Dr. Ken Larsen
We live in a world of our perceptions. Our encounter with the real world outside of ourselves is filtered through our total knowledge, our values, our experience and what we have learned. All these things are held in memory and shape how we relate to the real world as we journey through life. Our mental health and happiness are largely dependent on how effectively our perceptions enable us to meet our needs.
Our perceptions are formed by what we learn about life and our place in it. I’m going to draw a quick comparison between two ways that we learn.
Indoctrination is one way we learn. The definition I am using for “indoctrination” is “To teach someone to fully accept the ideas, opinions and beliefs of a particular group and to not consider other ideas, opinions and beliefs.” When we learn by indoctrination our world is interpreted for us by some external source. We are enjoined to conform to this externally interpreted world and to avoid exploring alternative ways of thinking, often going so far as to threaten sanctions for “stepping out of line.” One such sanction was the practice in the middle ages to burn those whose beliefs and behaviors were inconsistent with the predominant “doctrine”.
Another way we learn is by education. I am going to define education as an “enlightening experience.” The way I see it is that education enables us to interpret our world for ourselves; learning, evaluating and comparing what we experience in the real world with our own system of values and beliefs. Education is a quest for truth and applying that truth to knowing ourselves and knowing others and to apply that knowledge to meeting our needs and living together in harmony with others. My personal experience of “education” is that it is a process that works best when linked in some way to a respected someone older and wiser. Someone whose values, beliefs and world view have demonstrated a nobility shaped by growing in truth, goodness and beauty. For me, and for many of us, Dr. Glasser has been that older and wiser influence in our education.
It seems to me that we are in a struggle between indoctrination and education in the ways we think and live our lives in today’s world. Can you identify places in your life where your experience of indoctrination (political, religious, philosophical) are in conflict with what you have learned through your “enlightening experience” of education? Does this conflict affect your mental health and happiness? How do you resolve this conflict?