There is nothing inherently good about education, schooling or learning. Learning can be either very good or very bad, depending on what is learnt, how it is learnt and what it is designed to do. Clive Harber (p7)
A question I have asked myself many times is: what is education and what is it for? More recently I have asked: Why, when you add the word “system” does all real learning stop?
One key assumption that needs challenging is the myth that education is a “good thing” and the more one has the better off one will be.( Thompson 1983). The idea that schooling=education needs questioning. Access to schooling is seen as a key issue worldwide. However, the content, process, context and purpose of that education is seldom challenged. The purpose is always presumed to be benign; if it goes wrong it is with good intention. I will question that assumption.
I will look at the content of education; what is learned, what is not, the imposition of a curriculum and who decides what is on it and why, in the section on learning.
The process, the how it is learned, is referred to throughout, but particularly in “Rigid methods for rigid minds” and “School is the only way”. How the process is pushed by assessment and exams is considered under “Numbering our children”. The methods prescribed, the metaphors of learning, the how it is done, are often seen as separate from the content. But in many ways, the process is the content. How it is done dictates the messages taken in. It was Marshall McLuhan who told us that the medium is the message- how we transmit a message is the real meaning. As Illich points out, school tells us that learning is the result of teaching despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. (Illich p35) This turns knowledge into a commodity, owned by institutions, rather than something everyone has a right to access and create.
In the section on separation, I look at the role of schooling in creating the many personal and social schisms that destroy community cohesion and individual wholeness.
By “school” I am referring to:
An age-specific, teacher-related process requiring full-time attendance at an obligatory curriculum. (Illich p32)
It has become the worldwide default for educating children and for initiating them into a global culture. I will look at the culture of school, the context, the environment of school learning. The culture of school includes the myths, beliefs and values that school upholds and transmits. It includes the power structures it demonstrates and how this acts nationally and globally to the detriment of us all.
Despite much that is written about the benefits of child-led learning, the process of schooling has changed little in hundreds of years. The teacher is still the centre, the leader of learning by rote instilled through confrontation and punishment. (Cohen 1983) Please Finish Reading Here