A good educational system should have three purposes: it should provide all who want to learn with access to available resources at any time in their lives; empower all who want to share what they know to find those who want to learn it from them; and, finally, furnish all who want to present an issue to the public with the opportunity to make their challenge known.
The above quote was from “Deschooling Society,” written by social critic and educational activist Ivan Illich. I read this book last month, and took away several ideas.
- Education should be universal and open, but not compulsory
- The current system, with its focus on certification before experience, fosters classism and exclusivity. This exclusiveness leads to idea that learning only happens in school. The concept of learning is trapped in institutions and stigmatizes everyone who “fails” to get a schooled education. *To that I add that once people leave school, they cease to engage in an active learning process.*
- A good universal education will have several features:
- It will be constitutionally protected that people will have freedom of education, “the right to teach any skill,”and overall a separation of education and state.
- The state will still be involved by allotting a certain amount of taxpayer money to be used only for education, “a basic credit.” Low income people will accrue interest on their credits for as long as they are unused.
- There will still be certification tests for competency and certain job entrances.
- Learning will happen in skillshares, apprenticeships, and learning centers (previous school buildings and other buildings). He also advocated for “learning webs” where people seek out in personals that they are looking for academic peers, reading buddies, or a person to teach them a skill.
The separation of education and state is a dangerous idea at this time in which many teachers, parents, and students are just beginning to think about ways to radically transform the schools we already have. We really do not have the collective mindset or social structure for that separation to happen without confusion as to how to learn. The interest of the post is to explore the ways in which many of Illich’s ideas have already sprouted. Illich wrote this in a time when people where barely beginning to use computers for personal communication, and so his idea of the “peer-matching network” has profound implications for access to learning today.
He explains that it would work by allowing someone to enter a learning activity and then wait for results to show up (immediately or by mail) of people interested in the same thing. The network would be secure. Non-computer matching would take place on “bulletin boards and classified newspaper ads, listing the activities for which the computer could not produce a match. No names would have to be given.” Likewise it would be “publicly supported.” In this book Illich also talked about having television booths where people could go to view material interesting to them.When I read these things I thought, Well wow, we have these things today, and they work better and faster than he described! Are we on our way to a deschooled, or unschooled society?
We have youtube which allows people to have discussions and transmit ideas and social commentary. We have forums that work the same way. And with the advent of open source education, there are now numerous ways for people to access knowledge and peers to share that knowledge with, sort of like “the global nets” experience in the recent 2076 school post. There are other sources that more resemble the “peer-matching network.” One of them is OpenStudy, a website that people log into to discuss subjects with others. In a podcast on The Unschooler Experiemement, I found about something that mirrors the network through and through – Zero Tuition College. At “ZTC,” students and MAGE’s (Mentors, Advisors, Guides, and Experts) contact one another to make and complete assignments in a course of study that matters to them. This is viewed as an alternative and supplement to traditional higher education, but this website is open to anyone.
These alternatives should be circulated and considered by more people. A society in which learning is self-initiated needs to become common place and unstigmatized. Check out the links in this post, and take a peak at Deschooling Society online.