I read Illich long ago, as part of my interest in professional practice and professional knowledge: he is pretty hard on them, which I liked UNTIL he attacked my profession: education, which he does in Learning Webs.
Illich asks us not to teach in classrooms or hierarchically organized institutions such as higher education, where I work, but to de-school society, to encourage students (learners) to roam around solving problems and asking questions of the butcher, baker and candlestick maker and basically learn by doing, to close off the streets of new york and allow students to roam and learn.
“I intend to show that the inverse of school is possible: that we can depend on self-motivated learning instead of employing teachers to bribe or compel the student to find the time and the will to learn; that we can provide the learner with new links to the world instead of continuing to funnel all educational programs through the teacher.”(4)
He critiques the myth of the expert: “Schools are designed on the assumption that there is a secret to everything in life; that the quality of life depends on knowing that secret; that secrets can be known only in orderly successions; and that only teachers can properly reveal these secrets.” (17)
I like this rant because it reminds me of a discussion we had in seminar a few weeks back about knowledge curating. We as educators curate knowledge, lay it out for students to find and navigate to and through. But I argued, then, that was not enough, and Illich, I think, agrees. In addition to curating, education makes no sense, has no power, unless we have problems to solve. We need to We need educators to define problem and pedagogy to help student explore/use/learn from the materials we curate.
The network, the web, is critical. Someone who wants to learn needs both information and the critical insights from somebody else–education takes a village, or lacking that, a network. Information is stored in things and in persons connected by the network, but the network does more than find information, it helps ask questions, review thinking, brainstorm and review. It provides access to peers in the learning journey.
“A good educational system should have three purposes: it should provide all who want to learn with access to available resources at any time in their lives; empower all who want to share what they know to find those who want to learn it from them; and, finally, furnish all who want to present an issue to the public with the opportunity to make their challenge known” (16)