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I Read The Book Deschooling Society

I read the book “Deschooling Society” – (1971) written by Ivan Illich. Illich was an Austrian philosopher, Roman Catholic priest. He was born September 4th,1926 in Vienna, Austria and died on December 2nd, 2002 in the age of 76 in Bremen, Germany. Even though he was raised up already speaking Italian, Spanish, French, and German as native languages he developed his linguistic talent by learning 6 more languages. After finishing his studies; histology and crystallography at the University of Florence (Italy) as well as theology and philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome (from 1942 to 1946), and medieval history in Salzburg, he worked in America, Puerto Rico, Mexico, Italy, France and Germany. Illich was known for his critical view on social institutions and many established morals. Therefore, for example he was criticized during his work in Vatican since his coworkers did not like the way he expressed his opinion against the new catholically abortion law. In 1971 he published his ground breaking work “Deschooling Society” which brought him to public attention.

Deschooling Society is a critique about the consideration of education and learning. One of the main points is the actual educational and institutional system. Illich claims that the educational background nowadays shows only the process of learning but not the quality of what is actually learned. Therefore, he sees it as a big mistake that for example lessons you learn outside the school or university won’t be accepted by society. Also, he argues that the educational system divides people into classes; the ones with a diploma and the ones without one. Thus, he says, school is the antonym of an equalizer and makes people more dependent. As soon as people start depending institutionalized society, they become more dependent on its supposed value. Moreover, he asserts that through relying on institutionalized society people start recognizing independent learning as irresponsible and uncreditable.

In chapter two, Illich writes about why schools are not any more productive for the development of children and people in general. He alleges that the term school does not has the same meaning as it used to have. Next he begins to mention an opposing viewpoint that states three ideas or rather principles of school which he beliefs as wrong. Those are; School requires their pupils to be in school. Hence, attending school children actually learn something. The last premise, Illich mentioned is that children exclusively learn in the school. In order to refute these premises, he says that school has lost its real meaning and is today more a meaning for childhood than for education and learning. Continuing, he claims that a child who never visited school has had, in the thinking of nowadays society, no childhood. Illich is convinced that school is too theoretical. He is upset with the way we teach our children. Furthermore, “Deschooling Society” states in Chapter two that most of the memorable and useful lessons children but also adults learn, are experienced in real life situation other than sitting in a classroom and listening to a teacher.

Illich’s critical view on something so established like the school system, is facinating. It would be assumed that Illich’s arguments differ from those of a scientist. Since philosophers do not need to prove their assumptions, they often contradict with the beliefs of scientists. However, Illich’s point of view as a philosopher is parallel to scientist’s statements, who investigated how children naturally learn. They realized that kids learn the best in conditions almost opposite of those occurring in our school system (Reader’s digest, “Is the American School System Damaging Our Kids, 2015).

Chapter three discusses the techniques and goals of today’s educational system. Illich represents the school as a product and the pupil as a consumer. Next, he describes how the consumer is forced to purchase the product to be successful in life. Illich claims that the more education a person received through school the higher is his prestige in society. Therefore, he considers school as a status symbol. Related to his claims in chapter two, Illich says that learning is not the result of instruction but rather attitude. He continues, arguing that today’s school is non-productive for pupil’s personal development and growth. The education school is providing is a big manipulation and forces students to not follow their own way but to get more dependent of school’s system. Illich also describes school as a kind of ritual which nowadays society established. The main idea of this chapter is the ritual of an established progress and the misunderstanding of the school regarding educating children.

Education as a status symbol is an issue in many different cultures. For example, in Africa; only those who have enough many can send their kids to school. In his studies on farmer behavior, he found that the wealthiest farmers had higher levels of education than those who were not successful (Daily Nation, Days when education was a status symbol long gone, 2015). Therefore, Illich’s points are justified. In America people are way wealthier than in Africa, hence related to the U.S. the argument has not the same strength but still it is true that people with higher education have better paid jobs. However, people may argue that this is the reward for people who worked harder than others. Consequently, school surely is some kind of status symbol.

In Chapter four, Illich provides the idea that institutions are divided in either the dominant type or the convivial type. He describes the dominant type as a manipulative institution which specializes on influencing their customers to purchase more of it. The convivial one is the humbler and less noticeable, which models for an appropriate future. Illich shares the opinion that schools are an extreme example of a dominant institution. He says that schools use methods to scare people and make the people think that schools are necessary. The author is motivating people to start thinking about the way schools work and their system. He thinks that schools should not be a dominant type of institution but rather a strongly convivial type. Illich is convinced that people need to question the sense and productivity of schools.

Surely, schools are dominant in the way they teach. The message that teachers often give to their students says that there is only one appropriate way to do it. Illich also criticizes this in other words. However, people still argue that especially for young pupils it is important to give them a strong framework in which students have to work.

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