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: http://www.preservenet.com/theory/Illich/Deschooling/intro.html

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).

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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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Discipleship, Unschooling

Maturity is the goal of education, not just accumulated information

Amongst my research data, one of my respondents said, “Education is about growing a child into maturity.”  Maturity is a recurrent theme throughout the Bible, and lack of maturity is a cause for discipline, or even judgment.

Jesus commanded, in Matthew 5:48, “You must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  The word translated perfect could just as well be translated as ‘mature,’ and in fact, in the Amplified Bible, the passage is translated to read, “You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect [that is, grow into complete maturity of godliness in mind and character, having reached the proper height of virtue and integrity].”

The Apostle Paul picked up this theme when he wrote: “About this we have much to say, and it is hard to explain, since you have become dull of hearing.  For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic principles of the oracles of God.  You need milk, not solid food, for everyone who lives on milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, since he is a child.  But solid food is for the mature, for those who have their powers of discernment trained by constant practice to distinguish good from evil.  Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity … and this we will do if God permits (Hebrews 5:11-6:3).

The commandments of Jesus, as they apply to every area of life, are the words of righteousness that Paul is referring to.  Jesus said, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15).  In fact, it is impossible to please God without such obedience, through the help of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:7-8).  It is through regularly putting these words into practice that spiritual growth takes place.  It is through regularly putting these words into practice that a sense of good and evil is developed.

This is why the great education passage in Deuteronomy 6:4-9 says, “… 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, …”.  Not just as information to be committed to short-term memory for a test, and then forgotten; No! No! No!  Children are to have these commandments demonstrated by willingly obedient parents, who gently, but firmly discipline their children into a life-style of obedience, not as a duty, but as a heart-felt expression of love towards God, and appreciation for all the benefits He has bestowed upon us through the death, burial and resurrection of His Son, our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

The reward for maturity is an inheritance, and the promised inheritance is the earth.  Jesus was given all authority in heaven and on earth (Matthew 28:18) when he completed His obedient duty to His heavenly Father.  This was the fulfillment of God’s promise that He made to His Son, recorded in Psalm 2: “I will tell of the decree: The Lord said to me, ‘You are my Son; today I have begotten you.  Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession.'”  This same reward is given to those who are mature in Christ: “In Him we have obtained an inheritance, … And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things TO THE CHURCH, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all” (Ephesians 1:11, 22).  “… made us alive together with Christ–by grace you have been saved–and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, …” (Ephesians 2:5-6).  “… to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things, so that THROUGH THE CHURCH the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities …” (Ephesians 3:8-10).  “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matthew 5:5).  “For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world …” (Romans 4:13).  “… the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring–not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, …” (Romans 4:16).

If all we do is help children to accumulate information, coaching them to commit it to memory so that they can pass tests, and examinations, then we fail them miserably.  Doing will always precede knowing.  You do not know, if you are not doing.  A head full of information, without corresponding doing only fills with pride; “puffeth up”.

Unschooling children, through a discipleship emphasis, should be a process of maturation, so that the children will become suitable recipients of the inheritance that Christ has reserved for them: cities (Luke 19:17), nations (Psalm 2:8), and the earth (Matthew 5:5).

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