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The New Consensus

Extent 1 online resource xiv, p. Isbn Label Teaching for commitment : liberal education, indoctrination and Christian nurture, Elmer John Thiessen, electronic resource Instantiates Teaching for commitment : liberal education, indoctrination and Christian nurture Publication Montreal Que. Label Teaching for commitment : liberal education, indoctrination and Christian nurture, Elmer John Thiessen, electronic resource Publication Montreal Que.

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E. J. Thiessen, Teaching for Commitment: Indoctrination and Christian Nurture - PhilPapers

Structured data from the Bibframe namespace is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4. Additional terms may apply to data associated with third party namespaces. Link Analysis Experimental. It also varies from the Eastern Orthodox Christian understanding of synergy and co-operation between God and human persons. The point of this theological digression is to illustrate the diversity of understanding amongst Christians themselves, as to what constitutes Christian education, and what its purpose, content and aims should be.

Definition, Origin and Criteria of Indoctrination Having established above what is meant by Confessionalism, and more specifically Christian nurture I will now look at the definition and criteria of indoctrination. To imbue with learning, to teach; b. To instruct in a subject, principle, etc. To imbue with a doctrine, idea, or opinion. To teach, inculcate a subject, etc. This change in meaning reflects a change in understanding and attitude towards religion in society.

This will be examined under the issue of neutrality below. It is interesting to note that Scruton et al. Indoctrination is taken as given. Scruton et al. It is a question that must either be closed or non-existent for us. It is clear that this charge of indoctrination comes from a concern for a rational, autonomous, objective, neutral and critically open form of education, and this is also what led the drive towards phenomenological approaches towards religious education, where the confessional approach was viewed as the antithesis of this. While acknowledging the bias of these studies I believe that they have made a fair survey of the charge of indoctrination as understood from the liberal position, and have outlined the criteria by which the charge of indoctrination is made.

Both Thiessen and Astley identify these as content, method, intention, and consequences. Thiessen in particular contrasts these with liberal values. The content of indoctrination is seen by the secularised liberal tradition to oppose the scientific ideal, methods of indoctrination contradict the ideal of rationality, the intentions of the indoctrinator go against the ideal of autonomy and the consequences of indoctrination are inconsistent with the ideal of critical openness.

Both writers examine whether Christian education really breaks one of these norms of liberalism and is thus open to the charge of indoctrination. Thiessen questions whether these ideas are as strong as they seem, and actually argues for their reconstruction, because often the absolute form in which they are presented would also make liberalism itself guilty of indoctrination.

I will draw on the work of Thiessen , and Astley in a brief overview of this issue.


This is rejected by showing that, despite protests, science is often founded upon doctrines of its own Thiessen ibid. Given this view, the historical confessional model could not really be said to be indoctrination in this sense, especially given the fact that doctrines and questions of truth were generally avoid in the fear of the accusation of promoting one denomination over another.

The criterion of methodology rests on the idea that a person who indoctrinates will use falsehood, lack of evidence, misuse evidence and use methods that bypass the use of reason. The main accusation seems to be that non-rational methods are used. This charge is a popular one made against religious education as a whole, and confessional education in particular.

Most forms of Confessionalism seemed to be genuine in their conviction that they were conveying religious truths.

Liberal indoctrination in public schools takes away from formal education

However, it is open to question whether evidence was lacking or misused. It seems that between and the s in England and Wales it was simply presented, and then as a religious truth not as any other kind of truth, without making claims in opposition to science or reason. There are strong theological arguments to show that the idea of autonomy is at the very heart of Christianity.

Examples of this are Christian understandings of freewill, the dignity of the human person, the spirit of discernment and so on.

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  • The scope of this essay does not allow me to cover these issues here. This charge could be made in part against the traditional, historical model of Confessionalism. It was generally understood as applying to children from Christian backgrounds, and the intention very much was to inculcate Christian moral values into the children, although there appears to have been less concern for explicit teaching of doctrine.

    Whether it was successful or not is another matter, which leads us to the next criterion, consequences. However, it is self-evident that when indoctrinatory methods and content are used and intended this does not always result in closed minds. Their escape from its consequences is all the more remarkable. It is open to question whether such neutrality is actually possible.

    Yet, Confessionalism is still accused of partiality, bias and the absence of neutrality. Sandsmark , Hulmes and Cooling have studied this issue in depth. Neutrality and objectivity are seen as indisputable ideals. Hulmes also questions whether neutrality really exists p. Hawkins case involving American First Amendment right issues. Vicky Frost, a born-again Christian mother of a six-year-old child objected to her daughter reading certain texts at school, on the basis of indoctrination and violation of her First Amendment rights.

    Christian Education

    If, therefore, neutrality is not really possible, and moreover it can be shown that Confessional forms of education do not necessarily involve indoctrination, and if they do, these forms are also present in secular education, where does the charge of indoctrination come from? The charge of indoctrination has been shown to be a debatable one, and one that very much depends on what kind of Christian nurture is advocated, and, more strikingly, how intolerant its detractors are towards religion.

    Only a brief overview will be provided here. The issue of indoctrination in Faith schools is ignored in this section having discussed the matter above one can read the same accusations of indoctrination, for example, in A Better Way Forward BHA One only has to read the debate in the national press to see that a common charge made against Faith Schools is that they promote intolerance and social discord. It stems from a tension within liberalism itself, a tension between diversity and unity.

    When does the demand for social cohesion, the demand that people should be alike, part of the common melting pot become totalitarian and intolerant of difference?

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    These tensions are apparent in the Swann Report The Swann Report, according to Thiessen 48 also makes another common assumption that separation necessarily entails intolerance. However, as Jackson notes ibid. Recently, there has been increasing debate about the value of community schools in Britain, and their contribution to social cohesion. A recent edition of the British Journal of Religious Education Spring , devoted the whole issue to examining this debate, from differing perspectives.

    In this essay I will focus on the arguments put forth in that edition, while at the same time showing an awareness of the historical perspective. There are also several key documents central to this debate. The British Humanist Association advocates common schooling for all as a means of facilitating social cohesion; however it does not adopt the traditional secularist position which banishes religion from the public arena to the private sphere.

    There is much merit in this viewpoint, and would mean the recognition of religion within society, if not in the life of the school. However, quite apart from the practical difficulties involved in implementation, it would still play on the fears of religious communities that what is demanded of their children is an adoption of syncretistic beliefs and no true examination of religious truths, and moreover, and that they are assimilated into mainstream, secular culture, rather than just integrated with it.

    As Wright and others have pointed out this creates the danger of marginalising minority religious communities within society. Faith based schools paid for by the public purse are also accountable to wider society, and as such they come under all the checks and balances which ensure inclusivity, tolerance, understanding of others and a respect for difference. This policy can still avert the attempts of certain fundamentalist groups strongly opposed to many commonly accepted liberal ideals from gaining public funding, while at the same time keeping offering faith communities the ability to nurture their children within their own traditions provided they ascribe to widely accepted norms of tolerance, acceptance of difference and so on.

    In quoting the personal experience of Baroness Uddin, he shows how Anglican Schools are inadvertently intolerant, for example, expecting all pupils should attend Church, that uniform codes may preclude religious and cultural principles of dress code. From my own experience, Anglican Church Schools are even in some way unintentionally intolerant of pupils from other Christian denominations. The Church of England Secondary School where I currently work has regular whole school, or whole house communion services, where children are encouraged to receive Holy Communion if they receive it in their own churches.

    Many Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox and even unbaptised or unconfirmed children of various Protestant traditions who, as a matter of conviction, do not go up for communion, while the rest of the school does, feel uncomfortable about this. Their difference is pointed out, and they can feel like outsiders in their own school community.