Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Is it time to reclaim the word 'education'?

Ivan Illich defined education as “learning under the assumption of scarcity.”
In Natural Born Learners, WriterAaron Falbel explains Illich’s thinking further:
The very idea education conveys to people is that valuable learning is scarce in society. Valuable learning, in this way of thinking, is not something that happens readily. On the contrary, special arrangements must be made to impart it. If we just left it up to chance or up to the personal initiative of the learner, most people would not learn those things due to their scarcity. Education is an institutional, deliberate, arrangement whereby scarce knowledge is held. 
Falbel continues:
llich says we have evolved into a subspecies called Homo Educandus, which means the human being born in need of education, in need of educational treatment. This is a fundamental belief of most people today: Just like we have a need for food and shelter, we have a need for education, and if we don’t acquire it we are deeply deprived, stigmatized, and disadvantaged.
Here’s what John Holt said about education in 1976:
It’s not a word I personally use. . . . The word “education” is a word much used, and different people mean different things by it. But on the whole, it seems to me what most people mean by “education” has got some ideas built into it or contains certain assumptions, and one of them is that learning is an activity which is separate from the rest of life and done best of all when we are not doing anything else, and best of all where nothing else is done—learning places, places especially constructed for learning. Another assumption is that education is a designed process, in which some people do things to other people or get other people to do things which will presumably be for their own good.  Education means that some A is doing something to somebody else B. (as cited in Hern, Deschooling Society. 2008, p. 61)
Still, when Ivan Illich talked about “the stench of education” permeating all areas of society (as it has now done so), and Holt promoted ‘instead of education,’ both men recognized their own privilege—that of having used their ‘education’ in order to examine the ills of institutionalized education. 'Unschooling,' a term that Holt came up with and 'deschooling,' Illich's word, were words that sought to do something about this stench that is corrupting our understanding of the natural, human impulse to learn.
Now, I’m starting to smell the ‘stench of unschooling.'  I ask myself, has unschooling become as narrow in definition, self-limiting, pretentious and exclusionary as ‘education’ has?

On a private unschooling facebook page where people share advice and support, I was told that my use of the word ‘educate’ was inappropriate: it is not an “unschooly" word (I was also told that my topic, ‘climate change’ was inappropriate for the group). I was silenced and my post removed.

I have since had time to think about this. To be in a position to unschool is to be in a position of privilege.  It usually means that you have experienced 'education/ing' and refused it. Unschoolers have been able to pick apart the understanding of education—that 'education' as we know it, is more about being taught than about learning. We recognize that conventional thinking continues to defer education to professionalism and authority that is outside of oneself.

Education: Not a dirty word.
But doing a basic google search, I learn that ‘education' is known to have several root words. It is popularly known to be derived from the Latin root 'educo' meaning to 'educe'- to draw out.
 It also has root words, 'educare' and 'educere'. 'to "educare" which means to  'rear or to bring up' and it refers to child rearing, whereas, 'educere' which is derived from two roots 'e' and 'ducere' means to 'draw out from within' or to 'lead forth'.
"To draw forth from within" Upbringing rather than instruction, "to develop from within.”
This definition, I can live with. It conveys a process of growing in knowledge and understanding-starting from what is already there. Also, it involves growing of character, personality--not just in skill and knowledge.

Yes, the concept of education has been deeply sullied, but it might be time for all those interested in pursuing and helping others to pursue 'knowledge and mastery' to reclaim this word as ours.

When it comes to 'learning,'Aaron Falbel compares learning with education:
In Natural Born Learners he builds on Ivan Ilich’s work saying about education:
Learning, on the other hand, is a natural process—a biological process really, similar to breathing: we do it all the time. From the moment they are born, babies are already learning. They are good at learning, their learning does not need to be developed or improved or enhanced in any way. The notion that people need to be taught how to learn or need to go to school in order to learn how to learn—phrases we hear all the time—is preposterous and deeply insulting to babies who are prodigious learners. I don’t use the word “learning” very much, because I think we get into trouble when we make such an issue out of learning, particularly when we try to control it or direct it. Why do we need to make such a fuss out of something we all do naturally?
But 'learning' is the process while 'education' is what emerges out of the process. Education is ever-evolving, and is a direct result of learning.

I turn it over to you! What are your thoughts? Do you like the word 'education?' Is it useful?

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