Teach + Uncommon Object

After I asked a question on Psychology and Neuroscience SE, some confusion arose over my use of the phrase ‘to teach a disorder’

I was told that ‘to teach a disorder’ is a poor choice of words when trying to convey that …

I am not asking whether people can be taught but whether the disorder itself can be taught to people previously not suffering from the disorder or exacerbated in those already suffering.

Since a disagreement arose, I was deferred to this website to ask whether it is appropriate or not.

Here are the various definitions of the entry teach in Lexico powered by Oxford I hope through the context to make it clear that I mean the definition:

2 [with object and clause] Cause (someone) to learn something by example or experience.

What is wrong with ‘teaching children a disorder’ ? I.e., why isn’t it proper English and/or understandable?

Answer

To “teach someone something” can have a number of meanings. Where “something” is an area of knowledge, it clearly means to instruct them about that knowledge. If it is a fact like “the earth is round” then it means to inform them of the fact. But if ‘something’ is an activity or a behaviour or a condition then it can, and normally does, mean to instruct (or cause) them to do or have that activity or condition.

So if I “teach someone mathematics” then I inform them about mathematics. But if I “teach them football” then I am instructing them on how to do football. If I ‘teach them crime” then I am showing them how to do crime. If I “teach them laziness” then I am causing them to be lazy.

By the same rules if I “teach someone a disorder” then I am showing them how to have that disorder. It is easy to see how that would be considered wrong.

If you mean that you are giving someone information concerning the disorder, then you should say:

I am teaching them about the disorder.

If you mean you are causing them to have a disorder then you can do this more clearly by saying:

I am teaching them to have the disorder.

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