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Post Instilling Values, Persuading, Brainwashing
Created by John Eipper on 11/13/17 4:26 AM

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Instilling Values, Persuading, Brainwashing (Istvan Simon, USA, 11/13/17 4:26 am)

Regarding JE's question if my son's historical play was part of "Reacting to the Past" series, I do not know. The company that moderated the presentation of the play did not have this in its name.

John Eipper also commented on my post that the "goal of the 5th-grade play was nation building." One could say that the aim is to instill American values in our children, but there is nothing wrong with teaching history and our values. The point of my post was that this was not accomplished by a bunch of empty slogans, but something that invited independent thoughtful questioning about our history.

The British, for example, were not vilified. The Boston Tea Party was presented fairly, and its point "no taxation without representation" has its lessons for today's GOP "tax reform" being debated in Congress as we speak, which is nothing less than giving huge tax breaks for the most privileged and richest segment of our society--people like Secretary of Commerce Ross, who keeps much of his billions in off-shore tax havens, and who kept his Russian business interests intact, or President Trump, this disgraceful politician, who paid no income taxes for 20 years on completely fraudulent tax loopholes. By so doing these billionaires of the Trump administration left to much less wealthy people like me the support of our military, the building of roads, the funding of the government, etc. Yet Trump has the audacity to wrap himself in the flag, whipping up controversy over the First Amendment rights of Colin Kaepernick and other NFL football players, who decided to "take a knee" during the performance of the National Anthem in NFL games, to call attention to the routine frequent murders of our black citizens by the police.

No, we do not need fake "patriots" like Ross and Trump. We need patriots that pay taxes like me, or even bigger true patriots like retired Marine General Michael Sullivan and many other military WAISers who served our country, and risked their lives in doing so.

My son's play had the goal of teaching our history and values, but it sought to do so by persuading, not by brainwashing. If I may insist on an analogy, I do the same in teaching mathematics and computer science in my classes. Any good science teacher has the goal to teach the truth of science, but we do not do so by appeal to authority or blind faith. The burden of proof is on us to persuade, not to brainwash. We welcome being challenged in any aspect of our teaching. We invite our students to challenge the truths we are teaching, to try to disprove the statements we are teaching. We persuade; we don't brainwash.

I would like to bring up one more analogy. Because I play the violin I have been invited by many churches to perform during religious services in churches of various denominations. I am not a religious person, so for me there is a certain "price" to be paid by my playing at these events--the price of having to endure the religious services while waiting for my turn at music. One of these events was at the Presbyterian Church in Pleasanton, California. At this service, we performed the sublime "Ave Verum Corpus" by Mozart, a motet that I deeply love.

This Church is so wealthy that they have not one but several pastors who took part in the service. One of them was the youth pastor and his "teaching" of children was what I would call brainwashing. He kept saying Jesus wants you to do this and that, and every second word of his was Jesus. While he was engaged in his "teaching," I kept silently thinking, "how do you know what Jesus wants us to do? Did you get a telephone call from Jesus?" Then came the turn of the main pastor and he gave a sermon about the greatness of Joseph, for accepting that his wife Mary had a child without his active participation. Now here was something I could relate to. As much as I hated the youth pastor's"teaching," I loved the main pastor's sermon. One invited reflection and thought. The other blind unthinking faith.

JE comments:  Istvan Simon draws a clear line between instilling values and brainwashing.  Some might see the distinction in fuzzier terms.  Take the Pledge of Allegiance as an example.  I intoned it as a child without knowing what it meant.  Why is the US "indivisible," and what are the historical and present-day implications of the adjective?  And how about the "under God" part?  No one in my elementary school was encouraged to question these concepts.


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  • Instilling Values vs Brainwashing, and the Jesuits (John Heelan, UK 11/14/17 5:28 AM)
    Commenting on Istvan Simon's interesting post of 13 November, JE reflected that Istvan drew a "clear line between instilling values and brainwashing. Some might see the distinction in fuzzier terms."

    Me for one. I suggest the objective of brainwashing is to instill the values required by the ruling hegemony (outstandingly reported by George Zhibin Gu about life as a child in Maoist China-see George's post of 13 November). Gramsci taught us that "by Hegemony the ruling class can manipulate the value system and mores of a society, so that their view becomes the world view (Weltanschauung): in Terry Eagleton's words, "Gramsci normally uses the word hegemony to mean the ways in which a governing power wins consent to its rule from those it subjugates." In contrast to authoritarian rule, cultural hegemony "is hegemonic only if those affected by it also consent to and struggle over its common sense."


    As a cradle Roman Catholic, I was indoctrinated (in the literal sense of the word) from the age of seven (taught by nuns), schooled (taught by priests), regular communicant (desired values reinforced on a weekly basis by parish priests) until I reached my mid-thirties, when I started to question things and became agnostic. That said, the brainwashed values persist, reminding me of the Jesuit boast, "Give me the child for his first seven years, and I'll give you the man." There is truth in that boast. I often contemplate whether I will have enough self-confidence to resist taking Pascal's Wager when the time comes. One wonders how many Muslims dying with "Allahu Akbar" on their lips are disappointed with the outcome.


    JE comments: Yes, there are no atheists in foxholes. I've pointed this out before, but one brilliant move by US hegemons was the ERISA (Employee Retirement Income Security Act) act of 1974. By privatizing the retirement accounts of most of the nation, it forced virtually everyone into cheering for the capitalist, bourgeois order.  Skin in the game.


    Today is Weltanschauung Day on WAIS (see José Manuel de Prada, and now John Heelan).  Wunderbar!


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    • Brainwashing vs Persuasion (Istvan Simon, USA 11/17/17 10:11 AM)
      John Heelan (November 14) may be right about being brainwashed by his Catholic upbringing, but I don't see why he says that he sees the line between brainwashing and persuasion in fuzzier terms than I did.

      I don't see any contradiction or distinction between his "fuzzy line" or the sharp line that (according to JE) I drew. To my mind they are the same line. The line is simple and not at all fuzzy. Brainwashing is whatever method is used that relies on authority or one-sided arguments instead of persuasion by reason alone. Persuasion invites reasoning, logic and challenge so it is not brainwashing. Anything else is.


      JE comments: Is it the scientific vs humanist perspective?  Or am I just a fuzzy guy?  The best and most effective brainwashing cloaks itself in the mantle of persuasion based on logic.  This is the whole notion of "cultural hegemony"--you're brainwashed without knowing it.

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