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The indoctrination debates have been a key feature of the philosophy of education over the past 50 years. While it is generally acknowledged that the pejorative associations of indoctrination only emerged over the last 100 years, those normative associations are widely taken to be an essential part of the concept itself as are the positive connotations of education. I explore some of the problems of assuming that the term must refer to something negative and the essentialism that this implies. The attempt to ‘transvaluate’ indoctrination results in the claim that the concept is virtually indistinguishable from education. Drawing on Ivan Snook's Indoctrination and Education, I examine several candidates for indoctrination to show that the pejorative label is not a good fit. I argue that much of what is framed as indoctrination turns out to be either impossible–implausible or necessary–inevitable; the fact that there is scarcely a gap between these extremes should give us pause to wonder about this term and its relation to education: By providing a term for those influences of which we generally disapprove, does the concept of indoctrination act as a way for educationalists to uphold and protect the normative view of education (that education must aim for something intrinsically worthwhile)?. This paper forms part of a Special Issue entitled ‘Beyond Virtue and Vice: Education for a Darker Age’ in which the editors invited authors to engage in exercises of ‘transvaluation’. Certain apparently settled educational concepts (from agency and fulfilment to alienation and ignorance) can be reinterpreted and transvaluated (in a Nietzschean vein) such that virtues become vices, and vices, virtues. The editors encouraged authors to employ polemics and some occasional exaggeration to reimagine educational values that are all too readily accepted within contemporary educational discourses.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)612-626
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Philosophy of Education
Issue number4
Early online date26 Jul 2022
Publication statusPublished - 26 Jul 2022


  • beliefs
  • philosophy of education
  • ideology


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