The next few articles will address the charge of indoctrination that has been made against Islamic education. They will attempt to investigate and explore what indoctrination really is and why (and how) Islamic education is perceived by some to be equated with this concept.
Previously we looked at the concept of ‘liberalism’ and how most things were re-written during the Reformation period. It could be said that at that time, Europe was fighting an internal war against the Church in order to free itself and acquire the freedom to legislate according to what man perceived as best for himself. This struggle would have been present in most aspects including the realms of education. It would have made sense to oppose the way in which the Church understood education and adopted an alternative methodology. It could also be argued that it would have been suitable to attach a negative label and stigma to what the Church taught. Using this understanding, indoctrination as we perceive it in the contemporary context equates to something unpleasant, derogatory, unjust and backwards.
Many objections are raised against faith-based education especially within the context of Islamic education whether in Islamic schools or the traditional madrassa. A central objection is that these religious institutes do not provide education but rather indoctrinate. The charge of indoctrination is very serious because it is considered the very antithesis of what education is intrinsically about. It implies that Islamic education violates the principles of respect for individuals’ autonomy, freedom and rationality, and carries with it a pejorative and immoral connotation. These allegations make it incumbent upon religious educators to respond and attempt to invalidate these accusations.
Pring (2005) suggests that justification of faith schools teaching religious beliefs has been concentrated upon ‘parental rights, ethos or academic results.’ Therefore it has ‘neglected the more important but exceedingly difficult philosophical issues which need to be addressed’. One of the points Pring indicates is the need for an argument that will defend the ideal of autonomy compatible with religious tradition.
It can be said that ‘autonomy’ is synonymous with ‘education’ and therefore, an autonomous individual will be understood to be educated. It is important to discuss briefly what ‘autonomy’ is and what part it plays in the argument against indoctrination. Autonomy is a vast subject and we could easily plunge into lengthy philosophical discussions. However, it will be discussed only briefly providing enough information to allow the reader to understand the arguments.
The next few articles attempt to unravel what indoctrination is by first shedding some light on autonomy. I will attempt to explore the evolution of the term ‘indoctrination’ in order to put it into some sort of context as well as unpick the concept of indoctrination, attempting to establish what the components of this term are and how they affect certain types of knowledge, be it moral or religious as well as what criterion is employed to classify whether certain types of knowledge are indoctrinatory or educative. Towards the end of the series I will attempt to argue on behalf of Islamic education, defending it from this charge whilst presenting an alternative understanding of indoctrination.
Notes: This is the ninth article in the Islamic Education Series. Click here to read part eight.
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Gatchel, H. (1972). The Evolution of the Concept. In: I A Snook (Ed.), Concepts of Indoctrination: Philosophical essays. London: Routledge and Kegan Paul Ltd, 9-16.
Pring, R. (2005). Faith Schools: Can they be justified? In R. Gardner, J. Cairns, D. Lawton (Eds.), Faith Schools: Consensus or Conflict? Oxon: RoutledgeFalmer, 51-60.