BTN is hardly an innocent selling toothpaste

Hijacking the mind and feelings of a particular race for the purpose of consolidating power is so openly propagated that a realization of how individuals or groups can be deliberately primed for a malicious political purpose is simply paralyzing.

By CT Wong (CPI)

Anecdotal evidence points to the Biro Tata Negara (BTN) courses being nothing more than doses of racist poison while at the same time, its proponents defend them as “nothing wrong”. Alongside the debate on course content, we need to critically look into what really is indoctrination and whether the method is effective.

Although the misgivings were kpet under the lid for years, the BTN participants who are our civil servants and students could clearly sense that something was wrong with the teaching or ‘patriotic education’.

So how to distinguish indoctrination and its concept and practice?

Max Hocutt, the emeritus professor of philosophy at the University of Alabama defined indoctrination as this: “ You were indoctrinated if you were told only one side of the story, or told that believing another side would not be an error but an evil.

“You were indoctrinated if no evidence was cited, or if evidence was tendentiously selected while contrary evidence was ignored, suppressed, or distorted by misleading or charged terminology.

“You were indoctrinated if you were made to feel not that the proposition merited belief on its own account but that doubting it would expose you to the disfavour of your fellows, the government, or the deity.

“In short, you were indoctrinated if the appeal was emotional rather than rational, or if your agreement was secured by threat of force or by fraud rather than by citation of fact.”

This means that you are banned from questioning whatever beliefs were being inculcated. Was this what happened with BTN?

Some social scientists go so far as to argue that indoctrination, even if the content is unquestionably moral, yet produces psychological, moral or ethical cripples. Crippling results when the reflective capacities of the persons involved are arrested or inhibited.

However, the real danger of indoctrination lies not so much in the mass manufacture of ‘moral’ robots or moral dwarfs but in the suppression of conscience in times of crises. The indoctrinated individual can easily become a bystander, accomplice or willing executioner in a system with unequal power differentials.

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