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Teaching for Commitment: Liberal Education, Indoctrination, and Christian Nurture [Paperback]

Elmer John Thiessen
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Book Description

Oct. 20 1993
Thiessen calls for reconstruction of the Enlightenment ideal of liberal education from which the charge of indoctrination typically arises. He argues that liberal education necessarily builds on nurture and therefore needs to be more sensitive to the traditions into which a child is initiated. The ideals of autonomy, rationality, and critical openness - all closely related to the ideal of liberal education - need to be modified if they are to be both realistic and philosophically defensible. Once this is done it can be seen that confessional religious education without indoctrination is possible. Teaching for Commitment is an interdisciplinary study covering the fields of religion, philosophy, epistemology, ethics, and education. The very practical nature of the problem being examined, and Thiessen's straightforward and non-technical presentation, will be of interest to parochial and public school boards, teachers, and parents, as well as religious institutions, educationalists, and philosophers of education.

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"Adds an essential but overlooked dimension to the ongoing discussion of indoctrination through a detailed analysis of the institutional context of indoctrination ... This book will help fill a regrettable gap in both the scholarly and the public discussions of indoctrination and its implications for the practice of religious education in the home and the school ... It will not settle debates; but it can raise the level of the discussion by stimulating reconsideration of entrenched positions on all sides of the debates." Noel Shuell, Faculty of Education, Memorial University. "Thiessen makes a significant contribution to the debate concerning religious education by systematically answering the accusations of indoctrination through a thorough analysis of the terminology used." Spencer Boudreau, Department of Religion and Philosophy in Education, McGill University.

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By Alhie
This Canadian philosopher of education, in his McGill University PhD dissertation, provides everyone interested pro and con confessional education with a thorough analysis and critique of the data and arguements on both sides of this debate. In his insightful philosophical but readible discussion he deals candidly with the charge that education provided in a faith-based perspective constitutes religious indoctrination. He carefully reviews the history and essential nature of liberal education, the scientific ideal, the ideals of rationality, autonomy, critical openness and democracy as the context of the charge of religious indoctrination.

He concludes, "If by indoctrination we mean the curtailment of a person's growth toward normal rational autonomy, it should be obvious that this is possible to avoid also in Christian nurture" (p. 241-2).

Thankfully a majority of voting members of the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada (AUCC) have recognized this reality in the past few decades. Sadly, a majority of voting members of the Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) have refused to recognize this reality to date.

Perhaps if more CAUT leaders were to read and digest this work and Thiessen's 2001 follow-up study, CAUT leaders might gain some enlightenment on this debate. Both studies are surely "must-reads" for polemicists on all sides of this debate, as well as readers who want to be informed on the issues.Teaching for Commitment
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