- there is a truth that cannot be questioned
- there is no real choice in what a student learns about
- you can be punished for failure to attend school
- you will learn by being told
- there are official sacred books that everyone must know
What are the sacred books of our schools? Shakespeare, Dickens, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Great Gatsby, are some of them.
What truths cannot be questioned? Algebra teaches you to think. You must know science to have a job in the 21st century. All of U.S. history as depicted in textbooks.
Educators call this an indoctrination approach to education, which is often phrased as “teaching students what to think” – an approach Shank clearly loathes. However, he is correct in describing some aspects of religious or confessional education in that way. But it is an overstatement to characterize all confessional education as indocrinational. In the Bible college milieu, we preferred a doctrinal formation approach to education – something more akin to the phrase, “teaching students how to think.” As a result, our curriculum included biblical studies, liberal arts, and social sciences – all deeply guided by principles and practices of critical thinking. Our teaching strategies also included dialogue, group work, constructivist approaches, and lecture.
So my point is that confessional education does demonstrate learning through questioning, choice, openness to other perspectives and learning how to think. Could secular education ever find a way to express such openness to the perspectives of religion (i.e. the confessional worldview), especially when studying sciences and literature? Will secular education ever realize its own practices of indoctrination of students? Perhaps if they take Shank’s advice:
School ought to be a place where open minds can explore. This doesn't happen because schools are simply the places where modern day religious instruction can be found. (It is a very odd religion -- one in which Shakespeare, Archimedes, Fermat, Descartes, Millville, and George Washington are gods.)