Institutes of indoctrination | Sunday Observer

Institutes of indoctrination

12 September, 2021

“Education is not merely neglected in many of our schools today but is replaced to a great extent by ideological indoctrination.” – Thomas Sowell

Education is no longer considered as a necessity for human development other than as an instrument for economic progress. Especially the higher educational institutions have become almost like automated factories producing different parts for the giant machine called the “world economy”.

The world has accepted this concept of using children as raw material for these education factories in the process of manufacturing adults the market needs to sustain the economic progress. While there are universally accepted indicators to measure the materialistic gains called “economic growth”, the paths, different countries take in their efforts of achieving such growth, depend mainly on the political ideologies invoked by the rulers of those countries.

Though “capitalism” and “socialism” have been the two most commonly recognised ideologies in the past, deeper analysis into political systems existing in individual countries today might introduce one to a whole gamut of “isms” such as: absolutism, monarchism, aristocratism, agrarianism, constitutionalism, parliamentarianism, individualism, liberalism, social collectivism, state capitalism, nationalism, and humanism, among other things. The political ideology is the main influence in establishing the relationship between the rulers and the ruled. Therefore, “who is benefiting the most by the ideology invoked by the ruler?” is a fair question the ruled, the citizens of a country, might ask at any given point in time.

Connections of rulers and the ruled

History provides numerous examples in which the beneficiaries of political ideologies were the individuals who, while pretending to represent all the citizens of the country with generally desirable social values, in reality, promoted nothing but their own personal economic and power aspirations.

The lines between political ideologies and religious, socioeconomic, and cultural ideologies are becoming increasingly blurry since contemporary political ideologies try to provide all answers to all questions in the society. At the same time, since political ideologies require mass acceptance and mass belief, and the masses are usually drawn to ideologies more by belief than by reason, political ideologies have begun to show strong religious overtones as well.

Political ideology of a particular ruler is expected to be introduced to the society through the political establishment.

However, the lines between the political establishment and State institutions also have become so blurry that State institutions, including educational institutions, are often being considered as instruments or agencies through which the state is infiltrating the citizenry with its social control and political power. Unfortunately, most of the universities around the world have also fallen into this category of institutes that have become a part of the political machine of the corresponding state.

Eroding concept of universities

Universities used to be institutes of higher learning where controversial socioeconomic issues, complex cultural issues and or ethical issues in the world of natural sciences could be openly discussed, debated, critiqued, and studied with the sole purpose of sharing and improving knowledge.

This proud tradition of open discourse is slowly being eroded due to increasing interference of the political establishment and the deterioration of the moral and ethical norms among academia. Universities have slowly begun to bow down to the intellectually immature rather than holding on to freedom of thought, speech, and open inquiry.

History shows that the battle between independent thinkers and the pseudo-thinkers, who are part of the propaganda machine of the State, in academia is as old as universities themselves.

In the sixteenth century, Professor Martin Luther of the University of Wittenberg in Germany was excommunicated by the Pope, since Luther asked for a public debate on his theses which happened to point out corruption in academia and Church.

In the seventeenth century, Professor Galileo Galilei of the University of Padua in Italy was condemned to life imprisonment since his belief of earth rotating around the sun did not agree with what the church wanted people to believe.

Controlling academia and removal of open inquiry, academic debate and freedom of speech was central to the totalitarian ideology of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (commonly known as the NAZI party) in the twentieth century. Eugenics was one of the important new subjects that were introduced to university degree programs catering to NAZI ideology.

Academics who refused to integrate NAZI ideology into their lectures and research and or who spoke out against the ideology were forced out of academia. During the invasion of Ukraine, NAZIs specifically targeted and killed academics and their families. The Gestapo who headed the operation was himself an academic acting on the lists provided by the students belonging to the Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists.

The USSR took similar action to control academia by crushing freedom of speech and open inquiry during the same period. The actual number of academics who were killed during the Great Purge in USSR is most likely not recorded anywhere.

Therefore, the world will never know the extent of the damage done to the knowledge capital by such rulers who denied the independence the higher educational institutions should have and eliminated anyone who did not conform to their ideology.

It not only was a great cultural and intellectual loss to the whole world but also was the beginning of the deterioration of the academic standards where the scientists and philosophers could exist only if they agreed with the political ideology.

The danger of this culture of accepting any ideology without critically analysing and testing it with one’s own conscience, irrespective of the suffering it can bring to other living beings, was shown to the world by Trofim Lysenko in the 1930s. Lysenko vaulted to the top of the USSR scientific community by being an obedient follower of Joseph Stalin. With most of the brilliant scientists out of the picture after the Great Purge, Lysenko was put in charge of the country’s agricultural sector.

He promised to boost crop yield and convert the empty Russian interior into vast farmlands with his untested, unsubstantiated pseudo scientific theories. Stalin, believing his obedient scientist, instituted a program of “modernising soviet agriculture” by forcing millions of people to work in State-run farms following “Lysenkoism”. Unfortunately, the result was a widespread crop failure and famine. Other allies of the USSR also suffered the same fate by following Lysenkoism and it was estimated that over 30 million people died in USSR and China alone.

They say, “history repeats”. However, when history clearly shows the dangers of conformity and blind following of political ideologies on selfish motives, the least the intellectuals in a society can do is to do all they can to stop such a history repeating itself and educate the younger generation so that they will have the courage to stop any possibility of future repetitions.

Let us hope that the academia will have the strength to use their instinct, intellect and intuition navigating through the political minefields in showing the younger generation the danger of indoctrination while protecting them from pseudo intellectual and pseudo scientific agents of the political machine.

The writer has served in the higher education sector as an academic over twenty years in the USA and fourteen years in Sri Lanka and he can be contacted at [email protected]