There are many challenges to a democracy, but education has to be one of the most important. Everything begins with education, specifically as it relates to enculturation and indoctrination. Here is an article from The Guardian that touches upon one aspect of this, although it isn’t as thorough as I’d prefer:
The dark side of home schooling: creating soldiers for the culture war
The Christian home school subculture isn’t a children-first movement. Some former students are bravely speaking out
By Katherine Stewart
The point of the article is in the conclusion:
“The fundamentalist home schooling world also advocates an extraordinarily authoritarian view of the parental role. Corporal punishment is frequently encouraged. The effects are, again, often quite devastating. “People who experienced authoritarian parents tend to turn into adults with poor boundaries,” writes one pseudonymous HA blogger. “It’s an extremely unsatisfying and unsustainable way to live.”
“In America, we often take for granted that parents have an absolute right to decide how their children will be educated, but this leads us to overlook the fact that children have rights, too, and that we as a modern society are obligated to make sure that they get an education. Families should be allowed to pursue sensible homeschooling options, but current arrangements have allowed some families to replace education with fundamentalist indoctrination.
“As the appearance of HA reminds us, the damage done by this kind of false education falls not just on our society as a whole, but on the children who are pumped through the ideology machine. They are the traumatized veterans of our culture wars. We should listen to their stories, and support them as they find their way forward.”
This is put into context with a comment to the article and another comment responding to it:
the consequences of putting ideology over children include anxiety, depression, distrust of authority, and issues around sexuality.
“This is bad, but it’s not really necessary for a condemnation of the religious home schooling movement. After all, mainstream education can produce these effects too. It is enough that children are being lied to and deliberately manipulated for the purpose of engineering society.
“Should attendance at state approved schools be mandatory? It may be the only way to prevent this kind of brainwashing.
“Incidentally, why is the piece illustrated with a picture of a house in Cleveland?”
“Yeah, it’s those damn lefties in Kansas that are trying to get creationism pushed into science classes at public schools. And those lefties in Texas that are trying to rewrite the historical record to suggest the Founding Fathers didn’t envision a secular society. Oh, wait, it’s actually right wing lunatics trying to re-shape the educational curriculum in this country. That’s right.”
The problem isn’t homeschooling or any particular activity, rather particular tendencies that can undermine society in an infinite areas and in infinite ways. The same people who want to use homeschooling for indoctrination also want to use public schools for indoctrination. These are dangerous people. They are dangerous to democracy when they gain power and influence.
The danger with fundamentalism is complex. I don’t want to blame conservatives, but conservatives have become complicit with this problem by aligning themselves with fundamentalists and hence aligning themselves with right-wing authoritarians and social dominance types. This wasn’t inevitable. It was a choice made by movement conservatives and Republican elites. They made this Devil’s Bargain because it gained them immense power.
The bigger issue is that now we all have to deal with this problem. Indoctrination is a dangerous road to go down. It only takes a small group of well indoctrinated children to grow up to create a movement that could destroy democracy and take over the country. Before the masses can be indoctrinated, first a small vanguard must be indoctrinated. Indoctrination can never be taken lightly. It was a small movement in the beginning that took over Italy, Germany, Russia and China. Is our democracy strong enough to resist a totalitarian takeover? I doubt it.
I’m fine with homeschooling, but we better think twice before we let children be brainwashed. It doesn’t matter who is doing the brainwashing and for what purpose. It doesn’t matter if it is right-wing or left-wing, although we shouldn’t ignore the fact that this danger is at the moment coming from right-wing fundamentalists. We should consider carefully why this is the case.