Imagine this: a world where we never talked about education. We simply learned. There were no curriculums, no bodies of information that we all 'ought to know,' 'should know,' 'must know' by a certain age. A world where people were left alone to unfold as they will. There would be that many more paths to take, that many more ways of being. Would our world look much different from what it is today? Would people be happier?
I mean, imagine if we obsessed about when our kids learned to walk. What if they had to pass a test to show that they could actually walk properly? I am certain that a lot of kids would 'fail' walking.
The idea of 'education as something distasteful and fundamentally wrong is not a new idea and has been seen suggested by great thinkers like Ivan Illich,John Holt and later writer Aaron Falbel.
Back in 1976, Holt defined education as "something that some people do to others for their own good, molding and shaping them, and trying to make them learn what they think they ought to know."
Influenced by Illich, Holt wrote,
"Education... now seems to me perhaps the most authoritarian and dangerous of all the social inventions of mankind. It is the deepest foundation of the modern slave state, in which most people feel themselves to be nothing but producers, consumers, spectators, and "fans," driven more and more, in all parts of their lives, by greed, envy, and fear. My concern is not to improve "education" but to do away with it, to end the ugly and anti-human business of people-shaping and to allow and help people to shape themselves." Instead of EducationJohn Holt produced a magazine called "Growing without Schooling'; Falbel proposed one to be called 'Growing without Education.'
Falbel writes in his essay "Growing without Education,"
I might quibble with Holt about that last bit regarding helping people to shape themselves, but I'll leave that for another essay. What I want to emphasize here is that Holt and Illich's critique of education is linked with a larger critique of modern society in general.In other words, their objection to education is part of a certain political outlook, which homeschoolers may or may not share. My aim in writing this essay is not to convince readers to adopt this political outlook; but if readers do share these concerns about the fate of modern society, I'd like to invite them to explore the way in which education is a key component of the mess we're in.
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