Re: Deschooling Society LO2022
Mon, 10 Jul 1995 13:16:53 -0700

Replying to LO1995 --

Yup, that long quote from Ivan Illich made my hair stand on end, too.

Just for starters: "Schools are designed on the assumption that there is
a secret to everything in life....and that only teachers can properly
reveal these secrets." Really? Where? Is this all schools, some
schools, small schools, schools since the beginning of time, schools with
groovy gym outfits, schools whose students win Westinghouse scholarships,
schools that enclose every kind of struggle a human being can come up
with? Those schools? Or some other schools.

This kind of sweeping (and truly irrelevant) generalization is a
particularly noxious form of circular reasoning: here's my conclusion
based on made-up evidence which in turn makes my conclusion impregnable
and which in turn allows me to make more sweeping generalizations.

And then: "In a good educational system access to things ought to be
available at the sole bidding of the learner, while access to informants
requires, in addition, others' consent." Okay, I had a relatively
privileged education. But still: I didn't _bid_ my advisor in
undergraduate school to tell me about Euripides. He talked to me, thought
(actually, knew) I would find him interesting, we had a bunch of
conversations -- which is what, to me (or, as they say around here, IMHO),
education is all about.

What is most reprehensible for me in this particular quote is that I
coudn't detect any sense that curiosity, for example, can be generated and
sustained, any sense that education is other than a bunch of mechanical
forays ("skill exchanges," "reference services to educational objects" --
sounds cozy, doesn't it...) similar to transactions with ATM machines.

In some previous lifetime I was acquisitions editor in biology for a major
college publisher. We were developing a new genetics text and, in looking
over the competition, I ran across a book from a Berkeley professor who,
in the introduction, said, in effect, that for him the chief goal of any
educational experience is to engender in the student an attitude combining
curiosity with skepticism. There's a nice, sweet dialectic at work there
-- one that's supremely more to the point than any of Illich's
breathtaking constructs.

Final admission: I'll concede, maybe I don't understand why Illich was

Ron Mallis
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