Certification, deschooling, Education, Funding, Ivan Illich, Schooling

Reflections on Illich 19: The radical heart of Ivan Illich’s proposal: a deschooled but educating society

Illich, I. (1970). Deschooling Society. Cuernavaca, Mexico: CIDOC.  Downloadable from: http://www.preservenet.com/theory/Illich/Deschooling/intro.html

p. 76  “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.  Such a system would require the application of constitutional guarantees to education.  Learners should not be forced to submit to an obligatory curriculum, or to discrimination based on whether they possess a certificate or a diploma.  Nor should the public be forced to support, through a regressive taxation, a huge professional apparatus of educators and buildings which in fact restricts the public’s chances for learning to the services the profession is willing to put on the market.  It should use modern technology to make free speech, free assembly, and a free press truly universal and, therefore, fully educational.”

Of all the quotes from Ivan Illich’s book discussed thus far, this is the most important.  He is proposing a radically deregulated education system.  A schooled society will struggle with this proposal.  It is inconceivable that education can take place without centralized control, and lots and lots of public money being thrown at the bureaucracy.  In fact, as it is more and more evident that publicly-funded, centrally-controlled education does not work, there will be more and more calls for greater controls and vastly increased amounts of money to be chucked down the black hole of the failed secular, free and compulsory schooling experiment.

What Illich is proposing is that there be locally and privately owned educational portals, unfettered by government and other institutional interference through Constitutional guarantee.  These portals are to become educational markets, places of exchange where those who have expertise, and a passion to pass that expertise on to others, can meet up with those who have a passion to learn the knowledge and skills that are being offered.  These portals will assist with due diligence in checking the backgrounds of those presenting themselves as education providers, however, at the end of the day the exchange of knowledge, skills and experience will be a free-market contract, without compulsion and requirement for government approved certification or qualification.  Such markets will not necessarily provide enough remuneration for educators to survive without also having a real ‘job’.  It will require teachers to be grounded in reality, as they deal with the workplace as well as engage in educating others.  Very good teachers will be well patronized, but poor teachers will either have to improve their teaching skills, or go back to their day job.

As I said, a schooled society will find this a very difficult concept to think through.  However, until we take seriously Illich’s proposal, we will continue to subject children to the twelve year sentence*, and waste vast amounts of public funds, that could be spent elsewhere, on a failed educational concept.

* Rickenbacker, W. F. [Ed.]. (1974). The Twelve Year Sentence: Radical Views of Compulsory Schooling. New York, NY: Dell Publishing Co., Inc.


4 thoughts on “Reflections on Illich 19: The radical heart of Ivan Illich’s proposal: a deschooled but educating society

  1. ronald slyderink says:

    Not convinced of the 3 purposes of educational systems to be the answer to genuine authentic education. Although the mechanisms suggested are superior to present systems offering people more freedom and autonomy there is the question of ethics and morality. We cannot assume this just happens. It would seem any ISSI or extreme ideology would thrive under this. You cannot avoid having some value base that drives and gives meaning to the education process. Which one? Any one or are we to assume neutrality? It comes down to the issue of what is truth and what is right and wrong, what reflects reality and is integral to life and living and what therefore should guide education. Avoiding a central philosophical ethical framework based on Christ and the Kingdom of God in the Illich plan is similar to what is happening in present educational systems where God and his words are not honoured and made relevant and important. Any plan even if it seems to address the shortcomings and weaknesses from past or present systems will still fail if central problems are not tackled. We are either in the Kingdom of light or not and anything that does not have Jesus as Lord over all, walks in darkness and is bound to falter, and fall.

    Leaders have a responsibility to know what is best and what is good and serve its people with good governance and effectively educate and train so people individually and collectively can live quality lives. Without God this is not possible. He has to be the key because God is the Creator and Lord of all and shows us how to live and why we live.


  2. Ronald, you are correct. Frankly, liberty cannot be enjoyed until there is a majority in the market place that has a redeemed life and a changed heart. Totalitarian control is God’s means of restraining a community that has rejected the liberty that is only available in His Son.

    However, it is good for us to think of what life could be like under the glorious Government of God — every man sitting under his own vine and under his own fig tree (i.e. exercising self-government, and not requiring inflated civil government).

    As I argue in my PhD dissertation, the ideas that I am proposing are not for today, and not for the very near future, they are for a generation that will believe God, embrace His grace, love His Law, and live as free men and women in Christ.

    Even so, we are to dream, tell of our dream, and write them down for a generation that will go into the promised land. I believe we have some very difficult times ahead, and they may last a generation or two. It is not an indication that Jesus’ consummative return is immanent, it is an indication that we have a generation that mirrors the generation of Jesus’ day, of which He said, “The Kingdom will be taken away from you and be given to a nation producing the fruit of it.”

    The fruit of the Kingdom is righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. Righteousness is doing life right according to the revealed will of God, peace comes through reconciliation with the Prince of Peace, and joy is the fruit of living at peace with a righteous life.

    God bless you, my brother.


    • ronald slyderink says:

      Hi Lance, Thank you brother. Don’t underestimate what God can do now, soon, even in this generation. His laws of the Kingdom are applicable today and have always been. There may not be whole sale restoration until the end, but there can be pockets and groups of people, even families and individuals who are living and practicing the Kingdom of God today! The fruit from the Holy Spirit of God, his righteousness, peace and joy can be experienced now if we have the faith in God to transform and indwell us. Keep on proclaiming and living the truth in Christ and for Christ Lance you have much to share, he is King and Lord and Saviour today in whosoever believes. Even if we do not see it around us with the many prevailing forces of evil controlling things, God is in you working and that is where we start and move forward from.

      God richly bless you



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