Date of Award

Spring 2008

Project Type


Program or Major


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

First Advisor

Barbara E Houston


Peace Education courses, as well as others that teach marginalized values and beliefs (e.g., race relations, queer studies, and feminist studies) are particularly vulnerable to the charge of indoctrination. This allegation is political rather than scholarly and it is not clear what precisely teachers of such subjects are being accused of doing or trying to do. However, the charge is powerful enough to prevent such courses from being offered at public schools and universities and to remove them when they are already part of the curriculum. To provide teachers and schools the confidence to take on these marginalized and controversial courses, we need a conception of indoctrination that meets the following purposes: (1) allows us to better understand and respond to the persistent pejorative connation of the word, (2) enables us to identify indoctrinary endeavors when they occur, and (3) guides us in developing educational programs that help avoid it.

Existing conceptions of indoctrination are critically examined. It is argued that, while I.A. Snook's intentional analysis is the most promising in meeting the purposes of this work as stated above, his analysis does not go far enough to encourage teachers to, not only reflect on what student outcomes they hope to achieve, but what outcomes they are likely to achieve given their efforts in class and the particular school context in which they work. Further, it is argued that none of the prior conceptions address the possibility that schools (i.e., the policies, practices, traditions, goals, curriculum, decision-making structures, etc.) as well as individual teachers may be agents of indoctrination.

Cheryl Misak's pragmatic conception of truth is examined for its usefulness in providing a notion of indoctrination that prompts teachers and schools to seriously consider how their educational endeavors shape the manner in which students come to hold their beliefs. It is concluded that an intentional analysis of indoctrination, defined in terms of a Misakian notion of truth-seeking inquiry, allows us to adequately respond to charges of indoctrination and know what steps to take to diminish the likelihood of engaging in indoctrination.