deschooling, Ivan Illich

Reflections on Illich 12: The anti-dote to perpetuated immaturity is to get rid of compulsory, age-segregatated schooling

Illich, I. (1970). Deschooling Society. Cuernavaca, Mexico: CIDOC.  Downloadable from:

p. 29  “If there were no age-specific and obligatory learning institutions, ‘childhood’ would go out of production.”

It is real responsibility, in real life situations, with real consequences that enables maturity to develop.  Continuing to shelter young people beyond their childhood is to perpetuate childhood.  This is what compulsory, age-segregated schooling does; it perpetuates childhood into ever extending age groups.  And how can this be measured?  It is measured by the level of Social Welfare dependence.  Children depend upon others to care for them.  Adults take responsibility for their own lives.

Institutionalized children, become dependent upon the institutions of the culture, the major one being the Social Welfare System, and an example of others would include the hospital system.

This is why Illich insisted that there needed to be a deschooling of society.  It is not just the institutionalizing of education that is the problem, it is the institutionalizing of everything in society.  It all leads to dependence, which is a manifestation of immaturity at a whole range of ages beyond childhood.

Maturity is taking responsibility for your own affairs, and not depending upon others or an institution to look after you.

“Therefore let us … go on to maturity [taking on the responsibility for your own affairs] …” wrote the Apostle Paul (Hebrews 6:1).


One thought on “Reflections on Illich 12: The anti-dote to perpetuated immaturity is to get rid of compulsory, age-segregatated schooling

  1. ronald slyderink says:

    This is not often appreciated but unfortunately true. Our children are often hidden from being responsible and bearing responsibility for the way they think, make decisions and act, and they begin to do this at quite an early age. All of us, certainly to different degrees are accountable for the way we choose to live and act. When clear guidelines and rules and knowledge is given there is an automatic implied response. We can accept, work with, ignore or oppose what has been given and there are consequences for doing so. If we want to develop people to be more responsible and mature then we must not hide the consequences but face them and help each other to grow through them. It doesn’t mean throwing children to the wolves’, but rather them being aware at least of the consequences of their actions and bearing ownership and responsibility for them and making changes to deal with it. This is part of education and discipling our children and young people.

    In all this there must be love and forgiveness and an encouragement to grow closer to God and his heart and word. God wants us to be responsive to him and seek him and be filled with his Spirit to be who we were meant to be, walking in love and praising God. In the end it is our responsiveness or responsibility towards God and our neighbour that we will be judged on. We can not excuse ourselves but need to own up and turn away from self and sin and turn to the Saviour and Lord of life. That leads to maturity. freedom and joy and being truly responsible.


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