Monthly Archives: February 2012

12 Ways To Tell If Your College Is An Indoctrination Mill.

Cult directions

Did Your College Indoctrinate You? Share Your Stories!

On Thursday, Rick Santorum warned us that colleges and universities are “indoctrination mills” that turn the faithful into the faithless. He cited a thought reformation rate of 62 percent.

With a rate this high, we must all know at least one person who lost their faith in college! The indoctrination techniques that are being used in this broad-based conspiracy must be serious psychological tactics, the kind of tactics used by cults.

Therefore, I’m looking for anecdotes of college/university indoctrination or attempts at indoctrination. As a helpful guide, I went to for some insight on what the cults do. If colleges and universities are using these same techniques, I think this could be a good place to find clues that may indicate that you or someone you know were indoctrinated while in college. I’ve adapted the following list from the article, staying as close to the article’s descriptions as I could.


1. If you (or someone you know) were tricked into going to college and committing to a lifestyle that you didn’t understand, were misled about the true expectations of the college, and had your consciousness altered by the college through meditation, chanting, or drug use, you may have been indoctrinated.

2. If the college cut you off from the outside world or did not allow you to have unsupervised contact with the outside world, kept you from talking to other new recruits, and told you that outsiders are dangerous and wrong, you may have been indoctrinated.

3. If the college demanded absolute, unquestioning devotion, loyalty and submission and systematically destroyed your sense of self, you may have been indoctrinated.

4. If the college controlled every minute of your waking time, allowing you no free time to think or analyze, you may have been indoctrinated.

5. If the college told you what to eat, what to wear, when to sleep and did not allow you to make any decisions, you may have been indoctrinated.

6. If the college devalued and criticized your special talents; if it punished doubts, assertiveness, or remaining ties to the outside world through criticism, guilt, and alienation; if it made you feel evil for asking questions; you may have been indoctrinated.

7. If the college kept you hungry, sleepy, off-balance and confused, you may have been indoctrinated.

8. If the college pressured you to publicly confess sins and then viciously ridiculed you for being evil but accepted you back when you acknowledged devotion to the college as the only path to salvation, you may have been indoctrinated.

9. If you feel like your only family is the college and you have nowhere else to go, you may have been indoctrinated.

10. If you can only access necessities through the college and you are denied food, water, social interaction, a toilet*, and protection from the outside world if you misbehave, you may have been indoctrinated.

11. If you believe you will face eternal damnation if you leave the college, you may have been indoctrinated.

12. If you thought you could leave the college but you never did because college is the only place that feels safe and leaving just feels wrong and you are still experiencing these indoctrinating tactics because indoctrination never ends but you’ve accepted this as normal – it’s too late, you’ve been indoctrinated.

I hope this list is helpful. Personally I have not experienced any of these things but perhaps I somehow escaped it!

If you have an indoctrination story, please share. If we are to save ourselves, our children and our country from indoctrination, we will need to have some idea of what the experience might be like.

* didn’t mention a toilet. I added that part because any college that would deny necessities like food and water would surely also deny a toilet. I think.

Image: Cult directions by kevin dooley, on Flickr

Security through Obscurity


There was a time when computer programmers on IBM’s midrange platform joked about “security through obscurity.” The data and programs were safe mainly because so few people knew how to get into them. Even if a hacker found a way to connect, the platform architecture was unique and the boxes were priced out of reach for the hacker demographic, preventing experimentation.

The low-hanging fruit for the hackers was on a different platform, machines running Microsoft’s Windows. They knew those machines well enough.

And so programmers didn’t worry as much about security on the IBM midrange machines as the programmers on other, better-known machines did. The lack of public knowledge served for purposes of security and virus prevention.

There was a downside to obscurity though. The midrange programmers watched as sales of their machine stagnated and companies switched to the more popular Windows based systems in spite of security concerns. The job market for midrange programmers shrank and wages fell.

Obscurity turned out to be just another word for unpopular.

Image: “Cavern carved by the sea in an ice wall near Commonwealth Bay, 1911-1914”
Source: State Library of New South Wales

Armed and Parenting


An informal scan of the Internet last weekend suggested that a whole lotta American parents have had it up to here!

A visibly frustrated dad who’d had his feelings stung by a secret Facebook post from his teen daughter had decided to teach her a lesson by shooting her laptop. He made a video of the lecture and subsequent laptop execution by firing squad of one.

The thing went viral and millions watched. Judging by the comments there was much applause and approval, so much approval that an unscientific survey garnered 74% thumbs up from about 93,000 respondents.

As usual with a quickyfix, there were unintended consequences – the police came to his door with a social worker, he’s gotten unwanted attention, people are harassing him on the Internet, and who knows what his employer thinks.

It doesn’t matter. Millions of frustrated American parents seemed to love his quickyfix approach.

Lacking any kind of formal parenting training, pressed to the limit by the demands of modern lifestyles, many parents fall back to an easy show of force over thoughtful consideration of what the child really needs, virtually guaranteeing that their problems will be temporarily driven into the shadows only to reemerge when the quickyfix breaks down.

Our society looks to formal education for driving, personal finance, and even to some degree for gun handling, but to suggest parenting classes can be considered an insult. And that’s too bad because our parents are frustrated and our kids deserve better.

It’s All Part of a Pattern

Cassiopeia A: Cassiopeia A in Many Colors

Humans are pattern detection machines.

We’ve evolved everything we needed to detect the patterns that mattered to our survival and reproduction. Our brains assemble the patterns to create our reality.

Then our minds match the patterns up to meaningful heuristics that are already stored in the brain. Patterns are nothing without meaning so we search for meaning.

If we’ve already learned a meaning for a pattern, great! We match the pattern to the meaning.

If we haven’t learned a meaning, we search. Or, dangerously, we misapply a different meaning.

It is meaning that is the most important. Wisdom is born from the accumulation of correct meanings.

Image from Flickr Commons: Cassiopeia A: Cassiopeia A in Many Colors by Smithsonian Institution

Will You Guard My Hoard, Dragon?


If you saw my parent’s pantry, you might suspect they have a tendency to hoard food. I have a hoarder trait too, I hoard knowledge. Every form of it. I can not read enough, view enough, learn enough.

My home is cluttered with paper – books, magazines, even bills and receipts. My email boxes are full, my computer’s desktop cluttered, my folders filled with files, my browser packed with bookmarks bearing URLs.

My head is exploding. It’s more than I can use. I find myself astonished when I encounter someone who doesn’t know something I know. I remind myself that they aren’t as dysfunctional as I am.

I try to share, every chance I get. I want people to know the things I know, maybe then I won’t feel so alone and out there. Because there has to be a purpose to all this acquisition.

I’m not a genius. I don’t wow people with my accumulated knowledge. Mostly I’m a pest. I point things out, I try to make people think, to expand their point of view. It’s annoying for most of them, I’m quite sure. Some shut me out, shut me down. Precious are the few who listen to me anyway. I’m not sure if my sharing adds anything to anyone’s life.

I hope it does.

I recharge and flail, hoping to strike sparks from the friction. The wood drills, the tinder is damp, warmth and illumination are all I seek.

Image: spark by Fatma S, on Flickr

It Was All Too Complicated To Understand, part 3

The Lady and the Tiger, 11/07/1917

“The odds that your vote will actually affect the outcome of a given election are very, very, very slim.” – New York Times, “Why Vote” by Freakonomics authors Stephen J. Dubner and Steven D. Levitt

Politicians understand the value of Over-Simplified Solutions for Over-Complicated Problems too.

Because of slim odds, a large segment of the voting age population doesn’t even bother to vote. Yet across the country, politicians would have us believe that the odds are not so slim that mobs of coordinated criminals would willingly line up to commit felonies and risk prison in the hope that their illegal vote could sway an election.

In my state of Wisconsin and in some other states, politicians sold a Voter ID Bill as the simple solution to the over-hyped problem of voter fraud, despite a near complete absence of cases of fraud that might have been thwarted by the bill.

There was no evidence that the problem actually existed. Laws already existed to address it, should it ever actually happen.

The real result is that politicians have managed to create an additional barrier, raising the bar to voting enough to allow 89% of the national population to easily clear it, potentially culling some 3.2 million Americans from election day polls.

This certainly simplifies things for the politicians. They now have fewer voters to bother with or care about.

Image – The Lady and the Tiger, 11/07/1917 by The U.S. National Archives, on Flickr

It was All Too Complicated for Anyone to Understand, Ctd


‘Never invest in a business you cannot understand.’ – Warren Buffet

Over-Simplified Solution, meet Over-Complicated Problem.

Marketers have known this forever. The key to selling a solution is to create a problem for it to solve. Hence, the mundane everyday realities of being human: dandruff flakes, under-arm odor, imperfect teeth, are portrayed as monstrous things that could get you shunned. No one will date you, mate you, hire you. You could be voted off the island. The quality of your character is as nothing compared to these superficialities. If you suffer from anything that may impair your attractiveness, you must correct this problem now, if it takes the last cent you have! Even if you have to access credit and take out a 2nd mortgage on your home.

After all, the solutions to these suddenly enormous problems are so simple. It’s merely a matter of money.

In the buildup to the financial crisis, the simple solution for the risk-averse and fudiciarily responsible was the Triple A rating. Any bond with such a rating was certified gold. No further investigation would be necessary. Behind the rating on a mortgage-backed bond was a world of complicated calculations. The truth of the bonds would not yield to any but the most dogged, possibly emotionally disordered, financial detective with weeks or months to spend digging.

Almost no one bothered.

Billionaire investor Warren Buffet has famously advised to never invest in anything that you don’t understand.

Thousands (millions?) of investors substituted ratings for understanding, having no idea that the ratings agencies didn’t understand either.

The bonds appear to have been designed that way.

Image from Flickr commons – Professor Phillips and his machine to model an open economy

Loosen up people! Rigidity kills creativity.

Mad yet? Vote for Spud Smasher!


Choosing Life in a Distorted Reality Bubble

Funhouse mirror

Lies attract Liars.

I don’t see how it is possible for a person of integrity to respect a clearly dishonest or disingenuous argument. Worse, eventually all respect is lost for the person who is habitually disingenuous. The honest person withdraws from discussions.

The dishonest person is left to the company of those with lower standards for integrity.

This may in fact be very comforting to the dishonest. After all, who doesn’t like being validated? Slowly, reality distorts to suit vanity.

It can come as a horrible shock when outside reality forces an intrusion into this comforting space. The threat may trigger a fight or flight response. The group may have enough power to hold reality off but inevitably defenses crumble.

It’s just a matter of accumulating variables.

Image by Flickr profile hellomokona