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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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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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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Schools

Schools as Total Institutions

Cohen, L., Manion, L. and Morrison, K. (2011). Research Methods in Education. London: Routledge, make mention of Goffman’s 1968 work on Total Institutions.  Goffman’s study was centred on a mental institution, but the findings could equally apply to other institutions, such as the military, a prison, and such like.  The following is a list of the qualities that make an institution a total institution, according to Goffman:

  • The institution is convened for a specific purpose
  • All aspects of life take place in the same place and under the same single authority
  • Every part of the member’s normal daily activities takes place in the company of many others
  • All members are treated the same and are required to do the same things together
  • The daily activities are precisely and tightly scheduled by a controlling authority and officials, and through formal rules that are tightly enforced
  • The sever activities are part of a single, overall plan that is intended to fulfil the aims of the organization
  • There is a division between the managers and the managed (e.g. the inmates and the hospital staff; the teachers and the students)
  • The inmates have limited or no contact with the outside world but the officials do have contact with the outside world
  • Access to the outside world for inmates may be physically or institutionally restricted, controlled or forbidden
  • There is some antagonism between the two groups, who hold hostile stereotypes of each other and act on the basis of those stereotypes, often based on inequalities of power
  • Officials tend to feel superior and powerful whilst inmates tend to feel inferior and powerless
  • The cultures and cultural worlds of the officials and inmates are separate
  • The two worlds – of officials and inmates – have limited penetration of each other
  • There is a considerable social distance between the two groups
  • Inmates tend to be excluded from knowledge of decisions made about them
  • Incentives (for work, behaviour) and privileges have greater significance with the institution than they would in the outside world
  • There are limited and formal channels of communication between the members of the two worlds
  • Release from the institutions is often part of the privilege system (Cohen, Manion, Morrison, 2011, p. 581)

Cohen, Manion and Morrison also add, “It can be seen that these features can apply to several different total institutions, of which schools are an example” (2011, p. 581).

No wonder many students rebel against the prison-like feel of schools.  Would they respond differently if education was delivered in a different way?

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Aboriginal Education, Accelerated Christian Education (ACE), Denominational Christian Schools, deschooling, Discipleship, Education, Education and Culture-making, Education and the Church, Education and the Family, Education and the Marketplace, Education and the State, Education Delivery Programs, Funding, Hebrew Pedagogies, Home Schools, Home-Based Education, Indigenous Education, Indigenous Pedagogies, Ivan Illich, Life Learning, Natural Learning, Schooling, Schools, Socialization, State Schools, Teaching, Tertiary Education, Themelic Christian Schools, Unschooling

God doesn’t want you to send your children to school: He wants them to have an education

After climbing to the top of the academic tree of education by earning a Diploma of Teaching (Primary), Bachelor of Education, Master of Education (School Leadership), Doctor of Philosophy (Christian Education) and a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment [mostly self-funded], and working for about 30 years at all levels of school from Preschool to adult education, I have come to realise that the deficiencies in educational outcomes for children in the western world are because of schools and schooling. Schools and schooling have always been the problem.

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My new book is now available from Amazon.

Education and Schooling are not synonymous. A proper education does not require children to be sentenced to twelve years locked away in a total institution as if they were criminals, mentally insane, enlisted in the military or part of a religious cult.

The state has no mandate, at all, to be involved in education. Education is the proper sphere of the family, with support from the church, and assistance from free-market tutors and other community custodians of skills and knowledge.

True education should be delivered through unschooling, with a discipleship emphasis. Ivan Illich explored the idea in the 1970s, and the Triune God of the Bible emphatically agrees.  You can get this book from Amazon.

Some time ago, now, I walked away from working in a school as a school administrator. I am on the road to deschooling, but am conscious that there is much more of the road that needs to be traveled.

The focus of my research is around Biblical Christian deschooling/unschooling.  Over time I will be triangulating the things that I have found in the literature, with interviews conducted with families that are actually unschooling, and comparing the results with the development of my own thoughts over 30 years, as recorded in my personal journals.

I look forward to the day when home-based education is the norm, not just a curious anomaly.  Those who would like to read my book, you can get a copy from Amazon.

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The dissertation for my post-graduate doctoral degree is located here: Dissertation found at this location .

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