Certification, deschooling, Education, Education Delivery Programs, Ivan Illich, Schooling, Schools

Reflections on Illich 21: Schools militate against the reality that we are not all created equal

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

p. 92  “At their worst, schools gather classmates into the same room and subject them to the same sequence of treatment in math, citizenship and spelling.  At their best, they permit each student to choose one of a limited number of courses.  In any case, groups of peers form around the goals of teachers.  A desirable educational system would let each person specify the activity for which they sought a peer.”

In his essay, ‘Human Variation and Individuality’, from the book, The Twelve Year Sentence, H. George Resch (1974) argues that there is no such thing as equality in the universe.  At every level, every human being, and every other created thing, has stamped upon it individuality.  The modern mantra of equality spits in the face of reality.  We are not created equal.  We should not be treated equally.  The expectation of equal outcome from equal opportunity is a hollow expectation.  It is demanding greater and greater resources for lesser and lesser result.

Those who espouse equality despise the Sovereignty of God; they despise the idea that God has fore-ordained and pre-determined all things–including our roles and functions in society.  It is true that some have used the idea of ordained roles and functions to suppress others and appoint them to positions of slavery.  This is a perversion of the doctrine of Sovereignty.  “For freedom Christ has set us free, … do be not submit again to a yoke of slavery,” Galatians 5:1 teaches us.  No, God is an infinite God, and He has created  an infinite variety in expression of the roles that He has ordained.  This means that individuality needs to be nurtured, encouraged, and allowed to become an expression of expertise.  This means that each person requires an intimately individualized education track.  Sure, there will be core skills that many will share.  However, not everyone will need all of those core skills to be the best that they can be in whatever it is that God has created them to be excellent in.  Mandating core skills will inhibit the growth and development of some for whom such skills are not appropriate.

The educational paths of individuals should touch and part, mingle and separate, and trace a learning dance across the community.  Some will learn some things from this person, but then learn different things from a range of other people, in totally different contexts.  This dance of learning will be encouraged and facilitated by parents, but be tempered with a consideration of the interests, gifts, passions, calling, abilities and other marks of individuality within the student.  It cannot be centrally predetermined.  It cannot be centrally administrated.  It cannot be centrally certificated, regulated, and controlled.  It is an expression of the creativity and providence of the Infinite Triune God.


One thought on “Reflections on Illich 21: Schools militate against the reality that we are not all created equal

  1. ronald slyderink says:

    That God loves the individual with all their uniqueness of abilities and character including weaknesses is taken in the context of community and what is best for all to the glory of God. What integrates all is the love of God and the love we share with one another. God shows no favouritism, and it is his grace to save by faith in Jesus and his grace to give varying gifts which are directed to serving and loving one another. We are equally valued and loved but not equally gifted. Our call is to respond to God and yield our lives to him and serving to support and build up people and communities to engender justice and equality in the sense of respecting and loving people to the glory of God. ” Our desire is that …..there may be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. Then there will be equality.” (2 Cor. 8:13-15).

    This is another weakness of our educational system, it is too focused on gaining knowledge (which is largely irrelevant) that is self-orientated, not focused on addressing or trying to address issues of life, locally or globally, of the injustices around us, on the inequalities of basic living standards that impact on the quality of peoples’s lives to the extent that they suffer. A big part of education is to seek ways of addressing inequalities where they can be influenced by us positively, and really there is so much we can do if we make it a priority. Jesus’ teaching and warning about loving our neighbour and using our resources for others is showing our love for him is sobering to say the least. They are his priorities and should be ours. (Matthew 25) – and should be a key part of education.


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