When VTCLIS12 firs started, I felt that I was in a completely different world, and I was terrified to say the least. I think this was more obvious when the undergrads sat on one side, while the grad students sat on the other. I felt intimidated by basically every single person in the class because I felt I wouldn’t contribute anything of value to the discussion, hence why I only spoke up when I really felt the need to say something. Now, I know we’ve always been told that it’s okay to speak your mind in the class, but that’s not the type of schooling I’ve come to known, and anyone who knows me, knows that I am not a fan of change. I like when things are clear-cut, with directions, and I can make a goal for myself.
That is the major reason I chose to do my final project on Illich’s “Deschooling Society,” because I felt that during my seminar presentation I had a good connection with it and I could relate a lot of my own experiences back to what Illich was saying and in a way, refute them. I do agree that out education system needs some work, because some things are just not working for our society. When I first started working on this project, I was doing almost the exact same thing as Hallie, which kind of threw me off track and I really wasn’t able to make headway into this until about Saturday night, when it hit me that a lot of the things Illich wrote about were present in my high school. I was in a specialty center in high school, where I was immersed in the French language and became practically fluent in it. However, the rest of the school outside of the specialty center was a mess, and it still is. I thought it was going to be hard to find three or four nuggets to present on for this, but once I got started, I had to stop myself from doing too many.
I felt very compelled by Illich’s argument on technology and how it can either be helpful or harmful, depending on the situation, in education. Technology can let a student’s mind wander for good, or it can allow them to procrastinate and waste time when they should be studying or paying attention in class. I can say with confidence that this happens more often than not, not only in high school, but college as well. In my county back home, the middle and high schools give the students computers for the entire year, hoping it will make them want to learn and get more work done. However, it not only shows the students’ motivation, or lack thereof, to do well in school, but it also demonstrates their responsibility and maturity levels. Students were so rough with their computers, and used them to play games, online shop, or just mess around on the Internet, all day long. I am all for using technology as a tool, but you have to remember, while all technology is a tool, not all tools are technology. Schools feel the need to keep up with the times of technology and giving students pieces of equipment that cost thousands of dollars, but is it really worth it? When I was researching online high education alternatives as Hallie did, I realized that this wasn’t where I wanted to do my research, because I felt that I wouldn’t be able to really put heart into it. Technology did play a huge role in those types of learning environments, since they were all online, but that was for adults who were responsible and actually wanted to learn. I decided to go a step back, and look at the big picture before you really get close to the real world.
In high school, students are constantly reminded of college, and the next big step in their lives. Well, coming from a sophomore in college, I feel like I still am in high school just because the amount of work didn’t change, I still check grades every hour after I’ve taken a test to see if my grade has been posted, and my teachers still hold high standards of their students, and I plan on fulfilling those standards and even going beyond those sometimes, because that is just how I am. I’m the type of person who gets frustrated when I’m not told clear directions, as I mentioned earlier, so this project was very hard for me to work on because I honestly had no clue where I was going or where my final destination should be. After thinking it through, I just thought, “this is what I am going to do, and I hope they like it, and I hope it makes sense.”
For this project, I also wanted to see what Illich meant by deschooling, and if I agreed with his ideas, and surprisingly, I did. In my opinion, you need to know the value something holds to you before getting rid of it. We need to break down the education system to see what really lays at the foundation of it all. There has to be some reason to it, and before completely restarting, we need to see what we do have of worth and what we can rebuild with. The education system has let the power shift from the instructors to the institution, as Hallie said in her blog, and the power needs to be redirected to either the instructors or to the pupils. But, deschooling also means abolishing the power of another person to make another attend a meeting, which I found interesting. There is no easy way to tell someone they no longer have authority over another, and it can cause even more problems. I think what Illich wanted was for people to step back and look at what has been created and where things went wrong. This does not give anyone permission to arbitrarily take things away without discussing with someone else.
Revamping the education system requires a lot of planning, thought, careful execution, and also, communication. I think communication should be at the forefront of deschooling because everyone needs to be on the same page so there are no surprises during the process or after the process is completed. I think that Illich makes some good points in his essay, but a lot of the points refute others that he tries to make. For example, he says that certification isn’t necessary to teach yet if you aren’t a specialist in a certain topic, you shouldn’t be teaching it, regardless of whether or not it involves your field of study. I think we need to give nonspecialists a chance to learn new things, because it may turn out that they are really good at it and enjoy learning more about that subject. When people tell me that I wouldn’t understand something because I’m not a certain major, its discouraging in a lot of aspects of life, and unfortunately, Illich can’t make up his mind on which side he would like to take.
The state of whether or not someone is a specialist in a certain topic and only that topic should not be the deciding factor or whether or not they teach that subject. I feel that it is possible to learn many things from people on subjects they aren’t specialists in, so we need to let people take a chance with it and see how it goes. Like I said during my presentation, my statistics teacher from high school is a civil engineer and didn’t need his teaching certification to teach, because it was something he did all the time, but I can honestly say that I learned the most from him in my entire high school career because he loved what he taught and he understood the best way to teach it. In my opinion, I feel that certification is necessary for some professions, such as medicine and surgery, but if you have been trained in something that requires an in-depth study of a certain skill, you should be able to teach that topic.
I can safely say that Illich definitely opened my eyes to a lot of different views, and some helped me understand better, while others made things worse. Illich carefully thought out this essay and wanted to make sure everything he wanted to say was out there. However, this essay was very hard to take in one go, so it is important to break it down and only take it paragraph by paragraph, because there is so much information and so many different things coming at you. This essay was very enlightening to read and I think it is something that future generations can learn a lot from when things change again.