From the ancient Greek word διδάσκω (didáskō, “to teach”) we got διδασκαλία (did-as-kal-ee’-ah), referring to “that which is taught,” especially in the sense of practical teachings about how to live one’s life. By the 1300s this was Latinized as doctrina to refer to any body of teaching or systematic thought. By the 1500s the verb “indoctrine” was used to refer to teaching to imparting knowledge: more than just teaching isolated facts, however, to indoctrine was to expose someone to an entire interconnected system of knowledge. This eventually metamorphosed into “endoctrinate” and then “indoctrinate” as a verb meaning to “impart knowledge.”
The more sinister meaning of the word “indoctrinate”–to impose an opinion or worldview upon someone by force, coercion or brainwashing–is a relatively recent phenomenon that seems to have appeared only within the last 200 years. Even today, when you ask someone to explain the difference between “brainwashing” a young child and “teaching” a young child, the explanation usually boils down to a question of whether or not the person approves of the things being taught.
Theistic religions, especially the monotheistic Abrahamic cults (Christianity, Judaism and Islam), have a long history of being against the seeking of knowledge beyond what is found in their scriptures and religious texts. If you look back far enough, you even find evidence of religious opposition to written knowledge of any kind. It was Satan, the Devil, who was blamed for trying to get people to seek wisdom outside the walls of the church, or think original thoughts that were born from questioning standard assumptions. It was Satan, after all, who tempted man with the fruit of wisdom.
My own psueudonym, Penemue, is the name of a fallen angel in ancient folk mythology who led human being astray by teaching them how to write:
“The name of the fourth is Penemue: he discovered to the children of men bitterness and sweetness; And pointed out to them every secret of their wisdom. He taught men to understand writing, and the use of ink and paper. Therefore numerous have been those who have gone astray from every period of the world, even to this day.”
— The Book of Enoch
For religions, the distinction between teaching and indoctrination is truly irrelevant: all that matters is whether what is being taught agrees or disagrees with their own scriptures.
The Satanic Temple has launched a new program, the After School Satan Club, as an after school program for elementary and middle school students who want to have fun, sing songs, and learn about secular values and critical thinking. They are specifically targeting schools that already have a “Good News Club” program: an after school club that indoctrinates children with Christianity.
Are Satanists trying to indoctrinate your children? You bet we are! We will indoctrinate them with a feeling of empowerment! We will indoctrinate them with the beauty of song! We will indoctrinate them with an understanding of critical thinking! And we will indoctrinate them with the joy of scientific inquiry and learning!
We will impart doctrina, secular cultural wisdom of the ages, upon your children.
Your brow is furrowing with skepticism, and I don’t blame you. Of course this is a little bit tongue in cheek. We are making mischief with the word “indoctrinate” here, because there isn’t a single sane person today who would say that a math teacher “indoctrinates” children with mathematics, or that a music teacher “indoctrinates” children with songs. But Satanists love to play the role of Loki once in a while, and make a little mischief.
This is the sleight of hand you are looking for: Religious organizations should not be in elementary schools in the first place. This is a fundamental cornerstone of our own religious beliefs as Satanists. In the best possible world, we would not need to have our religion represented in elementary schools because no religion would be represented in elementary schools.
But as long as The Good New Club exists to indoctrinate children with one point of view, those children must have other religious options. It is both constitutionally and legally mandatory that Satanism be allowed equal opportunity with Christianity. So here we stand, an apple in one hand and a pen in the other, ready to impart our wisdom along side the Christians in elementary schools across the country.
Do we want to indoctrinate little kids? Not really, no.
But as long as kids are being indoctrinated anyway, they need to have more options to choose from than they currently have.