The idea of De-Schooling

I came across the theorist Ivan Illich (a peer of Paulo Freire), who wrote an influential text in 1971 titled ‘Deschooling Society’. The popular perception of the text is that Illich was arguing for the elimination of schools, but in the Foreword to a 1996 book of essays titled ‘Deschooling our Lives’ [i] , Illich says his earlier book was misrepresented and that he was advocating advocating for the “disestablishment of schools, in the sense in which the Church has been disestablished in the United States”, not for their total eradication.

I need to do more research into it, but it seems the attributes deschooling advocates say should be in their ideal learning environments are very similar to how community media facilitators talk about their ideal projects. I am by no means suggesting that community media activity can replace schools, but rather that I will look into whether it can borrow any thinking from deschooling in terms of methodology and ethos.

Illich was not a Marxist, but apparently his work does parallel with Marxist views. [ii] This rhymes with my thinking as Marxist theory was more than likely going to form the predominant weight of the methodology of this research, through theorists such as Freire, Foucault and Althusser.

In ‘According to Sociology: Themes and Perspectives’, Michael Haralambos summarises Illich’s views as follows.

“Education should be a liberating experience in which the individual explores, creates, uses his initiative and judgement and freely develops his faculties and talents to the full. Illich claims that schools are not particularly effective in teaching skills and in practice, diametrically opposed to the educational ideals in which he believes. He argues that the teaching of skills is best left to those who use those skills in daily life.………

He regards schools as repressive institutions which indoctrinate pupils, smother creativity and imagination, induce conformity and stupefy students into accepting the interests of the powerful. He sees this ‘hidden curriculum’ operating in the following way. The pupil has little or no control over what he learns or how he learns it. He is simply instructed by an authoritarian teaching regime and, to be successful, must conform to it rules. Real learning, however, is not the result of instruction, but of direct and free involvement by the individual in every part of the learning process. In sum, ‘most learning requires no teaching’.” [iii]

Admittedly not all of this echoes exactly with how community media facilitators think, as they are not particularly anti-school. But there is something to investigate in how theorists are visioning alternative learning spaces in the wake of advancements in technology, especially in relation to how media literacy is becoming more of an accepted agenda in UK education: especially in Bristol where schools are failing.

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[i] Edited by Matt Hern. New Society Publishers. Canada

[ii] ‘According to Sociology: Themes and Perspectives’. M.Haralambos. 1989. Unwin Hyman. London

[iii] page 187

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