Educational philosophy and theory vol:38 issue:6 pages:723-743
An ideal of education is to ensure that our children develop into autonomous critical thinkers. The 'indoctrination objection,' however, calls into question whether education, aimed at cultivating autonomous critical thinkers, is possible. The core of the concern is that since the young child lacks even modest capacities for assessing reasons, the constituent components of critical thinking have to be indoctrinated if there is to be any hope of the child’s attaining the ideal. Our primary objective is to defuse this objection. We argue, first, that even if the indoctrination objection can be dealt with at the level of beliefs by an account that distinguishes between beliefs instilled in the child at the non-rational stage that are indoctrinative and those that are non-indoctrinative, there can be non-autonomous 'proto critical thinkers' who lack autonomy with respect to the requisite motivational components. We then ask what must be added to the account to ensure that proto critical thinkers develop into autonomous ones. We suggest that motivational elements, even if instilled at a stage at which the child has insufficiently developed cognitive capacities, can be 'truly the child’s own' only relationally: the autonomous motivational elements are ones with respect to which the future child is self-governing.