Deschooling Society

That's the title of a book that IVAN ILLICH wrote the year I was born, 1971. In it, he denounces, among other things, the way learning has been reduced to a producer/consumer relationship. Produced by those who work for the so called institutions and consumed by the student in a delusion of freedom which is in Illich words "reduced to a selection among packaged commodities".

One of my favorite chapters of the book, THE MYTH OF MEASUREMENT OF VALUES (pg 40):

     The institutionalized values school instills are quantified ones.
     School initiates young people into a world where everything can be measured, including their imaginations, and, indeed, man himself.
     But personal growth is not a measurable entity. It is growth in disciplined dissidence, which cannot be measured against any rod, or any curriculum, nor compared to someone else's achievement. In such learning one can emulate others only in imaginative endeavor, and follow in their footsteps rather than mimic their gait. The learning I prize is immeasurable re-creation.
     School pretends to break learning up into subject "matters", to build into the pupil a curriculum made of these prefabricated blocks, and to gauge the result on an international scale. People who submit to the standard of others for the measure of their own personal growth soon apply the same ruler to themselves. They no longer have to be put in their place, but put themselves into their assigned slots, squeeze themselves into the niche which they have been taught to seek, and, in the very process, put their fellows into their places, too, until everybody and everything fits.
     People who have been schooled down to size let unmeasured experience slip out of their hands. To them, what cannot be measured becomes secondary, threatening. They do not have to be robbed of their creativity. Under instruction, they have unlearned to "do" their thing or "be" themselves, and value only what has been made or could be made.
     Once people have the idea schooled into them that values can be produced and measured, they tend to accept all kinds of rankings. There is a scale for the development of nations, another for the intelligence of babies, and even progress toward peace can be calculated according to body count. In a schooled world the road to happiness is paved with a consumer's index.
(Page 41) School sells curriculum- -a bundle of goods made according to the same process and having the same structure as other mechandise. (...)
     The result of the curriculum production process looks like any other modern staple. It is a bundle of planned meanings, a package of values, a commodity whose "balanced appeal" makes it marketable to a sufficiently large number to justify the cost of production. Consumer-pupils are taught to make their desires conform to marketable values. Thus they are made to feel guilty if they do not behave according to the predictions of consumer research by getting the grades and certificates that will place them in the job category they have been led to expect.
     Educators can justify more expensive curricula on the basis of their observation that learning difficulties rise proportionately with the cost of the curriculum. (...) This law can be verified on all levels of school: for instance, reading difficulties have been a major issue in French schools only since their per capita expenditures have approached U.S. levels of 1950 -when reading difficulties became a major issue in U.S. schools.
     In fact, healthy students often redouble their resistance to teaching as they find themselves more comprehensively manipulated. This resistance is due not to the authoritarian style of a public school or the seductive style of some free schools, but to the fundamental approach common to all schools -the idea that one person's judgment should determine what and when another person must learn.
Page 46, has another provocative analysis of schools called THE NEW ALIENATION,

     School is not only the New World Religion. It is also the world's fastest-growing labor market. (...)As production costs decrease in rich nations, there is an increasing concentration of both capital and labor in the vast enterprise of equipping man for disciplined consumption.
     (...)Now young people are prealienated by schools that isolate them while they pretend to be both producers and consumers of their own knowledge, which is conceived as a commodity put on the market in school. School makes alienation preparatory to life, thus depriving education of reality and work of creativity. School prepares for the alienating institutionalization of life by teaching the need to be taught. Once this lesson is learned, people lose their incentive to grow in independence; they no longer find relatedness atractive, and close themselves off to the surprises which life offers when it is not predetermined by institutional definition. And school directly or indirectly employs a major portion of the population. School either keeps people for life or makes sure that they will fit into some institution.
     The New World Church is the knowledge industry, both purveyor of opium and the workbench during an increasing number of the years of an individual's life. Deschooling is, therefore, at the root of any movement for human liberation.
Lastly, a bit more from THE REVOLUTIONARY POTENTIAL OF DESCHOOLING, page 47-49

     But school enslaves more profoundly and more systematically, since only school is credited with the principal function of forming critical judgment, and, paradoxically, tries to do so by making learning about oneself, about others, and about nature depend on a prepackaged process. School touches us so intimately that none of us can expect to be liberated from it by something else.
     Only liberating oneself from school will dispel such illusions. The discovery that most learning requires no teaching can be neither manipulated nor planned. Each of us is personally responsible for his or her own deschooling, and only we have the power to do it. No one can be excused if he fails to liberate himself from schooling. (...) They cannot free themselves from progressive consumption until they free themselves from obligatory school.
     We are all involved in schooling, from both the side of production and that of consumption. We are superstitiously convinced that good learning can and should be produced in us -and that we can produce it in others. Our attempt to withdraw from the concept of school will reveal the resistance we find in ourselves when we try to renounce limitless consumption and the pervasive presumption that others can be manipulated for their own good. No one is fully exempt from the exploitation of others in the schooling process.
     Our options are clear enough. Either we continue to believe that institutionalized learning is a product which justifies unlimited investment or we rediscover that legislation and planning and investment, if they have a place in formal education, should be used mostly to tear down the barriers that now impede opportunities for learning, which can only be a personal activity.
     If we do not challenge the assumption that valuable knowledge is a commodity which under certain circumstances may be forced into the consumer, society will be increasingly dominated by sinister pseudo schools and totalitarian managers of information.
So, HAVE YOU DESCHOOLED YOURSELF?
Maybe these long quotes inspire you to read the book. I yet want to write and quote more from this book by Illich. Toward the end there is a part that clearly overlaps with Charlotte Mason and even with the ideas from Last Child in the Woods. Illich's live gave him ample opportunity to observe people and children, and his analysis and criticism are sharp and make him, in my opinion, a visionary.

Next post will be on Learning Webs and The Rebirth of the Epimethean Man.

12 opinion(s):

Ellen said...

Silvia, I liked the comment that school deprives work of creativity. That is so true! True creative instinct is discouraged, while false creativity (projects, etc.) are touted as the ultimate in learning experiences.

I beg to differ; and so I have actually differed by choosing home education for our family.

Silvia said...

That and the idea of rebelling against that someone decides and imposes what we have to learn and the time at which we have to learn it are powerful criticisms of the artificiality and superficiality in which some schools (public, private, AND homeschools) are immersed.
I'm glad you read this Ellen, I think this was tooooooo dense for the summer! LOL

Jeanne said...

'The discovery that most learning requires no teaching can be neither manipulated nor planned. Each of us is personally responsible for his or her own deschooling, and only we have the power to do it. No one can be excused if he fails to liberate himself from schooling.'

Hmmm, I think that, taking this out of context, I agree that eventually we need to disassociate school from learning or we would cease to learn on graduation day. On the other had, I do wonder whether we might need to be taught certain things. Whether those things are eventually useful is another matter though!! (thinking of some of the maths and science I was 'forced' to learn!)

Interesting book. You're right - definitely too deep for summer. good thing it is winter over here!

Silvia said...

Jeanne, I believe Illich is using the words learning and TEACHING considering of all the LEARNING that happens not in schools, of course, like self directed learning, learning from others, in cooperation, by reading, by thinking and conversing...and as opposed to the so called TEACHINGS or idea of LECTURING and thus FORCING others into what they consider to be THE KNOWLEDGE TO BE LEARNED as it happens in the institutionalized schooling that, as you say, will end then with graduation or continue into any of the consumable school 'certificates'. I think he just denounces the institutionalization of the school and the becoming a system that perpetuates people with degrees and no valuable knowledge other than how to climb the stairs, and those without the ability to access those institutions that give you the diplomas who can and do KNOW something but can't access those places because they don't have THE TITLE.
It's a truly interesting book, and good for your winter!
I've been pondering between posting about the WORLD CUP or second entry about Illich relating him to CM and Last Child in the Wood postulates. It would be a lighter post, but still in the deep category LOL.

wonderinthewoods said...

Dear Silvia, Twice now I tried to read this post too late at night. It is deep but I am interested. We've had our hands full the last few days and some exciting developments at home. Will come back very soon and ponder this post. Great job, by the way. I love how deep your blog is sometimes!! I probably dive a little deeper myself, just not nearly as well as you. Keep up the good work. ((((hugs)))) ~Cori

wonderinthewoods said...

I'm back! LOVE LOVE LOVE the quotes and thoughts. I am going to link this. I think you would like Kim John Payne's analogy on organic crop rotation vs. commercial fertilzer. What we end up with most children today is not a natural, organic growing time but "fertilizer" is used to grow faster, better children. I might quote that soon on my blog...

Also, I wanted to say that so-called socialization is suppose to produce tolerance of differences but the system IS set up to force children to find how and where they "fit in" to the grand scheme whether it be curriculum, grades, sports, ranking...and that certainly filters down to the social structure of schools. So much for diversity.

You make me think friend. Love it. ~Cori

Silvia said...

Cori, you make me think in return :-)
What a powerful analogy by Payne, I have from your comments two things to look into, this author you mention, and that book "The Omnivore's dilemma".

And I simply LOVE how you wrote your last paragraph, that's much of the problem, that schools are set to make you fit, they are not working as places where true knowledge, understanding, growth and care are inspired, that's why there is a lot of dissenting part of the world population that not only opts out of this system, but that with their life choice pose a criticism and shake these institutions (not only institutionalized schooling, but medicine, business...)

Pam said...

Have you heard the analogy of a linear education vs. an agricultural. It is quite good. In short, that we need to stop filling, then testing, then go on. Instead, a more CM approach; agricultural; which is to nourish the soil, cultivate and offer all the good nutrients, and watch the child become fruitful on his own. Hey, since you won't come and meet us in Minnesota for the LER conference (!), consider joining Nancy's ning network here:
http://charlottemasonontheprairie.ning.com/
It's good stuff and you would encourage us!

Silvia said...

Pam, thanks, I DID join, I'll see you there soon, thanks for the invite.
Hugs,
s

wonderinthewoods said...

I'm back! LOVE LOVE LOVE the quotes and thoughts. I am going to link this. I think you would like Kim John Payne's analogy on organic crop rotation vs. commercial fertilzer. What we end up with most children today is not a natural, organic growing time but "fertilizer" is used to grow faster, better children. I might quote that soon on my blog...

Also, I wanted to say that so-called socialization is suppose to produce tolerance of differences but the system IS set up to force children to find how and where they "fit in" to the grand scheme whether it be curriculum, grades, sports, ranking...and that certainly filters down to the social structure of schools. So much for diversity.

You make me think friend. Love it. ~Cori

Silvia said...

That and the idea of rebelling against that someone decides and imposes what we have to learn and the time at which we have to learn it are powerful criticisms of the artificiality and superficiality in which some schools (public, private, AND homeschools) are immersed.
I'm glad you read this Ellen, I think this was tooooooo dense for the summer! LOL

Ellen said...

Silvia, I liked the comment that school deprives work of creativity. That is so true! True creative instinct is discouraged, while false creativity (projects, etc.) are touted as the ultimate in learning experiences.

I beg to differ; and so I have actually differed by choosing home education for our family.

 

Contact Form

Name

Email *

Message *

Amazon Affiliates

Search Engine

Search/Labels