Doris Lessing on education

A conversation I keep having with colleagues is about indoctrination throughout the education system (and particularly in the context of  economics in secondary and tertiary education). I don’t recall being forced to think for myself or challenge received wisdom until I did my PhD. Problem solve, yes. Encouraged to challenge what I was taught, no. In fact, a large proportion (though not all) of my education before my PhD was simply absorbing and regurgitating, with little need for digestion. [tweetmeme source=”victoria_plumb” only_single=false]

This is why I was elated to stumble across this quote by Nobel Laureate Doris Lessing in her novel The Golden Notebook. Lessing has that enviable ability to say exactly what she means, exactly how it should be said. And, this is no exception…

“Ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly, throughout his or her school life is something like this: ‘You are in the process of being indoctrinated. We have not yet evolved a system of education that is not a system of indoctrination. We are sorry, but it is the best we can do. What you are being taught here is an amalgam of current prejudice and the choices of this particular culture. The slightest look at history will show how impermanent these must be. You are being taught by people who have been able to accommodate themselves to a regime of thought laid down by their predecessors. It is a self-perpetuating system. Those of you who are more robust and individual than others will be encouraged to leave and find ways of educating yourself — educating your own judgements. Those that stay must remember, always, and all the time, that they are being moulded and patterned to fit into the narrow and particular needs of this particular society.'”

I’d like to think I am the  ‘more robust individual…‘, for I fear that if I let myself believe I actually fell into the latter category, I imagine a panic attack would fairly rapidly commence.

4 Responses to “Doris Lessing on education”
  1. Antonio Dias says:

    Dwight Towers led me here. Can’t wait to look around some more.

  2. dwighttowers says:

    Thanks for the Lessing quote – love it! Here’s a post I did a while back that may be of interest. Especially of note is the amazing (no, seriously) Cynthia Peters essay “the boy next to me sings all the time”, which is linked to…

Check out what others are saying...
  1. […] is the point that Doris Lessing, quoted by another absurdly smart person, makes with her observation from The Golden Notebook- “Ideally, what should be said to every child, repeatedly, throughout his or her school life is […]

  2. […] relation to my last post on indoctrination I thought I’d share this quote, taken from the 18th century […]

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  • June 2011
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