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Deschooling Society (I Grandi dell'Educazione) by [Illich, Ivan]
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Deschooling Society (I Grandi dell'Educazione) Kindle Edition

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The book is a critical discourse on education as practised in "modern" economies. Full of detail on contemporary programs and concerns, the book remains as radical today. Giving examples of the ineffectual nature of institutionalized education, Illich posited self-directed education, supported by intentional social relations, in fluid informal arrangements.
“The current search for new educational funnels must be reversed into the search for their institutional inverse: educational webs which heighten the opportunity for each one to transform each moment of his living into one of learning, sharing, and caring.”
Illich describes much of what we’ve seen come to pass with the internet and social networks (even if he does speak in terms of telephones and postal mail) and even mentions in passing game-based learning. His prescription however, is radical and thought-provoking: do away with schools entirely, and replace them with learning networks.
“We hope to contribute concepts needed by those who conduct such counterfoil research on education--and also to those who seek alternatives to other established service industries”.
This sentence makes clear what the title suggests — that the institutionalization of education tends towards the institutionalization of society and that ideas for de-institutionalizing education may be a starting point for a de-institutionalized society.
“The operation of a peer-matching network would be simple. The user would identify himself by name and address and describe the activity for which he sought a peer. A computer would send him back the names and addresses of all those who had inserted the same description. It is amazing that such a simple utility has never been used on a broad scale for publicly valued activity.”
The book is more than a critique - it contains suggestions for a reinvention of learning throughout society and lifetime. In the direction of a real learning to what the individual and community needs.

Product details

  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • File Size: 701 KB
  • Print Length: 128 pages
  • Publisher: KKIEN Publ. Int. (22 August 2013)
  • Sold by: Amazon Australia Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B00EQZF474
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Screen Reader: Supported
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #263,094 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) (May include reviews from Early Reviewer Rewards Program) 4.3 out of 5 stars 35 reviews
33 of 33 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Whatever You Conclude, This Book Makes Us Think about Things Often Taken for Granted. 22 November 2011
By Kevin Currie-Knight - Published on
Verified Purchase
I have a love/hate relationship with Ivan Illich's book "Deschooling Society" (and several other of his works). At the same time, and maybe for that reason, it is also one of the most read books in my collection. Before explaining my ambivalence, a brief summary of the book is due:

The first two chapters attempt to outline the problem(s). Schooling, Illich writes, is failing to do what it promised - to educate in any broad sense, to bring up the poor and better their condition, to do any of this without ever-growing bureaucracies and ballooning budgets. In fact, formal schooling has become a largely self-perpetuating juggernaut that seems more content with perpetuating a belief in its necessity than actually facilitating learning (learning, of course, being defined as something a bit broader than just absorbing the teachings of credentialed teachers).

The next few chapters discuss schooling and its relation to what Illich sees as a culture that ritualizes progress, materialism, and consumption/production. Schooling, he argues, is a coercive institution whose job is largely to create people who are told their place (whether as worker or consumer) and can handle/are okay with leaving authority to others (in schooling, the teaching is always up to the designated teacher; students are there to listen).

The last three chapters outline Illich's attempts at a solution. Here he draws on his ideal of convivial institutions that will be the full subject of his subsequent book Tools for Conviviality. Instead of compulsory schooling, where students are alienated from their educations by leaving determination of what they should know to state-credentialed teachers and administrators (bureacurats, actually), Illich suggests that schooling relations should be convivial - where, like parks, roads, and libraries, individuals produce and consume them in ways that do not force anyone to submit to anyone else's purpose. First, these would not be compulsory. Second, they would allow students and teachers (who are not limited to those the state certifies as teachers, because there isn't reason to suppose the state knows what makes a teacher better than individuals do) to come together for mutual benefit. The second to last chapter details four types of convivial 'learning webs' that could accomplish this goal (such as allowing teachers, students, and peers to advertise on community bulletin boards in order to come together for shared purposes).

Like I said, I have a love/hate relationship with this book. First, the good. It is very obvious that Illich is concerned first and foremost about human liberty, which he thinks is constantly violated when we compel students and families to consume one, and only one, state-approved type of education. Second, Illich is very astute in his identification of schooling as a self-perpetuating thing: a large reason people consume 12 and more years of education is the simple fact that others find value in it. Employers require schooling, even when it is a questionable assumption that many of the things learned there actually contribute to work success. And as more people get more schooling, everyone else feels like they have to as well, just to stay afloat. Reading this book will make you appreciate exactly how ultimately vacuous this whole process is.

Now, for the hate. I can only describe Illich as an anti-industrialist in the Rousseauean vain. Many passages in this and other works romanticize the pre-industrial age, quite wrongly, as an age where largely self-sufficient man was able to provide for his needs quite well, where all his needs could be satisfied within a short radius, where humans did productive work (as opposed to unproductive work, like building cars and advertising campaigns), etc. Part of his criticism of schooling is that it fosters a division of labor that leaves folks alienated from real, purposive labor while encouraging unnecessary consumption. Now, I for one would point out that while the division of labor comes with downsides, it also comes with amazing upsides, such as allowing people to do what they have a talent for and focusing, rather than each doing that which they have to for brute survival, regardless of their interest or talent. (For someone who is so libertarian, it is strange that the increase in choice for individuals of career paths is an advantage of division of labor lost on Illich). And as for romanticizing the days where satisfying survival needs were enough to fill human life with purpose? I will take our age over the pre-industrial age anyway (and am quite glad I live past 30, and most of my money is spent making my life more comfortable rather than on brute survival. I suspect most of Illich's readers do too, at least secretly).

Also, I just am not convinced that Illich isn't ignoring or not seeing some of the positives of organized schools. First, while authoritarianism is not a good thing, sometimes authority is, because we can rightly question whether if left to their own, those without 'cultural capital' are necessarily the best judges of exactly what education their children should receive. Second, while it would be interesting to have everyone choose exactly what they learn and how (as in the bulletin-board idea, where people learn by signing up to teach or learn with like-minded others), that is an extraordinary amount of leg work. Isn't there something to be said for an organized place where there are proscribed curricula, such that individuals can leave the minutiae of educational planning up to others? (By analogy, I can pick out all the parts of my computer - mouse, keyboard, CPU, speakers, etc) separately, but might it just be more efficient for me to buy a 'package' so that those who know best what goes with what can do the coordinating?) Lastly, while it is possible that the family will know better than any expert how to educate their children, there is something to be said the other way: the expert may be neutral where the parent is biased, the expert may have the benefit of seeing more possibilities than the parent sees, etc. (By the way, in subsequent works, Illich said he never meant to imply that schools be abolished or had no place, but if this is true, then 'Deschooling Society' was a most unfortunate title.)

Anyway, for all that, I still HIGHLY recommend this book, if only because it makes us think about things we often take for granted. I myself am a libertarian whose chief concern is education's compulsory aspects, and the virtual government monopoly on schooling. I see no necessary problem with schooling, as Illich does, and suspect that even if education were not compulsory, a great many families would still choose some form of (so-called) traditional schooling, largely because there may be more to be said for it than Illich thinks. But read and decide for yourself. Is Illich an architect of the golden path, or a utopian (it is doubtful you'll find him 'middle of the road')? He's been called all of it. What do you think?
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A book that makes you question your teachers, your parents, and your whole childhood. 2 February 2016
By Evan Le - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I really enjoyed reading this book. Ivan Illich offers these amazingly insightful ideas that would be considered radical by most of my peers who have grown up in the public school system.

Here are my main takeaways:

1. Why We Must Disestablish School
Most learning is not the result of teaching. For example, people who learn second languages mostly do so through speaking and reaction to the present moment. Learning isn't something that has to be provided for you. Nor should it be planned and manipulated in one mold for every child.

2. Phenomenology of School
The idea of childhood is a social construct. The way we maintain this "period of childhood" is mainly through schooling (along with age-specific laws). One of my favorite lines about how school distorts our worldview: "The distinctions between morality, legality, and moral worth are blurred and eventually eliminated" under the "authoritative eye of the teacher".

3. Ritualization of Progress
Schools have this unbreakable image that they're ultimately good for the children - that's what allows them to spend so frivolously. As costs rise up, the system takes away our children's responsibility for their own growth, a sort of "spiritual suicide" if you will. They don't advance until they complete the tasks they were told to do.

4. Irrational Consistencies
Curriculum is used to assign social rank. This rank structure is rigid and keeps people in their place. Many degree or certification programs, serve as barriers to protect the presiding class from uncertified people who would want to compete for those jobs.

5. Learning Webs
Schools are designed with the idea that there is this special secret to succeeding in life. And only teachers know this secret. This perpetuates the idea that success through the school system is the only way or the best way to reaching this enlightened stage.

We've all been through mandatory schooling, so it's hard to imagine a life without it. But what if we could imagine a brighter future to education rather than the dismal attempts at nationalized curriculum and "higher standards"?

This is an amazing book that covers a lot of ground in terms of the deschooling movement. I've already seen successful implementations of Illich's ideas in post-highschool educational programs. All students should read this book; it really makes you think more deeply about your relationships towards institutions, learning, and authority.

"It must not start with the question, 'What should someone learn?' but with the question, 'What kinds of things and people might learners want to be in contact with in order to learn?" - Illich
9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Deschooling Society" Forty years later 8 August 2011
By Julia Blair - Published on
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Since the initial publication of "Deschooling Society" in 1971 there has been little change to school and centralized institutions, at least in the United States. Illich's pessimistic message on the future school and institutional forces did little to create any change in society. Yet, upon reading Illich, one is often shocked at the resonance of the problems in his time and of Illich's predictions with that of today.

Illich's basic premise is that school is a degrading institution which acts as a god of knowledge and which prepares a belief into the student of the efficiency and legitimacy of centralized bureaucratic institutions based on an approved certification by the state. Illich sees "Everywhere the hidden curriculum of schooling initiates the citizen to the myth that bureaucracies guided by scientific knowledge are efficient and benevolent. Everywhere this same curriculum instills in the pupil the myth that increased production will provide a better life. And everywhere it develops the habit of self-defeating consumption of services and alienating production, the tolerance for institutional dependence and the recognition of institutional rankings." Illich states that in a new society "It must not start with the question `What should someone learn?' but with the question `What kinds of things and people might learners want to be in contact with in order to learn?". Illich doesn't just attack schools, he feels though that schools are at the heart of the problem of an institutionalized society as it prepares us for everything else.

Illich's solutions to the modern school and institutions are to abolish them and bring them back into the control of people. Illich's "deschooled" society would consist of numerous community organized programs where people are allowed to learn what they desire, and where "An entirely new elite would be produced, an elite of those who earned their education by sharing it". Illich's overall solution is more complex than this and it unfortunately does raise many questions of sustainability and effectiveness, but I assume it can just be used as a template of a future society. While in response to other institutions he often bashes technology and how he feels it has been manipulated by the state. With this it might seem that Illich is anti-technology, but no, he merely argues for bringing it back into the hands of the people. He states "We need research on the possible use of technology to create institutions which serve personal, creative and autonomous interaction and emergence of values which cannot be substantially controlled by technocrats".

His greatest prophecy of today's is the school's growing inefficiency to make students learn despite growing costs; Illich saw in his time that "Everywhere in the world school costs have risen faster than enrollments and faster than the GNP; everywhere expenditures on school fall even further behind the expectations of parents, teachers and pupils". This seems very true in the United States where the costs of education (particularly higher education) have shot up since the 70s and yet the United States is drastically lagging behind the world in reading, mathematics and science skills. While a country like Finland, which has taken educational reforms reducing the authoritarian nature of schools is right at the top. In Illich's time Nixon formed a committee focusing on education costs which he attacked stating "The President's Committee for the study of school finance should ask not how to support or trim such increasing costs, but how they can be avoided". And here his commentary can also be connected to the rising cost of health care, as both education and health care are rising to ridiculous rates and policy makers are not looking at the cause of these enormous rates; Republicans are simply saying we must cut and Democrats are saying we must continue to fund. He also critiques economics in how the state is restricting entry into certain professions in order to protect the individuals in the profession thereby creating a shortage and breeding inefficiency. One way he saw this was through the "diminishing number of nurses in the United States owing to the rapid increase of four year B.S. programs in nursing" as opposed to two or three year programs.

In all Illich's work is stunningly relevant today as we are possibly facing a crisis point in near future in terms of the quality and cost of education and healthcare, and as our society is only getting more centralized into the control of bureaucrats and out of the hands of people. It would be nice if today policy makers could get a hold of Illich today and really try to bring power back to the people.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible and even more relevant 40 years after it was written. 15 January 2014
By E Tavit - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I first stumbled upon Illich's work a few years ago, and keep coming back to his seminal work, "Deschooling Society" with the same wide-eyed wonder. What is even more amazing about Illich's insight is that is becomes more and more relevant with each passing year. As a career educator I left my job to homeschool my two young children for all of the reasons so eloquently explained in by Illich. The only way to really free oneself from the oppression of gvt. is to remove oneself from it. As our society continues to deify meritocracy, and at the same time cry for the unattainable social justice, institutions remain one of the primary oppressors. People are so brainwashed by the Marxist teaching in public schools that they, unlike Illich, fail to see that it is the institutions themselves which contribute to the poverty. These institution and gvt. funded programs which are supposed to equalize opportunity do nothing but inhibit it. Illich's work continues to challenge and inspire. Every read of this book brings out nuances and layers. Not for the faint of heart.
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Deschooling Society 10 December 2009
By Peter W. Stanfield - Published on
Verified Purchase
Often cited but rarely read, its contents are as penetrating as its title! Illich argues, without faltering, that a schooled society is one in which its young people are alienated from educated involvement in the world; cut off in the `magic-womb' of the classroom where, in spite of the best intentions of their teachers, they are largely conditioned by a `hidden curriculum'. His analysis of the school as the `reproductive organ' of consumer society is as pertinent today as it was 40 years ago. His practical suggestions as to how a deschooled society might function, however, appear anachronistic to the modern reader, although his vision of turning society into open networks of learning is pertinent in the era of the world-wide-web. This book challenges us to be courageous and utilize present technology to enable education for all by all and finally emancipate ourselves from the school.

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