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?

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    Not everything that's learned is taught or can be taught. In your example, note that the speaker asks if parenting, schooling and/or close social rings could cause children to learn developmental disorders rather than saying they "teach" them. It's clear that "teach" isn't being used because the speaker is indicating that the learning is a consequence of those things and not actually taught by those things. – Benjamin Harman Aug 23 '19 at 16:30
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    That said, if a disorder could be learned in a way that someone teaching could lead someone else to acquire that disorder, then we would employ the verb "to have" (i.e., "What is wrong with teaching children to have a disorder?"). – Benjamin Harman Aug 23 '19 at 16:36
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    @Benjamin I agree. That sounds a whole lot better and is I believe the phrasing the OP is after. Consider adding that as an answer. 😉 – Steven Jeuris Aug 23 '19 at 16:51
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    @GeorgeNtoulos Are you sure you mean "to understand"? You made it very clear (I thought) in the (now removed after relevant edits) comments on the question you are referring to and were very insistent that you meant causing them to have or exacerbate the disorder... Understanding is quite a different thing. – Bryan Krause Aug 23 '19 at 17:05
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    Please make sure questions posted to this site or comprehensible In themselves without the need to visit a third party site which, for all anyone knows, may be booby-trapped with viruses or ad-spam. I therefore vote to close. – David Aug 23 '19 at 17:59

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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    Interesting. I was about to up vote this, up to the point where you concluded that that means 'teaching a disorder' would mean 'showing them how to have a disorder'. I guess I don't consider a disorder a behavior or activity... Is it? Furthermore, as you highlight, the main problem with using 'teaching a disorder' is exactly that it seems easily interpreted as incorrect English where the OP actually intended to say 'teaching about a disorder' or even 'teaching somebody that has a disorder'. It is this ambiguity that made the phrasing extremely unclear to two members on our site. – Steven Jeuris Aug 23 '19 at 16:43
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    I much prefer Benjamin's phrasing 'teaching to have a disorder' which seems to resolve that ambiguity. – Steven Jeuris Aug 23 '19 at 16:44
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    Sorry, but this topic is cracking me up. 😂 Now you totally confused @DJClayworth about what you are actually trying to say by throwing 'to understand' into the mix. So by example, again, no it is not clear. 😂 He believes you are trying to say 'to teach about'. – Steven Jeuris Aug 23 '19 at 17:18
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    Now I'm even confused about whether I'm confused or not. – DJClayworth Aug 23 '19 at 17:21
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    I've modified the answer to explain how to say unambiguously whichever meaning you want. – DJClayworth Aug 23 '19 at 18:00

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