Re: Deschooling Society LO2059

Fred Reed (
Wed, 12 Jul 95 10:22:16 EST

Replying to LO2044 --

Greetings from the OK corral...

I'm sorry about the hot headed circle the wagon comment. I am afraid I
was too quick to conclude I smelled another close-minded defense of public
education that gets *my* hair standing on end.

But frankly, I am still puzzled over Ron's reaction to the Illich piece.
Ron says:

>Let me assert that what I find intolerable is Illich's implied blanket --
>and facile -- dismissal of exactly the sort of things that this Learning
>Org list is about: collaboration, conversation, co-creation, "fruits of
>learning," "emergent learning," et al.

I, on the other hand, find plenty in Illich to *support* these things Ron
says are being dismissed. For example, Illich seems to state up front
that his model for "real" learning is based on such things: (from Illich
text quoted by Michmerhuizen)

>Their knowledge of facts, their understanding of life and work came to
>them from friendship or love while viewing TV, or while reading, from
>examples of peers or the challenge of a street encounter. Or they may
>have learned what they know through the apprenticeship ritual for
>admission to a street gang or the initiation to a hospital, newspaper city
>room, plumber's shop, or insurance office.


>The child grows up in a world of things, surrounded by people
>who serve as models for skills and values. He finds peers who challenge
>him to argue, to compete, to cooperate, and to understand; and if the
>child is lucky, he is exposed to confrontation or criticism by an
>experienced elder who really cares.

>From these and other passages, I can only conclude that Illich is "on our
side" with respect to emergent, holistic, learning in an authentic social
context. I am guessing that Ron is possibly rubbed the wrong way by
Illich's suggestions for how to go about this business, which he clearly
labels: "General Characteristics of New Formal Educational Institutions"
I suppose in an ideal world, we would have no formal educational
institutions at all, the world would be one big LO with all the supporting
processes and resources available for everyone to develop to their full

However, I read Illich to presuppose that formal institutions are
necessary and/or desirable in the near term and his job is to re-invent
them consistent with this alternate view of learning and personal
development. Admitedly, he does get overly detached in his analysis using
terms such as "channels" and "networks" to describe the learning
environment, but if that's his way of coming to grips with the problem, so
be it.

Closer inspection of his "channels" reveal however that they are just
conceptual constructs for describing the total learning environment that
the learner is in. Unlike the predomenant view of education which
focusses on information "delivery" (I could see them conceptualising the
school in terms of subject matter "channels"), Illich focusses on
identifying the range of "transactions" the learner may enagage in.

>I believe that no more than four--possibly even three--distinct 'channels'
>or *learning exchanges* could contain all the resources needed for real
>learning. (emphasis added by me)

I take this to mean Illich is proposing that all knowledge *emerge* from
these actions (that is, no pre-digested knowledge or "secrets" can be
taught or learned). As I see it, all he is trying to do with his
"opportunity web" is to facilitate (through communication technology,
sharing of resources, etc.) a learning process that I personally find
admirable. While the channels/web themselves are not explicitly described
as emergent (although they certainly could be, something like WWW or the
LO list), the learner's use of them is, since it is completely up to their
discretion (that is, the acts the learner uses with regard to these
resources are constructed by the learner, not prescribed by a system or

As Jim Michmerhuizen pointed out, this was all proposed while the tiny
fraction of the world that access to computers or digital communications
were still using punched card decks and paper tapes.

Ron, I can only presume that we are not so far apart in our "mental model"
of learning. Someone please help me if I am missing something here.

Fred Reed