indoctrinate - in American and British-English

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Hello everybody.

Reading a text, written by an American-English native speaker, that contained the word indoctrination it occured to me that this word is most likely used & understood differently by American and British native speakers.
More specifically, this text was about a series of seminars in an organization aiming at broadening everyone's acquaintance with their procedures in various areas of responsibility. Here's the part in question:
The aim of this course is to provide instructions in order to: (a) maintain or increase the staff knowledge in various areas, (b) offer a scheme of indoctrination for the inspection cycle, (c) propose a reference for sharing information [...]
Presumably because of having more British-English influence, when I read this part I thought that the usage of the word indoctrination in this context was erroneous or inappropriate.
Here's what Oxford dictionary (on-line) defines as indoctrinate:
Definition of indoctrinate
verb
[with object]

  • teach (a person or group) to accept a set of beliefs uncritically: broadcasting was a vehicle for indoctrinating the masses
  • archaic teach or instruct (someone): he indoctrinated them in systematic theology

And
here's the same definition from the Oxford Advanced Learner's Dictionary:
indoctrinate somebody (with something)| indoctrinate somebody (to do something) (disapproving)
to force somebody to accept a particular belief or set of beliefs and not allow them to consider any others: They had been indoctrinated from an early age with their parents' beliefs.
That last example suggests a connotation or usage very close to this recent article from The Gaurdian (from
here):
Thus, balls. While now, after years of football-fascination indoctrination, I can just about see their attraction on the AstroTurf or even in the garden, but they are nevertheless not allowed inside the house. Balls – balloons, rubber balls, bouncy balls – are a recipe for boy chaos and must therefore live on the lawn where they belong.
However, the on-line version of The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fifth Edition copyright ©2011, gives this definition:
in·doc·tri·nat·ed, in·doc·tri·nat·ing, in·doc·tri·nates
1.
To instruct in a body of doctrine or principles.
2. To imbue with a partisan or ideological point of view: children who had been indoctrinated against their parents' values.

thus leaving no room (especially the first meaning) to accepting or espousing ideas, beliefs, etc, either uncritically, or by coercion.

So that brings me to the following two questions: (a) do American and British native speakers really use this verb differently? (b) Wouldn't it be better to use the word induction instead, in the aforementioned text (of that organization)?

Thank you in advance.
 
  • Thank you Beryl for your reply.
    Good point. Unfortunately, I don't know. However, it seems to me that using "indoctrination" in that text, one is in line with the first meaning of the definition given by The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, don't you think so?
     

    Cagey

    post mod (English Only / Latin)
    English - US
    I wonder what an 'inspection cycle' is, and whether one is more likely to be indoctrinated or inducted for it.
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    This AE speaker's first reaction to induction is joining the military, and the second is related to internal combustion engines. I wouldn't expect "a scheme of induction for the inspection cycle" from an American.
     

    Beryl from Northallerton

    Senior Member
    British English
    Thank you Beryl for your reply.
    Good point. Unfortunately, I don't know. However, it seems to me that using "indoctrination" in that text, one is in line with the first meaning of the definition given by The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, don't you think so?
    Quite possibly, but the question is not mine to answer as I carry a BrE tag exemption. Do have the source? (Cross-posted)
     
    Quite possibly, but the question is not mine to answer as I carry a BrE tag exemption. Do have the source? (Cross-posted)
    It's an internal document; it's not posted nor published anywhere out of said organization. The rest of the text, I think, wouldn't shed more light. It could possibly induct us but not indoctrinate us, so to speak...:D

    Copyright said:
    Re: "indoctrinate'' in American and British-English
    This AE speaker's first reaction to induction is joining the military, and the second is related to internal combustion engines. I wouldn't expect "a scheme of induction for the inspection cycle" from an American.
    So, regarding my first question, American and British native speakers do use this verb differently, right?
     

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    Leaving aside the "scheme of indoctrination", which seems to puzzle everyone, from a quick look at various American sources I'd say that Br.E and U.S. use is the same . Do you have any examples of different use?
     

    se16teddy

    Senior Member
    English - England
    If you Google "indoctrination" at .mil sites, it is clear that US military jargon uses "indoctrination" in the sense of "induction". See for example this summary of "Aviation Preflight Indoctrination". http://www.netc.navy.mil/nascweb/api/api.htm I doubt that this is intended to connote "brainwashing". The US is not the only place where the military-industrial complex uses different language from its civilian neighbours!
     
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    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    Does the word 'indoctrinate' necessarily carry pejorative connotations (involving uncritical acceptance of a partisan view)?
    No. It may carry such connotations, but it may also be used to mean merely 'instruct in a specific doctrine'.

    As far as I know, there is no difference on this between American and British usage. This is confirmed if we compare the definition quoted above from the American Heritage Dictionary with that of Chambers English Dictionary (1990).

    American Heritage
    1. To instruct in a body of doctrine or principles.
    2. To imbue with a partisan or ideological point of view:
    children who had been indoctrinated against their parents' values.

    Chambers
    to instruct in any doctrine; to imbue with any opinion.

    Both these definitions include the two different meanings: (a) to instruct in a doctrine, (b) to make someone a partisan of a particular view.

    I understand 'A scheme of indoctrination for the inspection cycle' to mean: 'a method for teaching people the doctrine to be followed during the inspection cycle'.
    'The doctrine to be followed during the inspection cycle' would mean not just a set of rules, but a shared attitude and understanding belonging to the organisation: the rules plus a systematic common approach to implementing them.
    Once all participants are properly indoctrinated in this sense, then you would expect no serious differences of opinion about the interpretation or implementation of the rules.
     
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    Leaving aside the "scheme of indoctrination", which seems to puzzle everyone, from a quick look at various American sources I'd say that Br.E and U.S. use is the same . Do you have any examples of different use?
    As I explaned (or at least tried to) in my first post, The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language seems to suggest a more "relaxed", more "broad" usage of this word as compared to the Oxford Dictionary, whereas the latter appears to imply either a somewhat passive or inactive posture on the part of the student, pupil, or whoever receives the indoctrination (''accept a set of beliefs uncritically'' says the on-line version) or a sort of coercion (''to force somebody to accept a particular belief or set of beliefs and not allow them to consider any others'' as the Advanced Learner's version tells us).
    On the other hand, if so many native British-English speakers feel comfortable to make use of this word simply in the sense to 'instruct in a specific doctrine' excluding any kind of passive stance or enforcement then who I am to object to such usage? Nevertheless, if a ''figuritive'' or more ''relaxed'' usage is already accepted amongst today's British-English speakers then there must be something wrong (or at least missing) with the definition of Oxford Dictionary.
    If you Google "indoctrination" at .mil sites, it is clear that US military jargon uses "indoctrination" in the sense of "induction". See for example this summary of "Aviation Preflight Indoctrination". http://www.netc.navy.mil/nascweb/api/api.htm I doubt that this is intended to connote "brainwashing". The US is not the only place where the military-industrial complex uses different language from its civilian neighbours!
    Thanks for underlining this fact. Indeed, it looks like this jargon has been passed on to their football players. Here's an example (from this link):
    On Saturday, Greene will be on the field for his last Army-Navy game, becoming among the select few at either institution who will be able to say he played in four installments of the rivalry. Part of Greene’s responsibilities as a senior has been to indoctrinate his younger teammates on what to expect from one of college football’s most storied rivalries.
    As far as I know, there is no difference on this between American and British usage. This is confirmed if we compare the definition quoted above from the American Heritage Dictionary with that of Chambers English Dictionary (1990).
    I am afraid that this is not the case if we replace Chambers English Dictionary with the Oxford dictionaries I mentioned earlier. In any case, thanks for the comment and for clarifying its usage so profoundly.
     

    RM1(SS)

    Senior Member
    English - US (Midwest)
    This AE speaker's first reaction to induction is joining the military, and the second is related to internal combustion engines. I wouldn't expect "a scheme of induction for the inspection cycle" from an American.
    Ditto. I've never heard "induction" used in this way before.

    Looking at Merriam-Webster, I don't see how any of these definitions for "induction" fit into the OP's sentence.
     

    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    An inspection cycle suggests the context is a quality control/assurance situation. In such cases, procedures are written and approved (becoming the "doctrine") and must then be followed, by the inspectors following such procedures, absolutely and unquestioningly (i.e., uncritically). In this "neutral" use of the word, no "beliefs" or ideologies are "forced" into the head of the recipient, just a fixed behaviour for a specific function. Learning or acquiring any set of beliefs (religious or otherwise) can also be referred to as indoctrination with the same neutral meaning. The word has, however, been used frequently to refer to the forcible transfer of beliefs and behaviours to an involuntary subject. This is the pejorative form - but it's not, as I see it, an intrinsic part of the (original) meaning.
     
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    lucas-sp

    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    When my friend went off to a military "indoctrination" last year, I was surprised. To me, the word was always used in the sense of "steeping someone in / converting someone to an ideology." I had never seen it used as a neutral or positive synonym for "basic training" before.

    In my experience, the meaning of "teach or instruct" is much more rare than the other meaning - except for this particular use in the US military.
     

    Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    Perhaps the writer of the originally cited text really meant, and should have said, instruction?

    Certainly "indoctrination" carries negative political implications that seem entirely out of place in the (unhelpfully brief) text fragment.
     

    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    It seems that we have been "indoctinated by usage" to believe that indoctrination is always done to an unwilling recipeint. :eek:
    Not everyone, though. Peter Wright in Spycatcher regularly uses the term for when an agent is brought into the circle of those who know about some secret subject. He is then said to have been indoctrinated into that subject.
    Materials regarding that subject can only be circulated to those who have been indoctrinated in it.
    It seems to be a standard term in this sense in the intelligence services.
     
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    wandle

    Senior Member
    English - British
    Nevertheless, if a ''figuritive'' or more ''relaxed'' usage is already accepted amongst today's British-English speakers then there must be something wrong (or at least missing) with the definition of Oxford Dictionary.
    Well, that citation from the Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary is focussing only on the most common meaning of the term. It is not a complete definition and the OALD is not the definitive Oxford dictionary.

    As a matter of fact, the full Oxford English Dictionary online gives five meanings for 'indoctrinate':

    1. a. trans. To imbue with learning, to teach.
    b. To instruct in a subject, principle, etc.
    c. To imbue with a doctrine, idea, or opinion. spec. To imbue with Communist ideas, etc. (cf. indoctrination n.).
    d. To bring into a knowledge of something.

    2. To teach, inculcate (a subject, etc.). rare.

    Of these meanings, it seems that (1a), (1b), and (1d) are all treated as one by AHD and Chambers.
    Then they give (1c) as the second meaning and ignore (2) because it is so rare.

    Thus the broad division by AHD and Chambers into two meanings is effectually substantiated by the OED with its more precise subdivisions of meaning. Hence, I still take the view that American and British usage seems to be the same.
    Both these definitions [AHD and Chambers] include the two different meanings: (a) to instruct in a doctrine, (b) to make someone a partisan of a particular view.
     
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    JulianStuart

    Senior Member
    English (UK then US)
    It seems that we have been "indoctrinated by usage" to believe that indoctrination is always done to an unwilling recipeint. :eek:
    Not everyone, though. Peter Wright in Spycatcher regularly uses the term for when an agent is brought into the circle of those who know about some secret subject. He is then said to have been indoctrinated into that subject.
    Materials regarding that subject can only be circulated to those who have been indoctrinated in it.
    It seems to be a standard term in this sense in the intelligence services.
    I didn't mean all of us - the most insidious indoctrination is not perceived by the recipient. The neutral meaning is falling into the category of a less frequently used one that is almost a niche that many familiar only with the pejorative meaning are losing sight of/ have not heard of/ learn is archaic or used today only by "specialists".
     
    Well, that citation from the Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary is focussing only on the most common meaning of the term. It is not a complete definition and the OALD is not the definitive Oxford dictionary.

    As a matter of fact, the full Oxford English Dictionary online gives five meanings for 'indoctrinate':
    Thanks for pointing this out. Anyway, that (i.e. the fact that there were definitions missing) was another lesson learnt in the sense that the on-line versions of Oxford Dictionaries series are actually abridged editions.

    << reference to a subscription-only link removed >>
     
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    sound shift

    Senior Member
    English - England
    As a matter of fact, the full Oxford English Dictionary online gives five meanings for 'indoctrinate':
    b. To instruct in a subject, principle, etc.
    I have been trying to apply this definition to particular situations. Obviously, safety has always been of paramount importance on the railways. When my father worked for the railways (and doubtless the same applies today) the railways had clear safety principles and extensive procedures laid down in manuals. Those who had to go on the tracks most often had to do a course in safety. If a railway employee who had not done the course needed to go onto the tracks, he had to be accompanied by someone who had. I asked my father whether he could say that those who had done the course had been "indoctrinated" in the railway's safety principles. He replied that he could not. They had been trained but not indoctrinated. For him, "indoctrinated" has connotations of "against one's will" - as it does for me.
     
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