Ivan Illich, Schooling, Schools

Reflections on Illich 18: The thing that schools are best at is training up workers for the schooling industry and other total institutions

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

p. 48  “School either keeps people for life or makes sure that they will fit into some institution.”

I have finally left school.  I am nearly 58 years of age.  The best years of my life were given to schools and schooling.  However, when I took small breaks from school, I found myself caught up in other total institutions, the most significant being four years serving in the Australian Army.  I am living evidence of Illich’s words.  Upon deep reflection, I have come to believe that schools are poisonous places, and many attendees of schools are wounded for life as a consequence of their schooling experience.  The only real survivors of schooling are those who are oriented to the schooling process, and therefore are easily groomed to perpetuate the institution at one of its many levels (child care, pre-school, primary/elementary school, high school, university, post-graduate school, trade school, Bible school, etc.).   But are these survivors really survivors at all.  There is something satisfying about sharing knowledge with others.  However, the total institution of school breeds workplace bullying, academic ladder-climbing, playground bullying, workload stress, and gives opportunity for despots to rise to the top of the bureaucratic pyramid.

All of this is just not necessary for an education.  It is necessary to keep an industry flooded with public money to fund: mortgage payments, extended paid leave, sabbaticals, superannuation, textbook writing, seminars, tenured university positions, research projects, education journals, etc.  However, an education does not cost any where near the cost of funding public-financed schooling.

A truly educated person is not institutionalized.  An educated person knows how to live life to its fullest, is productive, creative, and knows how to think outside the school-set boundaries–an entrepreneur, an inventor, a pioneer.  A schooled person thinks narrowly, and is trained to believe that there is only one answer–the answer required by the teacher on the test that is coming up.  A schooled person is politically correct. A schooled person is passive, and expects others to provide for them–the well-trained dole recipient, or compliant worker in the top-down corporation.

It is said that it takes at least one month of deschooling to counter each year that a person has been schooled.  I have been deschooling for 15 months as of this post.  I only have three years of deschooling to go, and hopefully then I can start becoming a useful person in my community.  What a waste of a life!

A deschooled society will save the community an enormous amount of wasted money, and provide a much better educated community, as well.

 

 

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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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deschooling, Education, Ivan Illich, Schooling, Socialization

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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Schooling, Schools, State Schools

It’s not just the children who suffer in schools: schools are poison for everyone

Peter Doulis, a teacher in the state of Victoria, Australia, has recently been awarded $770,000 in damages following a major psychological breakdown caused by teaching in a Victorian state school.  The Victorian Supreme Court awarded the damages against the Victorian Government because of the government’s negligence in not removing Doulis from teaching in dysfunctional classes.  The students were described as ‘feral’, and were reported to have been “virtually crawling up the wall”. Doulis has been suffering a “chronic severe major depressive condition”.

The Victorian President of the Australian Education Union warned that this is a re-ocurring problem because government’s “aren’t prepared to support our schools in the important work that they do in educating our young people.”

Education Unions have a vested interest in schools and schooling, so their solution to the problem is to throw more government money at the issue.  This will not solve the problem, it will only expand the institution that is the root cause.

So, here is evidence of another situation where attending a school is hazardous to health.  The behaviour of the students that is identified as contributive to Doulis’s breakdown is the kind of behaviour that would be expected in a mental institution.  And why should this be surprising?  Both mental institutions and schools are total institutions, as defined by Goffman (1961).

The Secular, Free and Compulsory Schooling experiment has failed dismally, and needs to be scrapped.  It will not happen over night, and who knows how many more teachers, principals and students will be afflicted with breakdowns before the lesson is learned.  Government-funded schools are not places of education, they are prisons and places that inflict enormous pain on a very large number of people subjected to them.

Goffman, E. (1961). Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other Inmates.  New York: Doubleday Anchor.

http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-09-05/teacher-awarded-770k-for-dealing-with-feral-students/5722678

 

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Funding, Ivan Illich, Schooling, Schools, State Schools

Reflections on Illich 13: The messianic character of mainstream Western schooling

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

”The most important role of schools is to create jobs for accredited teachers, no matter what their pupils learn from them” (p. 31).   “The school teacher is a ‘secular priest’” (p. 32).

In his book, The Messianic Character of American Education: Studies in the History of the Philosophy of Education, Rousas J. Rushdoony (1963) traced the educational development in the West that established schools as the new church in society, and identified ignorance (of political correctness) as being the new sin that children must be saved from.  He strongly argued that the priests and priestesses of the new church are the teachers that indoctrinate in these schools.  Illich summarised this idea by saying that,”(t)he school teacher is a ‘secular priest'”.

On the other hand, schools are structured to meet the educational needs of one kind of child, and that is the child with the orientation to aural/oral/visual learning.  This excludes a lot of boys (and some girls) who are tactile/kinaesthetic learners.  It is the aural/oral/visual learners who make the best teachers, and the tactile/kinaesthetic learners are not catered for adequately, if at all, in the schooling process.  Therefore, the children who get the most out of schools and schooling are those who are destined to become the teachers in the schools.  Hence Ilich’s comment that “(t)he most important role of schools is to create jobs for accredited teachers, no matter what their pupils learn from them”. 

Schooling is a huge industry that consumes inordinate amounts of public money.  The evidence strongly suggests that the more public money directed towards schooling, the worse the outcomes from schools are.  Hattie (2011) wrote:

Funding in the Australian school education sector increased by 41% between 1995 and 2006 ([EOCD], 2007) but student performance stagnated in mathematics and significantly declined in reading (Thompson, 2008).  In Australia, Jensen, Reichl and Kemp (2011) estimated that per student expenditure increased by over 17 per cent during the studied decade, while student performance declined by 2.5 per cent, equivalent to about one-third of a year of schooling.  They noted substantial variation between states, with the decline in performance in the ACT being over 50 per cent of the national average and the rise in expenditure being double the national average.  They identified the largest increase in expenditure as being due to reduced student-teacher ratios, driven by class size reductions–with there not being an increase in teacher salaries over the identified period (p. 5).

Government certification processes and Union protection of teachers, has ensured that very few teachers, once in the classroom, can be removed.  Incompetence in performance is covered by the smoke-screen of clamoring for more and more government money to be spent on the schooling juggernaut.  Decline in educational outcomes is blamed on government economic rationalism.

Schools are not the temples of secular salvation.  Education cannot save us.  There is only one name given among men whereby which we must be saved, and that is the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.  Mums and dads, lead your children to the only wise God our Saviour.  He, and He alone, is the only hope of salvation in this life and in the life to come.

 

Hattie, J. (2011). Leaders Exert More Power When They Control the Topics of Educational Debates (Vol. 59). Adelaide, South Australia: ACEL.

Rushdoony, R. J. (1963). The Messianic Character of American Education: Studies in the History of the Philosophy of Education. Nutley, New Jersey: The Craig Press.

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Ivan Illich, Schools, State Schools

Reflections on Illich 11: Schools are ancient and modern, and perpetuate childhood

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

p. 28  “The school system is a modern phenomenon, as is the childhood it produces.”

School as we know it in our era has only appeared once before in history, and that was in the Ancient community of Sparta.  According to Flaceliere (1965) at the age of 7 a young boy was taken from his family, schooled in a state-controlled total institution, where he was indoctrinated to give allegiance and unquestioning obedience to the state until his death.  Spartan girls were raised to be on equal footing with the boys, but the objective was with a militaristic end in view – breeders of strong Spartan boys for the Army.  Schools and schooling were designed to create total dependence upon the state, and to form the citizens into military units that responded to the states martial objectives.

In the case of modern schools, their original raison d’etre was also militaristic.  The German Kaisers wanted to created a powerful war machine in Europe, and saw state-compulsory schooling as a means of achieving this objective.  When the concept of state-controlled education reached England, America and Australia, it was seen as a means of creating a large workforce of factory workers.  In the words of Reynolds (2014):

“… the traditional public school: like a factory, … runs by a bell.  Like machines in a factory, desks and students are lined up in orderly rows.  When shifts (classes) change, the bell rings again, and students go on to the next class.  And within each class, the subjects are the same, the assignments are the same, and the examinations are the same, regardless of the characteristics of individual students. … A teacher in a modern industiral-era school was like a factory worker, performing standardized operations on standardized parts.  And the standardized parts–the students–were taught along the way how to fit into a larger machine. … the modern school system provided far less scope for individuality on the part of both its producers and its products.  But the trade-off was seen as worthwhile: the modern assembly-line approach, in both settings, produced more of what society wanted, and it did so at a lower cost.  If standard parts are what you want, an assembly line is better than a blacksmith” (Reynolds, 2014, Standardized Parts and Mass Production).

So, the 19th Century objects of schooling were to create a ready supply of “punctual, obedient factory workers; orderly citizens; and loyal soldiers” (Reynolds, 2014).

Between Sparta and the experiment of the German Kaisers, education was a family and marketplace activity, and was not delivered in schools as we know them today.  In that sense, the school system is a modern phenomenon.  And since factories have shifted from the West to Asia, at least some of the reasons for schools and schooling have disappeared–training of piece-workers with no jobs at the end of the training process.

I remember the first thing that I was told by my platoon sergeant, when I got off the bus and commenced my military training: “Don’t think, soldier! You are not paid to think, that is what officers are paid to do.  You are paid to do as you are told.”  Military training militates against maturity and responsibility.  As a soldier, others make decisions about what you will wear, where you will live, what you will eat, whether you will sleep (or not), how you will behave, and so forth.  Schooling that is based on a militaristic and factory model prevents responsible thinking, the essential prerequisite to maturity.  Growing up requires real opportunities to make significant decisions, with actual consequences.  Schools perpetuate childhood;  particularly in the context of age-segregated cohorts, with age-oriented learning materials.

Education for maturity, education for responsibility and productivity in life requires education in life under the guidance of loving parents, and in the company of supportive siblings.  True education orients a child to the twin objectives: to love God with all your heart, soul, strength and mind, and to love your neighbour as yourself.  This cannot be achieved in the context of a school, and is not the by-product of schooling; it is the fruit of unschooling with a discipleship emphasis.

 

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Ivan Illich, Life Learning, Schools

Reflections on Illich 10: The characteristics of schools

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

pp. 26-27  “… I shall define ‘school’ as the age-specific, teacher-related process requiring full-time attendance at an obligatory curriculum.”

The characteristics that Illich refers to as being defining characteristics of schools are:

1.   age-specific (and age-segregated) learning contexts;

2.   teacher-related (teacher-centred) processes;

3.   full-time attendance (compulsory attendance); and

4.   obligatory curriculum (centrally determined, and obligatory for all to complete).

Each of these characteristics militates against efficient and effective learning on the part of the students. 

Firstly, age-specific and age-segregated learning ensures that learning will be pitched at the mediocre, with very little attention to the needs of those students at either extreme of learning capacity.  Age-specific and age-segregated cohorts are created on the assumption that all children pass through the same stages of development at the same times, which is not true in all areas for all children.  There are developmental differences that enable many children to be at different stages at different times in different areas of their lives.  This assumption of equal development suppresses individuality, and creativity, and ultimately prevents most children from becoming excellent at anything.

Secondly, teacher-related/teacher-centred processes focus on the interests, strengths and abilities of the teacher.  Effective learning takes place when the student has a particular interest or passion that is being catered for.  Learning should not be totally child-centred and child-focused, however, the individuality of the student needs to be taken into consideration, including favoured learning styles, previous learning, orientation, interests and passion of the child.  All these need to be taken into consideration when facilitating learning opportunities.

Thirdly, full-time, compulsory attendance does not take into consideration the powerful learning that takes place when spontaneous opportunities in the context of living life present themselves.  It is important to have the time and the flexibility to respond to these learning opportunities.

Finally, a centrally determined, obligatory curriculum does not take into consideration the myriad of variations of learning needs that are spread across families, communities, regions and so forth.  No one person can learn everything there is to learn.  And no one person or group of people can choose from the full range of possible things that can be learned, which are to be the universally required core learnings.  These are local decisions.

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