Thursday, February 13, 2014

Illich on Schools

“Schools are designed on the assumption that there is a secret to everything in life; that the quality of life depends upon knowing that secret; that secrets can only be known 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.”
– Ivan Illich

Those of us who are readers know that knowledge acquisition is often serendipitous. We read many books, make connections and learn along the way. In fact we mimic the hyperlink system on the world wide web (www), or maybe the www mimics our reading!

Illich argues that society has made schooling into a system owned and controlled by an elite, who know the secrets. It is an educational coterie of druidic mystics. We are told that education is the key to success, that only teachers can teach and that we need the proper authorisations, grades and certifications to get to the next level. This approach constrains real learning and in fact makes the erroneous assumption that all people learn at the same rate, at the same age and that they all need the same content. Educating in this way extinguishes the flames of true learning and curiosity and then teachers complain how hard it is to teach kids who they themselves have constrained.

I celebrate the opportunities that the Internet brings to us all to liberate true learners from the shackles of the educational institutions and let them follow their own needs, interests and curiosity.


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