Deschooling Society

Deschooling Society



The Pequod Review:

There was a wave of radical education books in the 1960s and 1970s by a variety of writers (John Holt, Jon Kozol, Herb Gans, etc.). Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich is one of the best and most far-reaching of them. Illich’s skill lies in appreciating how the obstacles to radical educational reform are deeper than just what happens in the classroom, and run throughout our wider society. Unfortunately, he traces the problems so deeply — to the heart of capitalism, and arguably even to essential features of human nature — that he is left with no choice but to argue for implausible and ill-considered solutions. But the book has enough intelligent observations to make it a valuable read:

Schools are designed on the assumption that there is a secret to everything in life; that the quality of life depends on knowing that secret; that secrets can be known only in orderly successions; and that only teachers can properly reveal these secrets. An individual with a schooled mind conceives of the world as a pyramid of classified packages accessible only to those who carry the proper tags.


School has become the world religion of a modernized proletariat, and makes futile promises of salvation to the poor of the technological age.

I also liked this point about how the educational system crowds out other forms of informal education:

School appropriates the money, men, and good will available for education and in addition discourages other institutions from assuming educational tasks. Work, leisure, politics, city living, and even family life depend on schools for the habits and knowledge they presuppose, instead of becoming themselves the means of education. Simultaneously both schools and the other institutions which depend on them are priced out of the market.