deschooling, Education, Education and the Family, Unschooling

Family-Based Education: The role of the family in education

The following has been lifted from my PhD dissertation, and slightly edited for this blog site.  I continue to give thought to some of my earlier ideas, and welcome feedback as I continue to refine them.

In the book of Malachi, God indicated that a key purpose of marriage is “godly offspring” (Malachi 2:15[1]). For offspring to be godly, they must be trained to know God and to obey His commandments (Deuteronomy 6:1-9[2]). Raising godly offspring, therefore, is a significant goal of Biblical education, and the principle context for this goal is the trustee family. The trustee family is held by Rushdoony to be in contradistinction to both the atomistic family and the extended family. The atomistic family is, essentially, husband, wife and kids. The extended family includes husband, wife and kids, but also includes grandparents, grandchildren, cousins, uncles and an extended network of blood-related family members who are living.  The trustee family, on the other hand, takes into consideration the heritage and inheritance received from long generations past, and looks down history to many generations to come. The family holds in trust all that has been passed down, adds to that trust, then passes an enriched inheritance and heritage to children’s children to be passed on to their children’s children, and so forth (Rushdoony, 1983, pp. 201-206). This, therefore, provides the context for the commandment that God gave to the newly formed family in Genesis 1:26-28. Mankind, both male and female joined in marriage, is to be “fruitful and multiply and fill the earth” (by implication: with godly offspring). Godly offspring will then “subdue” and “have dominion” until such time that “the meek … shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5; c.f. Psalm 37:11). “God is not a man that He should lie” (Numbers 23:19). He commanded us to pray that His kingdom come, and that His will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Matthew 6:10) until the time that His promise is fulfilled that says: “But as truly as I live, all the earth shall be filled with the glory of the LORD” (Numbers 14:21, KJV). This shall be a day when multitudes of godly offspring, across the face of the whole earth, willingly live out the commandments of God, to the glory of His Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and the manifestation of His kingdom in time and on earth.

Sin introduced frustration to this dominion mandate. God cursed the ground and ordained thorns and thistles to frustrate man’s dominion efforts (Genesis 3:17-19[3]). Ungodly offspring are one of the outworkings of unatoned-for sin (Genesis 6:1-7[4]). David wrote: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psalm 51:5). This does not imply that the act leading to conception is sinful, necessarily[5], but rather, sin resides in a person from the moment of conception, and ensures that all who are born are born sinners, needing a Saviour: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one” (Romans 3:10-12).

It is the atonement of Jesus Christ worked out on the cross of Calvary that deals with the sinful nature. Paul writes: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20). As the redeemed of God, we are to live as those who are dead to sin, but alive unto God, walking in newness of life, in Jesus Christ (Romans 6[6]).

Education does not make children of God. Education is not the Saviour/Messiah[7]. Giving new birth to children of God is the work of God’s regenerating Word and the Holy Spirit, according to the will of God (I Peter 1:3; I Peter 1:23; John 3:5; John 1:12-13[8]). However, a godly upbringing helps children to recognise the voice of the Lord when He speaks to them, and makes it easier for them to respond to the Holy Spirit when He calls them. It must be conceded, however, that in both the case of the child that is brought up in a godly way, and the child that is not brought up in such a way, it is a sovereign work of God’s grace that brings such a child to a place of salvation, not the upbringing.[9]

Willing obedience to Jesus’ commandments is the principle Biblical evidence of new birth (John 14:15; John 15:10; I John 2:3[10]). The evidence of love one for another (John 13:34-35; I John 4:7-12[11]) is qualified in the statement that love is expressed in the willing keeping of God’s Law: “…(by) this we know that we love the children of God, that we keep his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome” (I John 5:2-3). Therefore, this is the fulfilment of the New Covenant promise made by God in Ezekiel when He said:

“I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules” (Ezekiel 36:25-27).

The sanctifying work of Biblical education is to be conducted in the context of family and family life. Rushdoony (1973), in his book, The Institutes of Biblical Law Volume I, wrote a chapter called ‘Education and the Family’. In this chapter he outlines six aspects of family-based education, from a Biblical perspective. These aspects include chastisement; sound instruction (a godly education); an intensely practical education; the responsibility of parents and children to be productive, responsible family members; a consciousness of membership of a family; and godly learning (pp 182-185). These things are instilled by teaching and practically applying the Law-Word of God as the foundation of family-based education. Paul alluded to this kind of education when he wrote to Timothy:

I am reminded of your sincere faith, a faith that dwelt first in your grandmother Lois and your mother Eunice and now, I am sure, dwells in you as well (II Timothy 1:5).

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture[12] is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (II Timothy 3:14-17).

The Christian home education movement takes these Scriptural injunctions seriously. Home educators seek to provide Primary, Secondary and Tertiary education for their children in the context of their homes. Some home educators simply try and replicate the structures of school, and administer schooling in the context of the home. These I would call ‘home schoolers’. Others, however, take seriously the passage in Deuteronomy that says:

Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the LORD the God of your fathers has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey.

Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind then as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates (Deuteronomy 6:1-9).

This is what I would call, life education / education in life/ education for life. Those who conduct education in this way I would call ‘unschoolers’. God places education in the context of family members together living life, with parents teaching their children how to live in a way that is pleasing to God, in the light of His Law-Word: ”when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deuteronomy 6:7). Nothing of this implies the need for schools or schooling (even home schooling).  It is my contention that the unschooling model is closer to what God was talking about in this passage from the book of Deuteronomy; i.e. the unschooling process approximates the life education / education in life/ education for life paradigm. However, this must be qualified with the rider that the extreme manifestation of unschooling (i.e. radical unschooling[13]), where every learning decision is made by the child, is not Biblical. Proverbs 22:15 teaches us that “Folly (foolishness) is bound up in the heart of a child, … .” There are some very important educational decisions that must be made by parents on behalf of the child, simply because parents have lived life and can see consequences where there is neglect; such fundamentals as Scripture memorization, instruction in literacy decoding and encoding skills and foundational arithmetic (i.e. tables, etc.). These things are best learned by wrote, and learned early in a child’s life. Such things as basic manners and respect for God and others are best learned by example, through godly admonition and discipline, and in extremely serious situations, by appropriate punishment.

[1] Malachi 2:15 “Did he not make them one (man and wife), with a portion of the Spirit in their union? And what was the one God seeking? Godly offspring. So guard yourselves in your spirit, and let none of you be faithless to the wife of your youth.”

[2] Deuteronomy 6:1-9 “Now this is the commandment—the statutes and the rules—that the LORD your God commanded me to teach you, that you may do them in the land to which you are going over, to possess it, that you may fear the LORD your God, you and your son and your son’s son, by keeping all his statutes and his commandments, which I command you, all the days of your life, and that your days may be long. Hear therefore, O Israel, and be careful to do them, that it may go well with you, and that you may multiply greatly, as the LORD, the God of your fathers, has promised you, in a land flowing with milk and honey. Hear, O Israel: The LORD your God, the LORD is one. You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise. You shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontlets between your eyes. You shall write them on the doorposts of your house and on your gates.”

[3] Genesis 3:17-19 ‘And to Adam he said, “Because you have listened to the voice of your wife and have eaten of the tree of which I commanded you, ‘You shall not eat of it,’ cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you; and you shall eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground, for out of it you were taken; for you are dust, and to dust you shall return.”

[4] Genesis 6:1-7 “When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God (men of the covenant line) saw the daughters of man (women of the ungodly line) were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose (according to physical attraction, not according to God’s covenant law—II Corinthian 6: 14 “Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. …”; the sin of mixed-marriage). Then the LORD said, ‘My Spirit shall not contend with man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.’ The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown. The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth (the state of apostasy of the progeny of inter-faith marriages), and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the LORD regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. So the LORD said, ‘I will blot out man whom I have created from the face of the land, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens, for I am sorry that I have made them.’

[5] When in the context of a legally married male husband and female wife, sexual activity is a gift from God (The Song of Solomon is a complete book of the Bible teaching about the joy and pleasure of human sexuality in the context of marriage; fully sanctioned and encouraged by God). On the other hand, when sexual activity is practiced outside of God’s ordained parameters (i.e. homosexuality, lesbianism, bestiality, fornication, adultery, and all other Biblically defined sexual perversions), then such sexual activity is sin worthy of God’s just punishments (I Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21;Colossians 3:5-6; I Peter 4:3-5; Revelation 22:15).

[6] Romans 6 “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? By no means! How can we who died to sin live in it? Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Chrst was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. …”

[7] The principle theme of the book: Rushdoony, R. J. (1976 [1963]). The Messianic Character of American Education. Nutley, New Jersey: The Craig Press.

[8] I Peter 1:3 “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, …”

I Peter 1:23 “… since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; …”

John 3:5 “Jesus answered, ‘’Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”

John 1:12-13 “But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.”

[9] Much thanks to my friend Steve Swartz for his feedback on this part of the dissertation.

[10] John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

John 15:10 “If you keep my commandments you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”

I John 2:3 “And by this we know that we have come to know him, if we keep his commandments.”

[11] John 13:34-35 “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.”

I John 4:7-12 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. Anyone who does not love does not know God, because God is love. In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him. In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another. No one has ever seen God; if we love one another, God abides in us and his love is perfected in us.”

[12] In this context, “all Scripture” is referring to everything written in the Old Testament, including the Law of God as delivered to Moses on Mount Sinai.

[13] (Gerzon, 2012; Martin, 2014; N. Olsen, 2014)

References

Rushdoony, R. J. (1973). The Institutes of Biblical Law. Nutley, New Jersey: The Craig Press

Rushdoony, R. J. (1976 [1963]). The Messianic Character of American Education. Nutley, New Jersey: The Craig Press.

Rushdoony, R. J. (1983). The Trustee Family and Economics. The Journal of Christian Reconstruction. Vol. IX, Nos. 1 & 2, pp. 201-206.

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deschooling, Discipleship, Education, Education Delivery Programs, Ivan Illich, Socialization, Teaching, Unschooling

Reflections on Illich 22: Unschooling and a flexible learning web: the dangers of age-segregation in schools

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

p. 93  “The inverse of school would be an institution which increased the chances that persons who at a given moment shared the same specific interest could meet–no matter what else they had in common.”

One of the important defining characteristics of school and schooling is age-grade segregation.  Age-grade segregation is justified on grounds of socialization and child-development theory.  It is argued that children need to be exposed to peer-relationships so that they can learn how to relate to a cohort of children their own age.  It is also argued that all children pass through development stages at the same time, and therefore they need to be related to, in an age-appropriate manner.

These two presuppositions are fallacious at several points.  Firstly, God placed children into families.  In most cases, families grow at the rate of one child at a time, with significant age intervals between each child.  God is wisdom personified.  The only wise God, our Saviour, would not ordain a process that is fundamentally flawed.  Therefore, I argue that the best learning environment is not age-segregated, but multi-generational, with a broad range of ages represented in the learning environment.  I have worked in schools for 25 years.  I can speak with a measure of authority.  I have worked in Christian schools, state schools, private schools, schools for Aboriginal children, and the common factor between all these schooling contexts is that age-segregated children degenerate to the lowest common denominator.  Children crave attention.  If they cannot get it from the overworked teacher, they will look for it in their peers, and the peer that they usually crave attention from is the coolest dude–the naughtiest kid in the class.  Their socialization is downwards through the pressure of wanting to conform to be accepted–even in the case of a good family, good kids are dragged down, in the school context, and many good families have lost their children to the pressures of socialization in schools.  In an inter-generational, multi-age learning setting, the child will look for attention from the strongest role model–their socialization is upwards, into the lifestyle of the patriarch of the learning environment.

Secondly, children are not equal.  There may be general growth phases, but not all children reach the same milestones at the same time in all areas of growth.  To presuppose equality of development, will lead to holding back of those who are ready to move on in some areas, and forcing outcomes from those who are not ready in other areas, and generally trying to squeeze the cohort of children into a teacher-determined mediocrity.  In this context, none of the children are fully developed in any of their strong areas, many of the children are crushed because too much is expected of them in their weak areas (and as a result of the crushing they lose confidence to learn in their good areas) and every one has the desire to learn taught out of them.

Home-based education that is firmly grounded on unschooling principles, with a discipleship emphasis, is the best means of establishing individual learning needs in children.  If there were local Flexi-Learning Centres scattered around the country, then a register of learning opportunities could be kept so that children could be connected with an appropriate local custodian of specific knowledge sets, skills, and experiences.  Those who gather around this local expert will be there because they want to learn, not because they are of the same age.  Such learning contexts may include multi-generational learners, and a distribution of a wide range of ages.  No one should be excluded from learning simply on the basis of age.  Older learners will be there to help younger learners, and learners who teach other learners will enhance their own learning–a fresh look at peer tuition.

 

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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.

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Certification, Education, Ivan Illich, Teaching

Reflections on Illich 20: We need to consider the wealth to be gained from deregulated teaching in the marketplace

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

p. 91  “To guarantee access to effective exchange of skills, we need legislation which generalizes academic freedom.  The right to teach any skill should come under the protection of freedom of speech.  Once restrictions on teaching are removed, they will quickly be removed from learning as well.”

Freedom can only be found in the Lord Jesus Christ: “For freedom Christ has set us free; …” (Galatians 5:1).  It is the indwelling Holy Spirit, and the Law of God which provide the constraints around freedom that prevents it from becoming license.  To legislate for freedom, without first ensuring there is a change in heart of the majority in the community, is only to entrench greater and greater measures of license.  So-called academic freedom in the west has morphed into an unchecked attack on truth.  Academic freedom has come to mean the proclamation of anything, without accountability.  Being that, as it may, laws concerning libel and slander and inciting riot do place a measured check around license, therefore political censorship of all speech is contrary to the freedom that Christ has offered those who believe in Him.

Furthermore, the notion of rights under girds all kinds of aberrant lifestyles and behaviours.  The Bible knows nothing of rights.  The Bible teaches privileges and responsibilities.  Those who bear their responsibilities enjoy the privileges that come with them.  Those who shirk their responsibilities lose their privileges.  Without such a balance, the claim for rights, without a corresponding check, leads once again to unrestrained license.

Having said all this, the point that Illich makes concerning the deregulation of teaching is a valid one.  Teaching should not be limited to those who hold a state-issued license.  The issue of false and dangerous teachers can be addressed with laws that prohibit the propagation of ideas that incite violence, riot, and promote degenerate and immoral lifestyles.  The free exchange of ideas is an important part of community growth and development.  New ideas, that are tested and weighed against old values, when they survive the debate, and blossom out of the trials, can lead to better conditions and enjoyment of life.  New ideas should not be feared, simply because they are new.  Untested, and unchallenged ideas cannot be embraced without due diligence.  A free education market is the best place to ensure that such ideas do get considered, debated, trialed and either embraced or rejected by the community.

It is the narrowing of curriculum, through the centralization of curriculum choice, that does the most damage to education.  Centralized curriculum is indoctrination, not education.  A free education market will guarantee a much broader  curriculum in the marketplace.  Local decisions will adjust curriculum to local need, and the sharing of educational content between communities will ensure that the best of ideas are generally accessed.  This will allow individuals to follow their gifting, their passion and their interests more fully, ensuring that everyone has an opportunity to become an expert in something.  This will result in a much wealthier community that is served by a plethora of experts in a hugely diverse range of knowledge sets, giftings and skills.

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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.

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Education, Ivan Illich, Life Learning, Teaching

Reflections on Illich 17: Don’t wait to be taught: have a go and learn.

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

p. 48  “School prepares for the alienating institutionalization of life by teaching the need to be taught.  Once this lesson is learned, people lose their incentive to grow in independence; they no longer find relatedness attractive, and close themselves off to the surprises which life offers when it is not predetermined by institutional definition.”

It has been very painful to watch someone I know struggle with the helplessness that they feel because their schooling has instilled in them that unless they are taught, they cannot learn.  Actually, this is the condition of a number of people that I know.  They have been schooled, and they have been schooled exceptionally well.  These people live less than satisfying lives because they are always blaming their lack of knowledge on not having been taught such and so.  It is a debilitating condition to be in.

I remember that I did not really start learning to drive until after I had been given my driver’s license.  I was taught the basics, but the real lessons came from repeated practice on the open road, and having to learn how to adjust to the unpredictable as it came in my ongoing driving experience.

A proper education is like this.  At the beginning we do need to be taught some basics, such as: moral precepts, decoding/encoding skills, mathematical tables, and some basic historical, geographical and scientific facts.  However, if we are spoon-fed beyond the basics, then we lose the capacity to self-learn, and as a consequence become dependent upon others to teach us.  Those who have been institutionalized by schooling and its spoon-fed learning model, are not able to cope with the learning opportunities that life throws up at them.

The best context for learning is to have a go, fail, consider the lessons that can be learned from the attempt, then have another go with better insight.  To wait until someone teaches you, before having a go, means that you are ever learning, but never arriving at the truth, or never learning at all.

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Certification, deschooling, Education, Ivan Illich, Schooling, Unschooling

Reflections on Illich 15: Being schooled, and as a result being credentialed, does not necessarily indicate an education

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

p. 40  “Once we have learned to need school, all our activities tend to take the shape of client relationships to other specialized institutions.  Once the self-taught man or woman has been discredited, all nonprofessional activity is rendered suspect.  In school we are taught that valuable learning is the result of attendance; that the value of learning increases with the amount of input; and, finally, that this value can be measured and documented by grades and certificates.”

One of the most significant indicators of someone having been schooled is a dependent mindset.  Schools breed dependence.  At the end of the schooling process it is commonly believed that only the credentialed, certified, registered and monitored person can make a valued contribution to society.  The schooled person, who does not hold the qualifications, believes that they could never understand the mysteries of the guild, and therefore becomes dependent upon institutionalized services: the institutionalization of health, the institutionalization of child-raising, the institutionalization of a plethora of life-skills that once most men and women knew from participating in activities around the home, as part of a family.

Grades and certificates, in many instances, are merely arbitrary benchmarks.  They indicate that someone has remembered what the examiner wanted to appear on the test, but they do not reveal what the holder of the certificate really knows, and whether what they know is relevant to the current state of knowledge in that specific field.  Schools are notorious for being behind the times in the knowledge that they teach.  Teachers go through school at the time textbooks are being written.  They then go through University, using the textbooks that were being written when they were are school, and then they teach the children in the classrooms the things that they learned at university, which were written in textbooks that were written when they were at school.

It is not attendance at school that ensures an education.  Attendance at school ensures that you are schooled.  Unschoolers, who are guided by parents who have been deschooled, are able to keep up with the cutting edge of knowledge in any field that they choose to become an expert in.  There are no limits, in this digital age, to accessing knowledge that is current, relevant to the moment, and oriented to the interests and passions of the child.  The self-taught unschooler is often the better educated person.

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Reflections on Illich 14: The ritual of schooling: more an act of devotion than a way of learning

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

p. 39  “We cannot begin a reform of education unless we first understand that neither individual learning nor social equality can be enhanced by the ritual of schooling.”

Religious ritual is a requirement to perform repeated devotional actions to appease a god.  It is usually motivated by fear of sanctions if the rituals are not performed correctly.  Schooling has its own religious liturgy and litany.  Positive sanctions result if these rituals are followed according to the expectations of the priests and priestesses of schooling (the teachers–representing the god of schooling, the State).  However, serious negative sanctions ensue when there is deviance from the required liturgy and litany.

The mantra of the religion of schooling is socialization.  Socialization, in a school context, is being molded into a socialist mindset.  Socialism is antithetical to individuality; individuals may enjoy advantage over other individuals, and this is the great social sin, according to socialism.

On the other hand, socialism has never been able to address inequality.  The more equal the State demands its citizens to be, the more disparity is created between the haves and the have-nots, and the greater the pool of have-nots is expanded.  This is because equality is antithetical to reality.  No one is equal to anyone else.  Yes, the law should be impartial, and therefore social advantage should not obtain a better result under law than the socially deprived.  However, equality before the law does not require equality in opportunity and outcome.  These are myths.

The greatest social benefit is obtained when everyone is allowed to become the best that they can be, as an expression of their own individual uniqueness.  Everyone is wired in a unique way, pre-ordained for a specific purpose; therefore, everyone has the potential and capacity to be an expert in something (but only if they are given room to grow in different ways and at different rates to others).  However, no one is structured to be the same as anyone else.  To try and artificially create equality between individuals is to militate against the bias of the universe.

Schooling is unreformable.  Schools are created on the premise of egalitarianism.  What is needed is a reformation of education.  Such a reformation will explore ways of delivering an education that does not fall back upon the failed schooling model.  This will not happen until a greater number of the general population is deschooled (hence the title of Ivan Illich’s 1970 book, Deschooling Society).

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Reflections on Illich 07: Drill and education are not in competition but are complementary

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

pp. 17-18  “… (the) two-faced nature of learning: drill and an education.  School does both tasks badly, partly because it does not distinguish between them.”

This is a critically important distinction that needs to be embraced in the context of unschooling with a discipleship emphasis.  Schools are very bad at distinguishing between drill and education, and very often swing to either extreme; i.e. fill the school day with drill and call it education, or fill the day with ‘education’, but neglect the importance of drill at critical times in the educational life of the child.

Both drill and education are required.  Both have their place, and one cannot substitute for the other.

What then is meant by education, and what is meant by drill?  How are they different, and how are they complementary?

By education is meant the living of life for the purpose of learning how to live life richly and fully.  An education needs to be liberal, in the older sense of being exposed to a very broad range of experiences and cultural expressions, and being able to engage in social intercourse around around such cultural life.  An education includes exposure to good music, beautiful works of art, great accomplishments in architecture, reading of excellent samples of literature from a range of historical periods, and so forth.

On the other hand, being able to live life requires the mastery of specific skills.  Skills mastery often requires repetition, so that there are mental and physical stimulus-response tracks created in the brain and muscle fibres.  Such drill could include the learning of algorithmic facts (i.e. times tables, addition/subtraction facts), phonics coding and decoding cues, geographical features such as rivers and mountains, and names of states and capital cities, lines of Presidents and Prime Ministers and Kings and Queens to create historical pegs upon which can be hung other historical facts, sport and athletic disciplines, and so forth.

Mastery of such skills is not an education, but neither can an education be complete without the mastery of such skills.  The two must be understood, their part in the unschooling process embraced, and their complementary nature fully appreciated.

This just does not happen in most school contexts.

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Reflections on Illich 01: Home-based education is education in community, not in isolation

The 1970s work of Ivan Illich has been an important point of reference in my PhD dissertation.  In many respects, Illich understood a Biblical Christian approach to the education process.  I am hoping to comment on a series of quotes that are recorded elsewhere in this blog (Illich quotes) .  This is the first of the quotes.  The full text can be obtained:

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

p. xix  “Universal education through schooling is not feasible.  It would be no more feasible if it were attempted by means of alternative institutions built on the style of present schools.  Neither new attitudes of teachers toward their pupils nor the proliferation of educational hardware or software (in classroom or bedroom), nor finally the attempt to expand the pedagogue’s responsibility until it engulfs his pupils’ lifetimes will deliver universal education.  The current search for new educational funnels must be reversed into the search for their institutional inverse: educational webs which heighten the opportunity for each one to transform each moment of his living into one of learning, sharing, and caring.”

Here, as in other parts of Deschooling Society, Illich identifies that schools and schooling, because of their very essence, are unable to deliver true education.  Reformation of schools will not bring about the changes that are necessary to enable education to be accomplished.  Schools are, fundamentally, anti-education.  The thing that schools do best is school its attendees.

No amount of reformation, according to Illich — adjustments to the ways schools are constructed and run, changes in teachers’ attitudes to students, the use of technology in the classroom, and even a change in how students are engaged — will alter the outcomes of schooling.  Schools can only school.  And they can only school, and not educate, because they are total institutions that are designed to control every participant and process within them towards a stated end: egalitarianism and unquestioning submission to the state or some other dominating institution, i.e. an organized religion.  This is not an education, it is indoctrination.  It breeds narrow-mindedness, and an incapacity to think independently.

Schools are not to be reformed, they are to be abandoned altogether, and the vast resources that are taken from families and businesses (through taxation) to fund the schooling industry, should remain with the families and the businesses to fund home-based education and more financially viable private enterprise.

The proper context for education to take place, according to Illich, is living life: “the opportunity for each one to transform each moment of his living into one of learning, sharing, and caring.”  And the support structures for a thorough education are “educational webs.”  Education must be in a context greater than the family.  The family is an essential base from which children move in and out.  Parents are important gate-keepers, who must vet and monitor the kinds of influences that their children are exposed to in the marketplace.  However, no parent is able to provide everything that the child needs for a well-rounded, reality-grounded education. 

There are three essential agents in an education, from a Biblical perspective.  The three agents are: the family, the church and the marketplace.  And the family needs to engage both the church and the marketplace as important sources of educational moments and experiences, not just lock their children away in a family fortress, as some (a small minority) home schooling families do.

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