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Deschooling Society

School is the advertising agency which makes you believe that you need the society as it is.

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School has become the world religion of a modernized proletariat, and makes futile promises of salvation to the poor of the technological age.

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Schools are designed on the assumption that there is a secret to everything in life; that the quality of life depends on knowing that secret; that secrets can be known only in orderly successions; and that only teachers can properly reveal these secrets. An individual with a schooled mind conceives of the world as a pyramid of classified packages accessible only to those who carry the proper tags.

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School prepares people for the alienating institutionalization of life, by teaching the necessity of being taught. Once this lesson is learned, people loose their incentive to develop independently; they no longer find it attractive to relate to each other, and the surprises that life offers when it is not predetermined by institutional definition are closed.

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Welfare bureaucracies claim a professional, political, and financial monopoly over the social imagination, setting standards of what is valuable and what is feasible. This monopoly is at the root of the modernization of poverty. Every simple need to which an institutional answer is found permits the invention of a new class of poor and a new definition of poverty. Once basic needs have been translated by a society into demands for scientifically produced commodities, poverty is defined by standards which the technocrats can change at will. Poverty then refers to those who have fallen behind an advertised ideal of consumption in some important respect.

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The American university has become the final stage of the most all encompassing initiation rite the world has ever known. No society in history has been able to survive without ritual or myth, but ours is the first which has needed such a dull, protracted, destructive, and expensive initiation into its myth. The contemporary world civilization is also the first one which has found it necessary to rationalize its fundamental initiation ritual in the name of education. 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. We cannot go beyond the consumer society unless we first understand that obligatory public schools inevitably reproduce such a society, no matter what is taught in them.

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A second major illusion on which the school system rests is that most learning is the result of teaching. Teaching, it is true, may contribute to certain kinds of learning under certain circumstances. But most people acquire most of their knowledge outside school, and in school only insofar as school, in a few rich countries, has become their place of confinement during an increasing part of their lives.

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School appropriates the money, men, and good will available for education and in addition discourages other institutions from assuming educational tasks. Work, leisure, politics, city living, and even family life depend on schools for the habits and knowledge they presuppose, instead of becoming themselves the means of education.

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Certain tools are destructive no matter who owns them, whether it be the Mafia, stockholders, a foreign company, the state, or even a workers' commune. Networks of multilane highways, long. range, wide-band-width transmitters, strip mines, or compulsory school systems are such tools. Destructive tools must inevitably increase regimentation, dependence, exploitation, or impotence, and rob not only the rich but also the poor of conviviality, which is the primary treasure in many so-called "underdeveloped" areas.

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Creative, exploratory learning requires peers currently puzzled about the same terms or problems. Large universities make the futile attempt to match them by multiplying their courses, and they generally fail since they are bound to curriculum, course structure, and bureaucratic administration. In schools, including universities, most resources are spent to purchase the time and motivation of a limited number of people to take up predetermined problems in a ritually defined setting. The most radical alternative to school would be a network or service which gave each man the same opportunity to share his current concern with others motivated by the same concern.

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The public is indoctrinated to believe that skills are valuable and reliable only if they are the result of formal schooling.

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Institutional wisdom tells us that children need school. Institutional wisdom tells us that children learn in school. But this institutional wisdom is itself the product of schools because sound common sense tells us that only children can be taught in school. Only by segregating human beings in the category of childhood could we ever get them to submit to the authority of a schoolteacher.

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Schools themselves pervert the natural inclination to grow and learn into the demand for instruction.

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The hope has vanished that the problem of justly distributing goods can be sidetracked by creating an abundance of them. The cost of the minimum packages capable of satisfying modern tastes has skyrocketed, and what makes tastes modern is their obsolescense prior even to satisfaction.

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The power of school loss to divide social reality has no boundaries education becomes unworldly and the world becomes noneducational.

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The suspicion that something is structurally wrong with the vision of homo faber is common to a growing minority in capitalist, communist, and "underdeveloped" countries alike. This suspicion is the shared characteristic of a new elite. To it belong people of all classes, incomes, faiths, and civilizations. They have become wary of the myths of the majority: of scientific utopias, of ideological diabolism, and of the expectation of the distribution of goods and services with some degree of equality. They share with the majority the awareness that most new policies adopted by broad consensus consistently lead to results which are glaringly opposed to their stated aims. Yet whereas the Promethean majority of would-be spacemen still evades the structural issue, the emergent minority is critical of the scientific deus ex machina, the ideological panacea, and the hunt for devils and witches. This minority begins to formulate its suspicion that our constant deceptions tie us to contemporary institutions as the chains bound Prometheus to his rock. Hopeful trust and classical irony must conspire to expose the Promethean fallacy.”

Quotes from Ivan Illich's Deschooling Society.


INTELLECTUALTAKEOUT

10 Provocative Quotes from
Ivan Illich's “Deschooling Society”

“Once a man or woman has accepted the need for school, he or she is easy prey for other institutions. Once young people have allowed their imaginations to be formed by curricular instruction, they are conditioned to institutional planning of every sort.”
Stumbling and Mumbling

On Britain's Intellectual Decline

This is mirrored in our politics. On both front benches today there are pitifully few people one could call intellectuals (as distinct from intelligent): Jesse Norman and Barry Gardiner are the only ones I can think of immediately. The 60s and 70s, however, gave us Crosland, Foot, Jenkins and Crossman among others. And although Thatcher was considered no great intellectual in her time, she peppered her speeches with references to Hayek, Friedman or Popper. Can you imagine Theresa May citing similar men? Are there even any?
TECHNOLOGYREVIEW

Given Tablets but No Teachers,
Ethiopian Children Teach Themselves

A bold experiment by the One Laptop Per Child organization has shown “encouraging” results.
tzal.org

Deschooling Society quotes

Impactful quotes from a seminal work on freedom from institutional education.

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INTELLECTUALTAKEOUT

10 Provocative Quotes from
Ivan Illich's “Deschooling Society”

“Once a man or woman has accepted the need for school, he or she is easy prey for other institutions. Once young people have allowed their imaginations to be formed by curricular instruction, they are conditioned to institutional planning of every sort.”



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