This is a small review about Ivan Illich's book, Deschooling Society. One of the best books I've ever heard about the negative effects of the current educational system.
The author explains exactly what the book is about:
School groups people according to age. This grouping rests on three
unquestioned premises. Children belong in school. Children learn in
school. Children can be taught only in school.
I think these unexamined premises deserve serious
Most of the text is dedicated to question, very skillfully in my
opinion those premises. The author anarchist/libertarian tendencies
show in the book, in the sense that most emphasis is directed to the
free choice of the individual in detriment of institutions. But I
think one would be wrong to say that Illich has an agenda other than
point out the evils of a systematic enforcement of teaching:
To understand what it means to deschool society, and not just to
reform the educational establishment, we must now focus on the
hidden curriculum of schooling. We are not concerned here, directly,
with the hidden curriculum of the ghetto streets which brands the
poor or with the hidden curriculum of the drawing room which
benefits the rich. We are rather concerned to call attention to the
fact that the ceremonial or ritual of schooling itself constitutes
such a hidden curriculum.
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.
Illich goes very keenly to the core of the damages that the
paternalistic system of education do to a person.
The man addicted to being taught seeks his security in compulsive
teaching. The woman who experiences her knowledge as the result of a
process wants to reproduce it in others.
In fact, healthy students often redouble their resistance
to teaching as they find themselves more comprehensively
manipulated. This resistance is due not to the authoritarian style
of a public school or the seductive style of some free schools, but
to the fundamental approach common to all schools-the idea that one
person's judgment should determine what and when another person must
From every single source about pedagogy I have ever heard, this book
the one to learn about why the current
situation is fundamentally broken, why it is harmful to society and to
But school enslaves more profoundly and more systematically, since
only school is credited with the principal function of forming
critical judgment, and, paradoxically, tries to do so by making
learning about oneself, about others, and about nature depend on a
It is a very profound responsibility of the individual, to take charge
of his own education, and you could say the same about freedom. It is
hard work to be a free person, and you cannot be a free person if
others control what, how and when you should learn something.
Only liberating oneself from school will dispel such illusions. The
discovery that most learning requires no teaching can be neither
manipulated nor planned. Each of us is personally responsible for
his or her own deschooling, and only we have the power to do it. No
one can be excused if he fails to liberate himself from
schooling. People could not free themselves from the Crown until at
least some of them had freed themselves from the established
Church. They cannot free themselves from progressive consumption
until they free themselves from obligatory school.
This is a life changing book, and I guess Illich's works will only
increase in importance the deeper we go into the knowledge age.