Deschooling Society Book Group – Chapter One reflections

Over at P2PU (the non-Webcraft bit) I’m participating in a book group on Ivan Illych’s Deschooling Society. I’ve been meaning to read this and other Illych texts for years, ever since I met Dougald, and first heard him speak at Future Sonic 2008.

Anyway, I’ve posted my reflections to the first chapter within the group discussion, but have included a copy here as well. I’m looking forward to reading the rest of Deschooling Society and seeing how my attitudes change.

If you’re interested in participating in the group, you can still sign-up!

Originally posted over at the P2PU Deschooling Society Book Group:

As an Australian living in Europe, (and admittedly with fairly pathetic non-English language skills) I always end up feeling frustrated that the bulk of education news that I receive is US or UK centric. And sadly Deschooling Society continues this trend, with relatively limited insights into non-US contexts even though Illych was born in Austria etc etc.

Anyway, along with a couple of other posters, I wonder what Illych would have made of hypertext, both as a tool which allows for self-expression, access to information, and as an element of a text that allows branching thoughts. There were ideas that I wanted to explore more deeply but which felt as if Illych was conversationally assuming prior knowledge. I think that’s both a charm and a frustration with this text – you can sense the conversations and feedback that fed into it.

Frustrations aside – I think that it’s very important to remember that Illych chooses “school as paradigm” to discuss reduction / removal of institutions with roles beyond that of formal education. Prior to reading this I’d thought this text was only about “school”, as a result it feels much stronger when these thoughts are considered more broadly across society.

Two non-educational examples that keep on occurring to me are that of childbirth and food security. Increased “yields” were the immediate benefits that came from initial institutionalising of neo-natal healthcare and non-subsistence farming.  Healthier babies and mothers and more food! Hooray! No wonder it seems like a great idea to continue to expand the reach of these institutions so that it’s no longer the individual’s responsibility. cheeky

Over time we end up with a situation where home-birthing is seen as an exception and growing your own food a trend. Along with non-formal education (homeschooling, “DIY” Masters), these acts end up as acts of rebellion or “alternative” lifestyles, where the word alternative doesn’t represent a valid choice, but something far more suspicious, all tie-dyed and hairy. No longer the default option, these acts which were once normal become, at least in the ‘North’ the domain of the privileged or radically committed.

I grow my own food where possible, will plan for home-births and the very best ways to give my future children as much of a non-school / broader education. So I’m not particularly surprised that those are the immediate themes that I’m responding to.  But for all of those grand plans I want and appreciate supermarkets and year round food, want to be no-more than 20 minutes from a good public hospital when I give birth and despite “the system’s” obvious flaws, I really want schools to be a part of my children’s upbringing.

I could bang on and on about this – but ultimately how we approach society and schooling has to be about choice and balance. Damn straight this is about individuals’ rights to choose, but along with all of those rights come tremendous responsibilities related to maintaining viable and respectable choices for everyone.  And perhaps that’s what we should be schooling society in.

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