelings, and not just a little echo-clone for myself.
Let’s teach kids how to think, and not what to think, and I’m sorry, but teaching kids rote is teaching them WHAT to think, whether it’s the Pledge of Allegiance, or the fact that when I go into a Catholic Mass I can do all the prayers on autopilot (except for the new ones to trick all the Christmas/Easter Catholics, you know like Christ would do) it’s harmful.
The way to do that is to say “I like living in the US because…” and try to be fact based, and fair, or “I believe Jesus is the Savior because…” and try to do the same. If the ideas hold up, they shouldn’t need to be force fed, and I think we’ll get a better version of patriotism, or religion if people come to them by natural conclusion, based on merit.