No, that’s not a typo. We’ll get to why that is so in a bit, but in the meantime, I am still coming to grips with the fact that I have, it seems, been indoctrinated without my knowledge.

Oh, I can hear some of you out there saying, “Well, duh, Robb! You didn’t notice that you’re kind of woke?” I guess I was once again way ahead of my time, for my “wokeness” arrived all the way back in the early 1980s when I went to college. It was there that I learned that we’re all different and that we all come from different places and have different journeys and different destinations. We aren’t and have never been, carbon copies.

Yet, there’s all this brouhaha from the self-righteous that indoctrination is a bad thing. It wasn’t always.

Let’s jump into the old-time machine and travel back to the 17th century. We’re in the Maternity Word, the place where words are born. It’s time to welcome docēre into the world. It’s Latin for “to teach.” Words like document, docile and even doctor (now you get the headline) all came from docēre. Oh, and there’s one more offspring, “indoctrination.”

For two centuries, indoctrination meant “to teach.” Nothing more, nothing less. Then somewhere in the 19th century, people started to bastardize it to suit their own agendas. The seemingly innocuous “indoctrination” was transported to the dark side. It began to mean “being taught to fully accept only the ideas, opinions, and beliefs of a particular group.”

Words are like that. People find a new favorite, like “woke,” and decide to use it for their own gain, usually in the name of political power, education or religion.

I know something about this topic. I was indoctrinated in my youth, as most children are. I was a good little Christian boy who attended church every Sunday, went to Sunday School after mass and then, if that weren’t enough indoctrination, consumed a large portion of summer vacation with religious instruction.

What did I learn there? Whatever the priest or nun told me to learn. Religion isn’t a place for open discussion or the introduction of new ideas. You never want to sit in a religious share circle and question different parts of The Bible that not only don’t match recorded history but seem pretty outlandish.

Let me stop for a moment and say I’m not here to piss on anyone’s religious beliefs. I am only talking about my own journey of indoctrination, not the journey of others.

If we are sticking to the modern definition of indoctrination, then we would have to say that religion is really good at it. If you are unwilling to be indoctrinated, then you are labeled a heretic, unworthy of God’s love and ostracized by the true believers.

Sure, they may try to bring you back to the fold, even saying they forgive you for your transgressions and momentary lapse of faith. What happened to that do not judge lest you be judged part?

Then there’s society’s primary indoctrination machine—public schools. Schools are where impressionable kids go to learn to be good Americans. We learn all about the Founding Fathers, Western Expansionism, the Louisiana Purchase, and the Civil War, when good won out over evil.

Funny that we didn’t spend a lot of time on the less-than-stellar history of our nation. We whitewashed (in more ways than one) the theft of lands from Native Americans who had inhabited them for thousands of years. The internment of Americans in WWII prison camps comes to mind; Americans who just happened to be of Japanese ancestry, were thrown into prison camps, their property seized without due process. And, of course, the beating of peaceful marchers in Selma who just wanted to be able to vote, just like the white folk.

Part of the beauty of “teaching to the test” is that you can stick with all the happy highlights of our complex history because any of the ugly stuff isn’t covered in the tests anyway. Rather than give students the tools they need to think for themselves, and, more importantly, think critically, we are instead turning schools into Jeopardy games where the teacher will give you the right answer, and all you need to do is match it up with the right question.

The brilliance of teaching to the test is that we crank out generations of mindless drones who don’t have the skills to question their leaders or the status quo. Students no longer know how to conduct original research, separate fact from fiction, and create new information from what they have researched, pondered and proffered. They simply regurgitate what they were told, just like they were taught to do in church.

Critical thinking allows us to find our own truth. Facts are incontrovertible. If any are open to interpretation, they are opinions, not facts. Whitewashing history so we feel better about ourselves isn’t going to change the facts. It just makes us ignorant, especially when we try to sell something that runs contrary to basic, verifiable facts.

Banning books, eliminating the bad parts of our history, or passing laws to make us feel better about the color of our skin isn’t going to move us forward. It will move us backward to a past where we focused on our small differences, not our overwhelming similarities.

I, for one, am glad I don’t live in a state that continues to regress in the education of our future leaders. If anything, Washington State is going in the opposite direction. Go ahead and use some stupid “woke” trope if you feel this is too scary. But our state not only wants you to read what you want in a library but also wants you to understand the journeys of your friends and family.

To that end, the legislature passed a new law that requires schools to create new curricula that teach the perspectives and experiences of historically marginalized groups. This includes updated learning standards that include the histories, perspectives, and contributions of LGBTQ+ people, as well as those of diverse socioeconomic backgrounds, racial and ethnic groups, and those with disabilities.

Imagine that. Teaching children to learn about others and to understand from an early age that we all aren’t carbon copies of one another. That we are each different, and that difference is what makes us so amazing! We don’t have to feel bad because we’re different. That’s the bloody point. We all didn’t get the same breaks growing up, and we don’t all get the same breaks as adults. Some of us get the wheat, while others get the chaff. That doesn’t mean that one has value, and one doesn’t.

We all know that “teaching to the test” was a huge failure. It was indoctrination in its finest form. Like remembering passages in The Bible without understanding what they mean. Let’s stop buying into the scam where learning about others, understanding their journeys and showing compassion and empathy for others is some kind of “woke” indoctrination. That’s political and/or religious hokum that someone is trying to sell you.

To all the states that fear free thinkers and critical thought – Georgia, Arkansas, Florida, Alabama, Texas, et. al – I hope you ban this RobZerrvation from your borders. Oh, wait! You can’t! It’s on the Internet! And your kids are bound to find it, especially if it’s blacklisted (wait, can you still use that term?).

Somewhere north of the Emerald City, reading my Pirate Bible, trying to figure out where all the water came from in the Great Flood,

  • Robb