In the beginning, was conditioning.
Don’t you love that very first memory we all have of coming out of our mother’s womb and entering into this great big world? Of course you don’t, unless you have magical memory powers. I personally don’t have magical memory powers, but if a genie came to me with three wishes, that would be one of them.
Although nature allows us certain instinctual abilities, such as crying and sucking on our mom’s tit, it didn’t give us the ability to recognise and understand the world around us immediately at birth or as a young child. We are helpless and must rely on others to feed us, to shelter us, to carry us, and to more or less give us that understanding of the world in which we lack. Everyone can remember times when they asked their parents simple questions like, “Where does rain come from? Why is the sky blue? Why do I have a pee pee and she doesn’t?”
As a continue to grow, something very strange has happened in my perception of parenting. The respect I have for parenting in general grows and shrinks simultaneously. I think back to all those questions I asked my mom and dad. The patience, love and time they spent with me to make sure I understood my world around me is something I find to be amazing. I respect the confidence they showed as they tried to make sure I was never confused about certain aspects of my environment. I respect their ability to “dumb down” concepts of the world to make them understandable to myself. And I respect the brazen lack of shame they had on many occasions to give the answer, “ask your mother/father, she/he knows a lot more about that than I do.”
It is the job of a parent to raise their children with love and care; to prepare them for what is ahead. I will never be able to repay my parents for loving and protecting me as I was young, for which they will always have my gratitude and respect.
However, as I said before, the respect I have for parenting has also diminished. And I find the source of this disrespect centers around the conditioning parents induce into their children. Its the influence of partisan ideals and opinions that I have grown to despise; its the withholding of other aspects and truths that children are left without. When you condition children, you are not trying to teach them…you are indoctrinating them. This brings me to my question: Why?
The word “indoctrination” seems to carry a very negative idea for many people. Many couple the word with “brainwashing” and “evil influence.” Also, most would never even consider the idea that they themselves have been indoctrinated; its always something we look at as happening to someone else like Muslims, cults, or Aggies. However, the truth is that each one of us have been indoctrinated in some form or another. We have been conditioned to believe certain things as truth, without being given any actual facts. Using my upbringing as an example: I was taught that the Bible was God’s Word, but didn’t know how or when it was formed. I was taught that the Book of Mormon was an evil book, but never once saw or read a copy. I was taught that evaluation was a lie spread by unbelievers, but I never had an unbelieving friend. I was taught that most Muslims were terrorists, but never knew about the Crusades.
The truth is that most parents do not want their children to think; they want them to believe. I don’t think that this is ever done out of a purposeful intention to “indoctrinate” their children. Most every human being has come to a conclusion of what the truth is, and they want to share that truth with others. I cannot remember one single time during my childhood where my parents asked me, “what do you think?” I asked, and I was given an answer. And as a child, you do not consider the given answer to be wrong. If you do not completely understand the answer you assume that you are not yet capable, and as you grow the answer will become more clear. The question I have is at what point does it become a hindrance to a child; to be given a filtered perception of truth as the parent sees it. One example is a documentary that was produced showing children attending a camp that trains them in Evangelical Christian values.
Now, some people may think that this would be totally acceptable for children, because their beliefs and values reflect that of the camp’s. But take a look at the next video.
What I find most interesting about the children in both films is that they are steadfastly certain that what they say and believe is 100% true. However radical you may think of the ideals the children have, they themselves consider their beliefs to be commonplace and absolute. What they believe is the truth. What they believe is right.
As I watched these videos and thought about the concepts more, I started to wonder: What is the true purpose of conditioning a child? Do parents teach their children certain beliefs because they truly believe that it is the truth? Or do we use indoctrination as a tool to recruit others as a way of making ourselves feel better about something, deep down, are unsure about? For if we truly believed that something was the truth, what would be the harm in allowing someone to make up their own mind, encouraging them to look at all the options? Does the truth need defense? Does the truth need recruiters?
One thing is for sure. The most dangerous thing a conditioned child can do is to one day, grow up, and venture outside of the bubble his or her parents have so carefully constructed. For if they do, everything they hold dear, every ideal they stood for, every belief they took as truth, will be challenged. That, I believe, is one of the most terrifying experiences a person can face. And when that time comes, a clear cut decision has to be made: Either run back to the bubble for safety, or be forced to question so many aspects that you feel gives you purpose and meaning. But its important to know that if you choose the former, if you choose to view the world with conditioned glasses and reside in the safety of like minds, than it will be at that point you will have no one to blame but yourself.