Illich, I. (1970). Deschooling Society. Cuernavaca, Mexico: CIDOC. Downloadable from: http://www.preservenet.com/theory/Illich/Deschooling/intro.html
p. 16 “Skill teachers are made scarce by the belief in the value of licenses. Certification constitutes a form of market manipulation and is plausible only to a schooled mind.”
This quote addresses a couple of issues.
The first issue that it addresses is the issue of licensing the holders of marketable skills before teaching can take place. Such licensing usually requires expensive, convoluted, and ever increasingly bureaucratic processes to procure the license. This robs the education market of many people, who are highly skilled, from entering the market and passing their skills on to others. The obtaining of a license does not necessarily mean that the holder of the license is the most qualified person to be engaged in the passing on of skills. And, when you add government incentives to the mix, it almost guarantees that skills will not be passed on.
Let me provide an example. To protect the identity of the parties, I will change some of the facts, but the story is a true story. A very keen young man I knew desired to learn a trade. At the time, the Federal and State governments were offering employers monetary incentives to train apprentices. Employers took on more apprentices than they could properly supervise, and so the young man found that he was being paid apprentice wages (the lowest in the trade), to perform a labourer’s tasks (labourers being paid a significantly greater amount than apprentices). The young man was not being taught the trade, but he did learn how to sweep floors, clean up after the tradesmen, and generally be used as a low-paid slave. This happened throughout his apprenticeship, which was conducted under several employers. The young man was made to work two years longer in his apprenticeship than formally required because the final employer said that he did not have enough trade knowledge and experience (despite working for three other employers prior to this), and needed more time (to sweep floors, clean up after the tradesmen, and generally work as a low-paid slave). And this was despite the fact that the young man was awarded prizes for being the top student (year after year) in his trade school training.
Now here is the question. Were the licensed trade school instructors blinded by the fact that they were being paid according to the number of apprentices that they passed each year? And therefore they awarded prizes to their top student falsely, because he was actually a retarded apprentice who needed an extra two years to be added to his apprenticeship to be skilled enough to graduate? Or, were the employers so captivated by the free money that was given to them by the government, that they did not care to properly pass the trade skills on to the apprentice, just so long as they kept him busy enough so that they could collect the incentive money at the end of the apprenticeship?
Before government incentives, and before licensed trade schools, employers took on apprentices because they wanted to pass their skills on to someone else, and they did so as efficiently and meticulously as they could. An apprentice who was trained under the older system graduated as a highly skilled tradesman. The young man I spoke of is now a broken man. He has a piece of paper that says he is a tradesman, but he has insufficient skills and experience to be able to practice his trade, despite have three awards for being the top apprentice each year in his trade school. In his mind he has wasted five of the most important years of his life, and they were ruined by government intervention in the trade, and government-licensed teachers at the trade school.
The second point that is brought out in the quotation above is the issue of market manipulation by certification. Only a schooled mind is blinded by the smoke-screen of required certification. On p. 150 of my PhD dissertation I make reference to the fact that during the early stages of the so-called Global Financial Crisis, recent school and university graduates were either under-employed or unemployed. Many young people were graduating with certificates that were useless in the process of obtaining a job, but they were also graduating with un-repayable education debts that could not be forgiven. Entering school, it is not possible to know the employment market that will exist at graduation, and the certificates that students study for, may be for jobs that no longer exist when they graduate with their certificate of competence.
At the same time as this was happening to millions of students graduating from school with school certificates, unschooled teenagers, who had never obtained a certificate in their lives, had never darkened the door of a school, were pursuing their passion, privately accumulating marketable knowledge and skills and then making between $200,000 and “seven figure” annual profits from their internet-based businesses (during the Global Financial Crisis)–see pp. 149-150 of my PhD dissertation.
Certificates may be needed to get a job. They may be needed to commence a career (which is New Speak for being locked into an institution, and working your way up the meaningless ladder of success). However, certificates are not needed to become entrepreneurial, creative, passionate, and marketable. What is needed for these things is an education, not a schooling.
One thought on “Reflections on Illich 05: What good do licenses and certificates really provide in the education market?”
Sad about the case of the young apprentice. What a travesty of injustice and exploitation. To me it shows two realities. Human nature tends to exploit and take advantage of situations and people with money gain being a main incentive, not genuine concern for others. ‘The love of money is a root of all evil…’applies here. Secondly, it shows the weakness of our education and training systems. They do not really address the real needs of students or society and focus on the wrong things. In this process they waste money, resources and time and leave many shattered and disillusioned lives. Behind all this is the belief and attitude that God is not relevant and we can work out things for ourselves. Well, look at the mess and see where it is leading us. Things are going to get worse if we insist on refusing to listen to God and doing what he says.
We need God’s wisdom and salvation. We need to turn to Jesus Christ and seek him earnestly at all levels, from Government to the person on the street.