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Book Club 1: Deschooling Society

Jared Pereira

2017-11-24

Having read Deschooling Society what’s most interesting to me about Illich’s work is that he isn’t solely concerned with schools, but uses them as a lense to explore the nature of all institutions in society.

Universal education through schooling is not feasible. It would be no more feasible if it were attempted by means of alternative institutions built on the style of present schools. Neither new attitudes of teachers toward their pupils nor the proliferation of educational hardware or software (in classroom or bedroom), nor finally the attempt to expand the pedagogue’s responsibility until it engulfs his pupils’ lifetimes will deliver universal education. The current search for new educational funnels must be reversed into the search for their institutional inverse: educational webs which heighten the opportunity for each one to transform each moment of his living into one of learning, sharing, and caring.
- Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society

He was a prescient critic. Though he wrote this in 1970, universal education continues to be unfeasible and our society continues to pursue it relentlessly.

This to a certain extent mirrored the development of my thoughts. I originally was focused on building peer-to-peer learning systems to address what I saw as a defeciency in the education system. That was an ignition point for me to explore decentralized systems, and my scope expanded to thinking about society and how it uses trust and institutions.

Blockchains were of course integral to this mental journey. They too provide a paradigm to explore the nature of institutions in society, but, crucially, also provide tools to effect change, on a societal scale.

This isn’t to say that Illich was just a doomsayer, he proposed solutions along with his concerns, exploring alternative structures, and building out what educational webs could actually look like. The question is, why weren’t these ideas just as prescient??

Learning Webs

I, Jared, was pretty fascinated by those solutions and systems Illich proposed. They ranged from the practical to the absolutely wild and, though I didn’t agree with all of them, they were always fascinating. Here I explore a little bit how these ideas relate to blockchain technology and why they didn’t come to fruition.

A First Amendment for Education

Illich blew Julius’ mind with the radicality of his analysis and thought provoking ideas, the most radical of which he picks up here, in this post about how to break up that powerful and life-determining institution that schools have become today.

A review & discussion

For those of you who want to dig deeper and further engage with us on these ideas, we published a summary of Illich’s first chapter here. We plan to do some stuff on Genius, an annotations platform, as well so let us know if you’re interested in that.