Wednesday, December 09, 2015

Pat Farenga: You don't have to go to grow: Growing without schooling

Here's an excerpt of Pat Farenga's chapter in Natural Born Learners: Unschooling and Autonomy in Education. The chapter is called You Don't Have to Go to Grow: Growing without Schooling.

One of the things that has been really interesting, and gratifying to me, has been understanding the work of Ivan Illich and understanding why John Holt was such a big fan of Ivan’s work. Illich wrote a book called Deschooling Society (1970/1983), which many people misinterpret, mainly because they don’t read it—they just read the title and assume he’s saying “let’s eradicate all the schools.”

Illich is not saying that. His whole thesis is that we need to eliminate compulsory schooling. Schools make sense for having central locations where communal resources can be distributed, but school is not a true communal resource. It’s become a private enterprise that is administered by professionals, almost as if it were medicine, and very expensive medicine at that. What Ivan pointed out is that learning is not a scarce commodity to be doled out like medicine. Human learning is abundant; institutional education is scarce.

Our economic system supports giving out rewards primarily to those who consume the most education credentials, but is that really learning? When Holt read and studied with Illich, he started exploring all sorts of ideas of how else can we help children and adults to learn?

In Instead of Education: Ways to Help People do Things Better (1976/2004), John outlines the reasons he thinks compulsory education is “the most destructive force on earth;” largely because it wastes so much of everyone’s time in busywork. This is borne out all the time when employers say, “college graduates don’t know how to do anything except pass courses, and high school graduates don’t know how to write their names.”

Ivan pointed out, in 1971, that all institutions seem to hit a point where they become counter-productive. Our institutions for transportation create traffic jams, our medical institutions create iatrogenic illnesses like the antibiotic failure we see now. We suddenly turn a corner when these things get too big and, in education as Holt and Illich claim, we have reached the point where schools create stupidity in students.
Read more when you buy the book.


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hope you pray the peace for the world

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