The first thought that came to my mind while reading “Learning Webs,” from Ivan Illich’s Deschooling Society was anger. I had not been aware of how weak my past education was until coming to college and this realization is highlighted a good bit in this class, especially in Nelson’s “Computer Lib / Dream Machines” but even more so in this reading. Why am I angry? I feel betrayed by what I thought was a good thing, by an education system that never taught me to delve deeper into how I was learning, not necessarily what I was learning. I believe more interest in topics would have been generated if the way in which I learned them was more appealing, more stimulating, and more diverse. After all, the medium is the message right?
It’s not that I am calling myself stupid or uneducated by any means but I do feel somewhat irritated at the inadequacies our current education system has produced in me. This idea of monopolizing knowledge, only those who have the appropriate title or classification are permitted access to particular tools and opportunities in education and in the working world. I know that I am not the only one who feels this way. Even with this class, I at first felt inadequate. It’s kind of a paradox because even though it caused me to feel inferior to others’ ideas, at the same time it made me be appreciative and proud of my own ideas.
Furthermore, this class is a form of deschooling itself if you ask me. Granted, it’s not nearly as radical as Illich’s proposed system but it does away with the concrete curriculum and skills testing. It is not “a demagoguery calling for more of the same” like so many other classes. I have said it before and I will say it again, student/reader participation takes precedence over predetermined right and wrong answers.
If Dr. C’s class provides a mere glimpse into the prospect of deschooling, than I will resound a major theme in Illich’s work: liberation. The idea of letting your own mind do the work is liberating. It provides a sense of self-worth that no A+ on a final can ever do.
When we start seeing more classes like this one, classes that encourage one’s own imagination instead of the easy alternative of yielding to a predetermined curriculum, then I think deschooling will be taking place on a larger scale. When people start experiencing what it feels like to actually learn, it will be positively impossible to stop deschooling. Illich agrees:
“The disestablishment of schools will inevitably happenand it will happen surprisingly fast. It cannot be retarded very much longer, and it is hardly necessary to promote it vigorously, for this is being done now. What is worthwhile is to try to orient it in a hopeful direction…”