06 December 2008

Deschooling Society

Many students, especially those who are poor, intuitively know what the schools do for them. They school them to confuse process and substance. Once these become blurred, a new logic is assumed: the more treatment there is, the better are the results; or, escalation leads to success. The pupil is thereby "schooled" to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new. His imagination is "schooled" to accept service in place of value. Medical treatment is mistaken for health care, social work for the improvement of community life, police protection for safety, military poise for national security, the rat race for productive work. Health, learning, dignity, independence, and creative endeavor are defined as little more than the performance of the institutions which claim to serve these ends, and their improvement is made to depend on allocating more resources to the management of hospitals, schools, and other agencies in question.

--Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich, page 1.



  1. Another thought provoking question: how does the literacy rate of today in our country compare to that prior to the mandatory public school movement? Does anyone know?

  2. Tammy, I hear that the literacy rate was MUCH higher, but then again, I'm pretty sure no one was counting the slaves or recent immigrants in those figures.

    IMO I don't think education should be mandatory, though. Maybe as a condition to prison release or receiving welfare benefits, or some other situation in which the state has some compelling interest in "getting into" someone's life. Even then, I'd proceed with caution. Once the state can dictate what constitutes an "education," we're opening ourselves up to all kinds of trouble.

  3. Well, I've always been into the more scathing and clever criticisms of things. I wouldn't say that he's totally right, but he does make a compelling statement that holds much truth.


  4. I've often said that we confuse the issue on a number of fronts. I think this guy makes some very valid points. But then you already knew I'd probably agree, especially after reading my blog today.

  5. Luke, sometimes it's only the extremists who are bold enough to SAY SOMETHING. (smiling back!)

    Terry, I'm encouraged as always by your frankness. I appreciate your blogging on this homeschool/public school dichotomy as well.


Non-troll comments always welcome! :)