Postmodern Peripateticism: Toward an Antipedagogical Wanderlust in a Schoolless Society

ONE // 

The Schooling Epidemic


Illus­tra­tion 1: A typ­i­cal fas­cist class­room dur­ing the Third Reich.

Illus­tra­tion 2: A typ­i­cal con­tem­po­rary class­room. The class­room hasn’t changed for over 200 years. The class­room is designed to con­trol chil­dren and stu­dents, stress­ing author­i­ty dri­ven learn­ing. What is the hid­den cur­ricu­lum behind this

How STRANGE AND self-defeat­ing that a sup­pos­ed­ly free coun­try should train its young for life in total­i­tar­i­an­ism … all the time you are in school, you learn through expe­ri­ence how to live in a dic­ta­tor­ship.

Grace Llewellyn, The Teenage Lib­er­a­tion Hand­book: How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Edu­ca­tion

THERE is a spec­tre haunt­ing the world ― the spec­tre is school­ing. All of the pow­ers in the world have entered into a holy alliance to anglel­cize this spec­tre. It would seem that an uncom­mon­ly large por­tion of the world has been pros­e­ly­tised to the reli­gion­like fer­vour of pub­lic com­pul­so­ry school­ing. Any words ques­tion­ing the effi­ca­cy of the insti­tu­tion­alised indus­tri­al-fac­to­ry mod­el of edu­ca­tion become pro­fane, and those who use such words to crit­i­cise the cur­rent and pre­dom­i­nant sys­tem of edu­ca­tion and school­ing risk excom­mu­ni­ca­tion or, in the least, gen­er­al shun­ning. If how­ev­er, and as many teach­ers do, one believes that edu­ca­tion is about the pro­mo­tion of crit­i­cal think­ing, we must ask the ques­tion of why crit­i­cal think­ing has been made so taboo? The pur­pose of this exper­i­men­tal essay is to dis­cuss and cri­tique con­tem­po­rary forms of school­ing and begin to con­cep­tu­alise an alter­na­tive school­less mod­el of edu­ca­tion. Con­cep­tu­al­iza­tion is the process-dri­ven devel­op­ment of con­cep­tu­al mod­els, this esay aims at pro­vid­ing an exper­i­men­tal alter­na­tive to the prac­ti­cal illus­tra­tion of such mod­els and how it might be applied. The ped­a­gog­i­cal ram­i­fi­ca­tions of a school­less mod­el of edu­ca­tion must be expressed not only through and to the insti­tu­tion­al set­tings of con­tem­po­rary edu­ca­tion but to the insti­tu­tion­al stake­hold­ers whose inter­ests have helped to shape the school­ing sys­tem and doc­trine. 

It has been forty-five years since Ivan Illich first pub­lished his sem­i­nal text Deschool­ing Soci­ety in which he assert­ed that uni­ver­sal edu­ca­tion isn’t fea­si­ble through insti­tu­tion­alised school­ing or the alter­na­tives mod­elled after it. In this book. and in his lat­er aut­o­cri­tiques of the work, Illich claims that the insti­tu­tion­al­i­sa­tion of edu­ca­tion per­verts the effi­ca­cy and free­dom of the learn­er. That is, learn­ing is agen­dized by grander economic/political mech­a­nisms and inter­ests which pre­vent indi­vid­u­als and com­mu­ni­ties from pros­per­ing. Illich’s solu­tion was what he called the devel­op­ment of a learn­ing web which would con­sist and take advan­tage of the tech­no­log­i­cal inno­va­tion behind dif­fer­ent learn­ing net­works based on open free direc­to­ries and data­bas­es com­pil­ing infor­ma­tion and resources includ­ing a list of free­lance pro­fes­sion­al teach­ers.

Much of the crit­i­cism of the book comes from those who believe that Illich was unsuc­cess­ful in flesh­ing out a prac­ti­cal mod­el for his learn­ing web. How­ev­er, in his own cri­tique of Deschool­ing Soci­ety, Illich warns us to ques­tion the his­toric­i­ty of ques­tions sur­round­ing edu­ca­tion­al and learn­ing needs with­in the scope of our prepar­ing for life. The pos­si­bil­i­ty of Illich’s mod­el of a learn­ing web con­sist­ing of assort­ed learn­ing net­works is cer­tain­ly achiev­able with the cur­rent tech­nolo­gies we have at hand, and in some instances we see the­se learn­ing net­works being cur­rent­ly imple­ment­ed in a vari­ety of ways. What Illich is ask­ing us to ques­tion is how deeply embed­ded are the cul­tur­al con­di­tions which make school seem nec­es­sary and how the his­toric­i­ty of the cor­re­lat­ing ide­olo­gies to such con­di­tions might play out in our alter­na­tive visions of edu­ca­tion.

Illich was a tech­no­log­i­cal opti­mist and his cri­tique hinged on the lib­er­a­to­ry effect of a net­work soci­ety with uni­ver­sal access to his learn­ing net­works. The his­tori­cism he sees in his own work and warns his read­ers about is inter­est­ing. In his analy­sis, Illich miss­es out on the his­to­ries that are behind non-dig­i­tal soci­eties and how learn­ing net­works pre­ex­ist tech­nolo­gies such as the Inter­net. For Illich, this con­cept of the net­work is more akin to Manuel Castells Net­work Soci­ety which is organ­ised around elec­tron­ic com­pu­ta­tion and infor­ma­tion. Instead, we should be look­ing at learn­ing net­works in a much more organ­ic sense, and I think this is where some of Illich’s self-pro­fessed naïvi­ty comes from. Castells reminds us that net­work soci­eties, in the sense of social net­works, are in fact very old. It is the­se forms of ancient social organ­i­sa­tion that nat­u­ral­ly evolved into net­work soci­eties based in and around com­put­er dri­ven infor­ma­tion-tech­nolo­gies. If we work with the con­cept of organ­ic net­works we can avoid some of the tech­no­log­i­cal deter­min­ism Illich fell into.

Organ­ic net­works describe the­se old social net­works Castells speaks of; they describe the divi­sion of labour, edu­ca­tion, class, economies, com­mu­ni­ties and even fam­i­lies in rela­tion to local or glob­al sys­tems. Illich was unable to sep­a­rate the his­tori­cism behind his con­cep­tion of a learn­ing net­work and the inter­ests derived from dom­i­nant his­tor­i­cal view­points which result­ed in what he was try­ing to pre­vent: the per­ver­sion of the uni­ver­sal free-learn­er. We need to under­stand that the stake­hold­ers stretch far beyond the school; there­fore, a cri­tique of the school is a cri­tique of the insti­tu­tions who have a vest­ed inter­est in main­tain­ing the idea of school­ing. Cor­po­rate inter­ests and con­trol over social media and infor­ma­tion tech­nol­o­gy have per­vert­ed the con­cept of the post­mod­ern-auto­di­dact in that their inter­ests cor­rupt the pos­si­bil­i­ty of escap­ing the his­toric­i­ty Illich warns us of. Deschool­ing soci­ety needs to be dein­sti­tu­tion­al­iz­ing soci­ety. To free edu­ca­tion from the insti­tu­tion­al appa­ra­tus­es and inter­ests that define it is essen­tial; fur­ther­more, we need to analy­se the his­to­ry of our cur­rent philoso­phies behind edu­ca­tion in order to strate­gi­cal­ly move them for­ward with­out per­ver­sion from our own his­tor­i­cal­ly-born bias­es and his­tor­i­cal hege­mony.

Beyond his­tor­i­cal hege­mony, we need to move past the priv­i­leg­ing dif­fer­ent types of knowledge(s) through dis­man­tling the cul­tur­al and ide­o­log­i­cal appa­ra­tus­es of the state and dom­i­nant social/cultural class­es. We have to recog­nise the con­tem­po­rary school as a pri­ma­ry site for the dis­sem­i­na­tion and main­te­nance of hege­mon­ic ide­ol­o­gy and intel­lec­tu­al hege­mony. School­ing rep­re­sents the bal­ance of hege­mon­ic force and con­sent. School­ing becomes an ide­ol­o­gy of sup­pres­sion and repres­sion; even worse, it becomes a pathol­o­gy and an epi­demic. We are in the school­ing epi­demic and we are left scram­bling for answers as to why schools are fail­ing our chil­dren, why some aren’t work­ing and oth­ers are, and what is their exact nature and pur­pose? We have come to place schools atop the cham­pi­oned pedestals of democ­ra­cy and pro­gress. But schools are not demo­c­ra­t­ic, nor have they pro­gressed much in two-hun­dred years or so. The ide­ol­o­gy and impor­tance of school­ing have over­shad­owed the very con­cepts of uni­ver­sal edu­ca­tion and learn­ing. Some­thing needs to be done.

TWO // 

From Social Alienation and Isolationism 

to Intellectual Alienation and Isolationism

Illustra­tion 3: I’ve seen the­se tracks before thought Pooh Bear.


When you are a Bear of Very Lit­tle Brain, and you Think of Things, you find some­times that a Thing which seemed very Thingish inside you is quite dif­fer­ent when it gets out into the open and has oth­er peo­ple look­ing at it.

Win­nie the Pooh

The ‘nor­mal’ exer­cise of hege­mony on the now clas­si­cal ter­rain of the par­lia­men­tary regime is char­ac­ter­ized by the com­bi­na­tion of force and con­sent, which bal­ance each oth­er rec­i­p­ro­cal­ly, with­out force pre­dom­i­nat­ing exces­sive­ly over con­sent.

Anto­nio Gam­sci

The mere exis­tence of school dis­cour­ages and dis­ables the poor from tak­ing con­trol of their own learn­ing.

Ivan Illich

We are in the soci­ety of the teacher-judge, the doc­tor-judge, the edu­ca­tor-judge, the ‘social worker’-judge; it is on them that the uni­ver­sal reign of the nor­ma­tive is based; and each indi­vid­u­al, wherever he may find him­self, sub­jects to it his body, his ges­tures, his behav­iour, his apti­tudes, his achieve­ments.

Michel Fou­cault

The con­di­tion of alien­ation, of being asleep, of being uncon­scious, of being out of one’s mind, is the con­di­tion of the nor­mal man. Soci­ety high­ly val­ues its nor­mal man. It edu­cates chil­dren to lose them­selves and to become absurd, and thus to be nor­mal.

R.D. Laing

FALSE com­pe­ti­tion and the out­ward dis­play of mem­o­riza­tion through rep­e­ti­tion as a gen­er­al mark­er for com­pe­tence are mech­a­nisms for alien­ation and iso­la­tion. Schools are designed to alien­ate and iso­late. Social alien­ation and iso­la­tion­ism occur with­in a com­mu­ni­ty, it is the abject prop­er­ty of belong­ing to a group that you are forced to strug­gle again­st. That is what school has set up for us in the name of com­pet­i­tive grad­ing. Grad­ing at once stan­dard­is­es and homogenis­es the school­ing com­mu­ni­ty and at the same time it alien­ates and iso­lates indi­vid­u­als from it. Even those who fit in to the mod­el become social­ly and intel­lec­tu­al­ly alien­at­ed as a result of the sys­tem of school­ing. Cre­ative and crit­i­cal think­ing are dis­cour­aged through the stan­dard­ised mech­a­nisms of test­ing and grad­ing. As Noam Chom­sky notes, the edu­ca­tion sys­tem is designed to, as Adam Smith once said about the divi­sion of labour, to make peo­ple “as stu­pid and igno­rant as it is pos­si­ble for a human being to be.”

Alien­ation, for Chom­sky, is the result of cre­at­ing the belief that work is a bur­den. This con­cept of work, that peo­ple have to be dri­ven to work, is the idea that schools espouse. It is a part of their hid­den cur­ricu­lum. Instead, if we are put into the posi­tion of doing mean­ing­ful work, for both our­selves and the world, the more like­ly we are to enjoy work and want to do it on our own and the less like­ly we are going to be alien­at­ed and iso­lat­ed by it. For Illich, ped­a­gog­i­cal or edu­ca­tion­al alien­ation is far worse than eco­nom­ic or labouri­al alien­ation. When we are faced with the idea of what ought to be cov­ered in a class or under a sub­ject, Chom­sky thinks, is of lit­tle rel­e­vance to the indi­vid­u­al; what mat­ters is what an indi­vid­u­al dis­cov­ers in the edu­ca­tion­al process. This sep­a­rates the indi­vid­u­al from social real­i­ty and thrusts them into a fic­tion­alised account of what social real­i­ty is or ought to be. For Illich, ” We per­mit the state to ascer­tain the uni­ver­sal edu­ca­tion­al defi­cien­cies of its cit­i­zens and estab­lish one spe­cialised agen­cy to treat them. We thus share in the delu­sion that we can dis­tin­guish between what is a nec­es­sary edu­ca­tion for oth­ers and what is not, just as for­mer gen­er­a­tions estab­lished laws which defined what was sacred and what was pro­fane.” He goes on to claim that soci­ety is divid­ed into two edu­ca­tion­al cat­e­gories: ped­a­gog­ic and aca­d­e­mic or not. He states that “The pow­er of school thus to divide social real­i­ty has no bound­aries: edu­ca­tion becomes unworld­ly and the world becomes none­d­u­ca­tion­al.”

We lose the con­cept of inter­con­nec­tiv­i­ty and col­lab­o­ra­tion in this dis­tor­tion of social real­i­ty. We are at once told we are a part of a com­mu­ni­ty and then taught to shun a large major­i­ty of it. We are not only forced into iso­la­tion through coer­cive alien­ation, but we are taught to iso­late our­selves; after which, we are taught that iso­la­tion and alien­ation are the norm and the for­mu­la for suc­cess. Large­ly, it is believed that schools are social spaces. How­ev­er, this is not true, they are spaces of social iso­la­tion. They act as a buffer zone between the chaotic social space of the town, city or coun­try and the safe­ty of the home which has become the nat­u­ral exten­sion of the school.

The func­tion of schools in soci­ety is this: to divide and con­quer to make peo­ple think very lit­tle of them­selves, to cre­ate a cul­tur­al doc­trine of depen­dence based on con­formism and pas­siv­i­ty, and to cre­ate a false social real­i­ty in which cre­ativ­i­ty, curios­i­ty and that thingish thing you have inside you are of lit­tle val­ue. Chom­sky points out the con­tra­dic­to­ry nature of this in that at some point our soci­ety, and the dom­i­nant cul­ture needs curi­ous and cre­ative peo­ple for pro­gress and to main­tain itself. Although, we need to acknowl­edge that school also func­tions to ween out the rebel­lious ear­ly on and has a way of pro­duc­ing cre­atives who might ques­tion things, but at the same time have been con­di­tioned just enough to be docile and to keep them­selves inside the box. What is essen­tial to move for­ward from this is that it is impos­si­ble to con­tin­ue on with this sys­tem if what we want is to cre­ate free and inde­pen­dent thinkers, work­ers and doers who can eas­i­ly build on our past accom­plish­ments with pas­sion and devo­tion. Not even the great­est ped­a­gogue with the most lib­er­at­ing of philoso­phies can save us from this sys­tem. Lib­er­a­to­ry ped­a­gogy is ren­dered use­less in a world in which school­ing exists. As Illich right­ful­ly posits, uni­ver­sal edu­ca­tion just isn’t fea­si­ble if we allow schools and the insti­tu­tions that attend to them to exist. But how do we edu­cate?


The Pedagogy of Autodidacticism

Illustration 4: Calvin in school.

Illus­tra­tion 4: Calv­in in school.

We are in the soci­ety of the teacher-judge, the doc­tor-judge, the edu­ca­tor-judge, the ‘social worker’-judge; it is on them that the uni­ver­sal reign of the nor­ma­tive is based; and each indi­vid­u­al, wherever he may find him­self, sub­jects to it his body, his ges­tures, his behav­iour, his apti­tudes, his achieve­ments.

Michel Fou­cault

Tra­di­tion­al edu­ca­tion focus­es on teach­ing, not learn­ing. It incor­rect­ly assumes that for every ounce of teach­ing there is an ounce of learn­ing by those who are taught. How­ev­er, most of what we learn before, dur­ing, and after attend­ing schools is learned with­out its being taught to us. A child learns such fun­da­men­tal things as how to walk, talk, eat, dress, and so on with­out being taught the­se things. Adults learn most of what they use at work or at leisure while at work or leisure. Most of what is taught in class­room set­tings is for­got­ten, and much or what is remem­bered is irrel­e­vant.

Rus­sell Ack­off

LAZINESS, it is often thought, is the most innate char­ac­ter­is­tic in human­i­ty. Peo­ple just don’t have the moti­va­tion to do things unless they have to, and that is why they just can­not learn on their own. If peo­ple had the choice, they just wouldn’t work … peo­ple, in gen­er­al, are lazy. This is the log­ic we have to deal with. It just isn’t true. Take Calv­in above for an exam­ple, he doesn’t have to do the test … he doesn’t have to learn and mem­o­rise the date. He has, how­ev­er, worked hard to do so; or, at least in his mind he has worked hard to thwart and manip­u­late the sys­tem, but it isn’t the sys­tem he is manip­u­lat­ing, it is the sys­tem that is manip­u­lat­ing him which is the great irony. In all his effort to thwart the sys­tem and work again­st it, the sys­tem has him work­ing for it. We just can­not accept the slan­der­ous notion that peo­ple are innate­ly lazy, it just isn’t true. If it were, we would not have come as far as we have as humans. What we can accept. though, is that peo­ple are less like­ly to work hon­est­ly for some­thing that isn’t theirs or has noth­ing to do with their true inter­ests and goals. In fact, it is more like­ly an indi­vid­u­al will work longer hours and hard­er if it is doing some­thing that they are pas­sion­ate about or they have some sense of own­er­ship over. In school, we do not have any own­er­ship over the infor­ma­tion or knowl­edge the receive. 

The major­i­ty of stu­dents the world over do not enjoy school. They do not do the work. Yet, they work hard. This is a pos­i­tive sign, if peo­ple will work so hard at some­thing they do not enjoy, imag­ine how hard they would work if it was on or about some­thing they are tru­ly pas­sion­ate about. On the oth­er hand, some stu­dents put a tremen­dous amount of work and cre­ativ­i­ty into not work­ing at schools, into sub­vert­ing the sys­tems demands. They are then excom­mu­ni­cat­ed from the sys­tem. Some find anoth­er path and pas­sion, some remain on the mar­gins of soci­ety and are labeled fail­ures. Those who find what they are look­ing for end up work­ing very hard at some­thing they enjoy or are pas­sion­ate about. Work is uni­ver­sal, not lazi­ness. Lazi­ness is a tool for respite between peri­ods of hard work. Lazi­ness a con­cept born out of the drudgery in hav­ing to jobs one does not enjoy or care about.

Every teacher knows that you can­not force a stu­dent to learn. Yet all of the tools in their arse­nal are meant to coerce and force a stu­dent into doing what the sys­tem asks of them. Grades func­tion to encour­age or to shame. Class dis­ci­pline is required or pun­ish­ments are admin­is­tered. Bells ring and rigid sched­ules tell stu­dents when to begin and stop working/learning. Pris­on-like build­ings and guard-like teach­ers and staff ensure bod­ies are where they are meant to be. Rows of desks to keep stu­dents in view and in con­trol. Home­work is assigned trans­form­ing the home into an exten­sion of the school forc­ing fam­i­ly life to con­form to both the school and work­place. We push bod­ies around and every­thing we do says con­form, con­form, con­form. Yet we know we can­not force stu­dents to learn. The best a teacher can do is to not sim­ply cov­er mate­ri­al man­dat­ed to them but to encour­age stu­dents to dis­cov­er. Yet this is near­ly impos­si­ble in an insti­tu­tion which dis­cour­ages crit­i­cal think­ing, lim­its time and resources and at every cor­ner con­trols the bod­ies of its pop­u­la­tion. The archi­tec­tural appa­ra­tus of the school has a panop­ti­cal aspect to it, the stu­dent feels as if they are always being watched. They must con­form to expect­ed behav­ior or be pun­ished. So here is the dilem­ma: How can we teach uni­ver­sal free­dom and inde­pen­dent, cre­ative and crit­i­cal think­ing in an insti­tu­tion that denies it at every turn? How can we teach democ­ra­cy in a total­i­tar­i­an set­ting? The answer is sim­ple: we can­not!


FOUR // 

No Reform, Insurgency! Subversion in the Schoolhouse or Just Leave it Behind: Toward an Antipedagogical Wanderlust



Illus­tra­tion 5: Ferrer’s The Mod­ern School.

There are two ways open to those who seek to reform the edu­ca­tion of chil­dren. They may seek to trans­form the school by study­ing the child and prov­ing sci­en­tif­i­cal­ly that the actu­al scheme of instruc­tion is defec­tive, and must be mod­i­fied; or they may found new schools in which prin­ci­ples may be direct­ly applied in the ser­vice of that ide­al which is formed by all who reject the con­ven­tions, the cru­el­ty, the trick­ery, and the untruth which enter into the bases of mod­ern soci­ety.

Fran­cis­co Fer­rer, The Orig­in and Ide­als of the Mod­ern School

Actu­al­ly, all edu­ca­tion is self-edu­ca­tion. A teacher is only a guide, to point out the way, and no school, no mat­ter how excel­lent, can give you edu­ca­tion. What you receive is like the out­li­nes in a child’s col­or­ing book. You must fill in the col­ors your­self.

Louis L’Amour

THE cre­ation and found­ing of new schools based on demo­c­ra­t­ic prin­ci­ples is one step; anoth­er action is to be the insur­gent maneu­ver­ing and action with­in the walls of those schools whose method of instruc­tion is coun­ter-demo­c­ra­t­ic as seen in our con­tem­po­rary indus­tri­al-Prus­sian mod­els of school­ing so dom­i­nant today. Insur­gent teach­ers must learn to espouse crit­i­cal-ped­a­gogies (of depro­gram­ming) or, in appro­pri­ate cas­es, an antiped­a­gogy in which the only essen­tial need is to teach stu­dents how to learn. Depro­gram­ming through crit­i­cal ped­a­gogy is about the era­sure of the ill-effects of didac­ti­cism and oppres­sive ped­a­gogies . Antiped­a­gogy ques­tions the effi­ca­cy of ped­a­gogy and the “mas­ter-stu­dent” rela­tion­ship, insist­ing that the insti­tu­tion­al­iza­tion of this and teach­ing per­turbs the abil­i­ty of peo­ple to learn for them­selves cre­at­ing a cycle of social depen­den­cy on the false stan­dards of pro­fes­sion­al­ism, spe­cial­iza­tion and accred­i­ta­tion.


Soci­ety is organ­ised, not in respon­se to a gen­er­al need and for the real­i­sa­tion of an ide­al, but as an insti­tu­tion with a strong deter­mi­na­tion to main­tain its prim­i­tive forms, defend­ing them vig­or­ous­ly again­st every reform, how­ev­er rea­son­able it may be.

Fran­cis­co Fer­rer, The Orig­in and Ide­als of the Mod­ern School

INSURGENCY describes an active rebel­lion again­st insti­tu­tions whose deter­mi­na­tion is to main­tain medi­oc­rity and sus­tain class con­flict in the inter­ests of the few elite. Fur­ther­more, and more par­tic­u­lar to edu­ca­tion, an insur­gen­cy in the school­house is about demys­ti­fy­ing the insti­tu­tion as the sole bas­tion for learn­ing. It is the work of insur­gent teach­ers to teach  stu­dents how to nav­i­gate and learn with­in the­se insti­tu­tions; to teach stu­dents not to rely on the insti­tu­tion and to pur­sue their own dreams and goals. An insur­gent doesn’t look to reform, but abo­li­tion.


The edu­ca­tion­al sys­tem does not serve the stu­dents’ pur­pos­es now. They must learn to use the crawl spaces we make avail­able to them to pre­pare for orga­nized acts that will ren­der that sys­tem unwork­able, and com­pel change.

Jay Gillen, Edu­cat­ing for Insur­gen­cy:The Roles of Young Peo­ple in Schools of Pover­ty.

IT is the insur­gent teacher who must cre­ate crawl spaces in which stu­dents can find free­dom in the idea that they can learn on their own. When stu­dents realise their poten­tial in the face of the insti­tu­tion which keeps them from real­is­ing it, they will organ­ise. But stu­dents will only organ­ise if they feel empow­ered to do so. This is what the crawl space is for: empow­er­ment in the face of the insti­tu­tion which strips them of this pow­er in such a dehu­man­is­ing and demor­al­is­ing fash­ion that it breeds apa­thy with­in its walls and after­wards, the world at large. The crawl space is not an escape, but a hole in the wall which when the stu­dent reach­es an enlight­ened state, she will real­ize the wall nev­er real­ly exist­ed in the first place. The walls become hoax.


I was 12 years old; I was attend­ing school and it was in my neigh­bor­hood that the net­work was woven and not at school, which offered no suit­able space at all. And if there is here some piece of chance to be found, it was redis­cov­ered again each time. If I want­ed to indi­cate one of the con­stants of the net­work, I would note this out­side as one of the nec­es­sary sup­port frames. Hav­ing said that when space becomes a con­cen­tra­tion camp, the for­ma­tion of a net­work cre­ates a kind of out­side which allows the human to sur­vive.

Fer­nand Deligny, The Arach­nean and Oth­er Texts

THE school has a social-net­work sphere. With­out the net­work, stu­dents would not be exposed to the out­side. The net­work cre­at­ed by the school, as an insti­tu­tion, is an edit­ed net­work suit­ing its own goals and negat­ing, at all cost, the inde­pen­dent goals of the stu­dent. The most sub­ver­sive thing an insur­gent teacher can do is expose stu­dents to the pos­si­bil­i­ties of their social net­work, of the mul­ti­tude. With expo­sure to the net­work and an under­stand­ing of how to nav­i­gate it, a stu­dents auton­o­my becomes their teacher. The teacher and the school as a net­work are no longer need­ed for sur­vival.


A monk told Joshu, “I have just entered the monastery. Please teach me.”

Joshu asked, “Have you eat­en your rice por­ridge?

The monk replied, “I have eat­en.”

Joshu said, “Then you had bet­ter wash your bowl.”

At that moment the monk was enlight­ened.

A Zen Koan

THE first gift from our par­ents is love. Love is the first knowl­edge. The first knowl­edge taught us to be our­selves, and that no mat­ter who we were to become we would be loved. The first knowl­edge taught us how to com­mu­ni­cate and con­nect. The first knowl­edge taught us we can learn with what we have been given, and we can learn on our own as the curi­ous lit­tle beasts we are. This is tak­en away from us when we are aban­doned at the school­house. When the first knowl­edge is stripped from us we feel we must become depen­dent on a grow­ing num­ber of mas­ters. An insur­gent teacher aban­dons author­i­ty for love, and only when this is done does she have the abil­i­ty to show the stu­dent their latent poten­tial. This teacher shows the stu­dent the knowl­edge that they already knew, and with her new found lost knowl­edge the stu­dent real­izes:

I can do this on my own!”

Poof! The teacher van­ish­es.


The pro­gress of the mind, like that of mat­ter, is by slow gra­da­tions, and the teacher who pro­fess­es to pos­sess a stream-rate con­veyance for instruc­tion, not only deceives him­self, but will assured­ly find that his own errors will pro­duce a cor­re­spond­ing ill effect upon the improve­ment of his pupils. 

John Tour­ri­er and Joe­seph Jaco­tot, A Trea­tise on Jacotot’s Method of Teach­ing Lan­guages

IF the teacher does not van­ish the his­to­ry of error will be repro­duced with­in the insti­tu­tion who mis­tak­en­ly claims its right over the his­to­ry of knowl­edge. What is taught is not knowl­edge or abil­i­ty, but igno­rance and apa­thy. The insur­gent teacher must dis­ap­pear when the time is right.


Edu­ca­tion is an admirable thing. But it is well to remem­ber from time to time that noth­ing that is worth know­ing can be taught.

Oscar Wilde, A Few Max­ims for the Instruc­tion of the Over-Edu­cat­ed

THE insur­gent teacher doesn’t teach. She draws out what was already known. The insur­gent teacher makes the stu­dent their own teacher. What is worth know­ing is not taught, it is earned. This is the val­ue which the insur­gent teacher will empha­sise, and it is this same val­ue that is found in the first knowl­edge: Love.


There is, on the whole, noth­ing on earth intend­ed for inno­cent peo­ple so hor­ri­ble as a school. To begin with, it is a pris­on.

George Bernard Shaw, Mis­al­liance

THE strip­ping of inno­cence at such a young age as chil­dren are sent to school is the first dehu­man­is­ing act. The sec­ond is to con­trol their move­ment. The third is to tell them who they are allowed to learn from and who they are not. It is the third dehu­man­is­ing act which teach­es chil­dren to rely on a mas­ter for all of their knowl­edge and that their own opin­ions, ideas and knowl­edge are of lit­tle val­ue.


Peo­ple who think that all edu­ca­tion has to come from schools or pro­grams feel edu­ca­tion­al­ly deprived … real­iz­ing that we can learn on our own steam, wherever we are, is an extreme­ly empow­er­ing and some­times life-alter­ing expe­ri­ence. Mal­colm X’s expe­ri­ences, of teach­ing him­self to read in pris­on, are a good exam­ple of this. In essence, the same idea sup­ports a pris­on inmate, who decides he can teach him­self (or anoth­er inmate) to read with­out a for­mal pro­gram; a moth­er, who believes that she can help her young child learn no mat­ter how much or how lit­tle school­ing she her­self has; and a 16-year-old, who dares to leave school instead of fol­low­ing the com­mon injunc­tion to stay.

Susan­nah Shef­fer, Reflec­tions on Grow­ing With­out School

THE insur­gent teacher places empha­sis on auton­o­my. Even with­in a pris­on, there is some­thing to learn, but it must be learned and earned through auton­o­my, not author­i­ty, to be of any val­ue. A school isn’t a pris­on, but we are tricked to believe this is so. Remem­ber the crawl space, the hole in the wall? When the teacher van­ish­es, so do the walls … so does the school. The stu­dent enters the world.


If we real­ize that learn­ing hap­pens every­where, we won’t say that kids go to school “to learn” (which implies that they wouldn’t learn oth­er­wise, and don’t learn when they aren’t there). We won’t say, of some­thing we didn’t hap­pen to cov­er dur­ing our school years, “I nev­er learned that,” as though now that we’re fin­ished with for­mal school­ing, there are no more oppor­tu­ni­ties to learn. We won’t judge peo­ple on the basis of how much school­ing they have com­plet­ed. In oth­er words, we won’t auto­mat­i­cal­ly assume (with­out any fur­ther infor­ma­tion) that some­one who has com­plet­ed a cer­tain amount of school­ing has learned more than some­one who hasn’t.

Susan­nah Shef­fer, Reflec­tions on Grow­ing With­out School

THE world is our class­room. Our love of knowl­edge negates the school. It is an unnec­es­sary evil.


Halfway through the book, the child begins to read a book, and the title of that page is pro­thom path, ‘first read­ing,’ not ‘first lesson.’ What a thrill it must have been for the child, undoubt­ed­ly a boy, to get to that moment. Today this is impos­si­ble, because the teach­ers, and the teach­ers’ teach­ers, indef­i­nite­ly, are clue­less about this book as a do-it-your­self instru­ment.

Gay­atari Spi­vak, Right­ing Wrongs

IF the school is allowed to per­sist as it does, the book will become a pris­on too. A place where thoughts and intel­li­gence is locked up, and the only peo­ple who will have the keys are the mas­ters of the insti­tu­tion. The mind will no longer wan­der and so with it the feet will stop. The book los­es its lib­er­a­to­ry pow­er in the hands of an igno­rant teacher. But the book as a do-it-your­self tool toward self-knowl­edge becomes an atlas of pos­si­bil­i­ties, where one might not only walk on one’s own but take flight as well.


One of the basic sit­u­a­tion­ist prac­tices is the dérive [drift­ing], a tech­nique of rapid pas­sage through var­ied ambiances. Dérives involve play­ful-con­struc­tive behav­iour and aware­ness of psy­cho-geo­graph­i­cal effects, and are thus quite dif­fer­ent from the clas­sic notions of jour­ney or stroll.

Guy Debord, The­o­ry of the Dérive

free stu­dent might drift, and there is much to be learned while freely drift­ing through­out the world.


Two monks were watch­ing a flag flap­ping in the wind. One said to the oth­er, “The flag is mov­ing.” The oth­er replied, “The wind is mov­ing.” Huineng over­heard this. He said, “Not the flag, not the wind; mind is mov­ing.”

A Zen Koan

SCHOOLS as pris­ons don’t just restrict the body, they restrict the mind. It is the mind that moves, but only if it is free. This makes pris­ons, which grant free­dom of thought but restrict move­ment, sound like a bet­ter option than schools.


Only he who walks the road on foot learns of the pow­er it com­mands, and of how, from the very scenery that for the flier is only the unfurled plain, calls forth dis­tances, belved­eres, clear­ings, prospects at each of its turns like a com­man­der deploy­ing sol­diers at a front.

Wal­ter Ben­jam­in, One-Way Street

AUTONOMY is about move­ment. Move­ment of thought and move­ment of the body. The move­ment of thought is not sep­a­rate from the body. The restric­tion of the body has a seri­ous recourse on the way we think. Walk­ing pro­vides a med­i­ta­tive per­spec­tive and devel­ops the rela­tion­ship between the body and mind, and; fur­ther­more, it devel­ops a rela­tion­ship between us and our envi­ron­ment. The insur­gent teacher must allow her stu­dents to walk. To move. To think. To con­nect to the out­side net­work and not sim­ply emu­late it.


On how one ori­ents him­self to the moment depends on the fail­ure or fruit­ful­ness of it. In a very real sense we can see today how man has real­ly dis­lo­cat­ed him­self from the move­ment of life; he is some­where on the periph­ery, whirling like a whirligig, going faster and faster an blind­er and blind­er. Unless he can make the ges­ture of sur­ren­der, unless he can let go the iron will which i mere­ly an expres­sion of his nega­tion of life, he will nev­er get back to the cen­ter and find his true being. 

Hen­ry Miller, The Wis­dom of the Heart

WE are already dis­lo­cat­ed. The insur­gent teacher expos­es this to her stu­dents. The insti­tu­tion has seduced and mis­guid­ed them. They are lost and they must find them­selves lost or they will nev­er find the first knowl­edge again. The stu­dent, the cit­i­zen, must be able to find them­selves in order to lose them­selves again.


Walk­ing is one way of main­tain­ing a bulk­work again­st this ero­sion of the mind, the body, the land­scape and the city, and every walk­er is a guard on patrol to pro­tect the inef­fa­ble … walk­ing is a sub­ject that is always stray­ing.

Rebec­ca Sol­nit, Wan­der­lust: A His­to­ry of Walk­ing

ANTIPEDAGOGY teach­es us auton­o­my. It guides us to what we already knew: we are inde­pen­dent and can learn on our own. A huge prob­lem is that we do not trust the abil­i­ty of oth­ers. This dis­trust is taught. Antiped­a­gogy dein­sti­tu­tion­al­izes learn­ing and with this real­iza­tion, the stu­dent becomes one with the world. Antiped­a­gogy allows the stu­dent to stray. If we are to walk, we must walk away from the school as an insti­tu­tion and the teacher as the mas­ter and sacred keep­er of knowl­edge. To walk is to know, and to stray is to learn.


Maps And Wander Lines

Illus­tra­tion 6: Fer­nand Deligny,  Maps And Wan­der Lines.

That child spins around NOTHING

on noth­ing



so was he look­ing for it,  this self 

that he                was seek­ing? 

Fer­nand Deligny, Ce Gam­in, là (Trans­lat­ed by Guil­laume Logé for The Sur­ex­pres­sion of Wan­der Lines)

WE believe idle­ness is noth­ing­ness. That the idle do not search, but at the same time, we mis­un­der­stand the search of the oth­er. We are far too pre­oc­cu­pied with what we believe is aim­less or futile. We must allow each oth­er to become lost and to find our own way. There is no such thing as an easy path. All paths rep­re­sent dif­fer­ent chal­lenges, and we must face the­se chal­lenges alone with­out the false char­i­ty of the oth­ers who believe them­selves to be edu­ca­tion­al saints. The insur­gent teacher releas­es her stu­dents into the wilder­ness with­out wor­ry and with­out inter­ven­tion. We must be allowed to wan­der and to get lost so that we can find our own way. We might learn from trac­ing the lines of the oth­er, but we mustn’t fol­low them blind­ly, and open our­selves to the world. There is plen­ty to learn from trac­ing our own wan­der lines, to retrace our steps and accept our his­to­ries.


The ques­tion then is how to get lost. Nev­er to get lost is not to live, not to know how to get lost brings you to destruc­tion, and some­where in the ter­ra incog­ni­ta in between lies a life of dis­cov­ery.

Rebec­ca Sol­nit, A Field Guide to Get­ting Lost

THE insti­tu­tion of schools makes us believe that we are not lost. We no longer know how to get lost on our own and come to believe that there is no val­ue in being lost. There is plen­ty to dis­cov­er from being lost, but we must be lost on our own terms and not led astray. The insur­gent teacher helps the stu­dent find them­selves by tak­ing away their com­pass. Build­ing con­fi­dence and learn­ing to detach them­selves the stu­dent enters the world in search of becom­ing lost on her own terms. To learn is to lose one­self in the sub­ject at hand, and to come to know it with­out bias or out­side influ­ence.


Not to find one’s way about in a city is of lit­tle inter­est. It requires igno­rance, noth­ing more … but to lose one’s way in a city, as one los­es one’s way in a forest, that requires a dif­fer­ent school­ing.

Wal­ter Ben­jam­in, One-Way Street

ANTIPEDAGOGY encour­ages the indi­vid­u­al to lose one­self with­out the con­cern of find­ing their way out. Instead, antiped­a­gogy allows one to find some­thing of more val­ue. It is of no inter­est where the end­point is, only what one finds when they find them­selves lost. The val­ue is not in the arrival, it is the jour­ney itself, the process of los­ing one’s self and in the sub­se­quent self-dis­cov­ery.


With­out walk­ing I would be dead … with­out walk­ing I would not be able to make any obser­va­tions or any stud­ies at all … With­out walk­ing and the con­tem­pla­tion of nature which is con­nect­ed with it, with­out this equal­ly deli­cious and admon­ish­ing search, I deem myself lost, and I am lost. With the utmost love and atten­tion the man who walks must study and observe every small­est liv­ing thing, be it a child, a dog, a fly, a but­ter­fly, a spar­row, a worm, a flow­er, a man, a house, a tree, a hedge, a snail, a mouse, a cloud, a hill, a leaf, or no more than a poor dis­card­ed scrap of paper on which, per­haps, a dear good child at school has writ­ten his first clum­sy let­ters. The high­est and the low­est, the most seri­ous and the most hilar­i­ous things are to him equal­ly beloved, beau­ti­ful, and valu­able. He must bring with him no sort of sen­ti­men­tal­ly sen­si­tive self-love or quick­ness to take offense. Unselfish and une­go­is­tic, he must let his care­ful eye wan­der and stroll where it will; only he must be con­tin­u­ous­ly able in the con­tem­pla­tion and obser­va­tion of things to efface him­self, and to put behind him, lit­tle con­sid­er, and for­get like a brave, zeal­ous, and joy­ful­ly self-immo­lat­ing front-line sol­dier, him­self, his pri­vate com­plaints, needs, wants, and sac­ri­fices. If he does not, then he walks only half atten­tive, with only half his spir­it, and that is worth noth­ing.

Robert Walser, The Walk

EITHER we sub­vert the school­house or we leave it behind. In our sub­ver­sion, we bring the world into the fab­ri­cat­ed pris­ons we call school. We know this is inau­then­tic, but we also know that with­out the crawl spaces we cre­ate with our stu­dents there is noth­ing to hope for. We ought to encour­age our stu­dents to leave the anti­quat­ed idea of school­ing behind as they walk into their own futures where they can begin to learn for them­selves and find the first knowl­edge all over again. To stray and to wan­der is to use what we have inherit­ed from our par­ents, the first knowl­edge, love, and invest our curi­ous nature into the dis­cov­ery of new and won­der­ful things. When we real­ize school has very lit­tle to do with learn­ing and that any­thing can be learned from out­side of those walls, we will seek guid­ance on our own. The insur­gent teacher is one who pro­vides the space for her stu­dents to stay with­out coer­cion. The school as an insti­tute is all about coer­cion, and it is in this coer­cive envi­ron­ment the stu­dents’ inter­ests and well-being are dis­placed. The school rep­re­sents a repro­duc­tive cycle breed­ing depen­den­cy and medi­oc­rity. It is time that we walk away from it. If this is not pos­si­ble, the world will always need a place for the insur­gent teacher, the antiped­a­gogue.


FIVE // 

Conceptualizing a Schoolless Society: Postmodern Peripateticism and the Organic Network

Illustration Seven: The Tree of Knowledge is an outdated metaphor. We need a new simile: Knowledge is like a rhizomatic network.

Illus­tra­tion 7: The Tree of Knowl­edge is an out­dat­ed metaphor. We need a new sim­i­le: Knowl­edge is like a rhi­zomat­ic net­work.

A collage overlay of Ariel Gonzalez Losada's

Illus­tra­tion 8: A col­lage over­lay of Ariel Gon­za­lez Losada’s Con­struc­ci Escritos and Con­struc­ci. Rhizome/organic net­works are not neat and ordered. They over­lap and inter­act through criss­cross­ing trans­vers­ing lines. Spon­ta­neous and planned nodal points act as com­mu­nal anchor­ing points. Spaces shift to avoid his­tor­i­cal irrel­e­vance. As in our social real­i­ty noth­ing is clean and tidy, but in most cas­es, the­se net­works func­tion or else they adapt. 


Sev­er­al points coex­ist in a given indi­vid­u­al or group, which are always engaged in sev­er­al dis­tinct and not always com­pat­i­ble lin­ear pro­ceed­ings. The var­i­ous forms of edu­ca­tion or “nor­mal­iza­tion” imposed upon an indi­vid­u­al con­sist in mak­ing him or her change points of sub­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion, always mov­ing toward a high­er, nobler one in closer con­for­mi­ty with the sup­posed ide­al. Then from the point of sub­jec­ti­fi­ca­tion issues a sub­ject of enun­ci­a­tion, as a func­tion of a men­tal real­i­ty deter­mined by that point. Then from the sub­ject of enun­ci­a­tion issues a sub­ject of the state­ment, in oth­er words, a sub­ject bound to state­ments in con­for­mi­ty with a dom­i­nant real­i­ty (of which the men­tal real­i­ty just men­tioned is a part, even when it seems to oppose it).

Delueze and Guat­tari, A Thou­sand Plateaus

Cre­ative, explorato­ry learn­ing requires peers cur­rent­ly puz­zled about the same terms or prob­lems. Large uni­ver­si­ties make the futile attempt to match them by mul­ti­ply­ing their cours­es, and they gen­er­al­ly fail since they are bound to cur­ricu­lum, course struc­ture, and bureau­crat­ic admin­is­tra­tion. In schools, includ­ing uni­ver­si­ties, most resources are spent to pur­chase the time and moti­va­tion of a lim­it­ed num­ber of peo­ple to take up pre­de­ter­mined prob­lems in a rit­u­al­ly defined set­ting. The most rad­i­cal alter­na­tive to school would be a net­work or ser­vice which gave each man the same oppor­tu­ni­ty to share his cur­rent con­cern with oth­ers moti­vat­ed by the same con­cern.

Ivan Illach, Deschool­ing Soci­ety

The One Hun­dred Lan­guages is a metaphor for the extra­or­di­nary poten­tials of chil­dren, their knowl­edge-build­ing and cre­ative process­es, the myr­i­ad forms with which life is man­i­fest­ed and knowl­edge is con­struct­ed. The hun­dred lan­guages are under­stood as hav­ing the poten­tial to be trans­formed and mul­ti­plied in the coop­er­a­tion and inter­ac­tion between the lan­guages, among the chil­dren, and between chil­dren and adults.

Car­li­na Rinaldi, Re-Imag­in­ing Child­hood

A good edu­ca­tion­al sys­tem should have three pur­pos­es: it should provide all who want to learn with access to avail­able resources at any time in their lives; empow­er all who want to share what they know to find those who want to learn it from them; and, final­ly, fur­nish all who want to present an issue to the pub­lic with the oppor­tu­ni­ty to make their chal­lenge known.

Ivan Illich, Deschool­ing Soci­ety


CONSIDER the con­straints of your real­i­ty, imposed or self-imposed. Take a moment to think about whether your men­tal real­i­ty, that is the process of your thought, match­es your phys­i­cal real­i­ty. The fact is, the impo­si­tion of a lin­ear con­struct of the world has per­turbed and per­vert­ed its non-lin­ear nature. The focus on hard-dri­ven for­ward mov­ing immov­able lines just doesn’t match our real­i­ty. Our real­i­ty being that it con­sists of an infinite amount of lines stretch­ing and bend­ing in all sorts of direc­tions. Impos­ing lin­ear val­ues sus­pends the myth of a neat and tidy lin­ear uni­verse. It con­strains us to a very lim­it­ed real­i­ty in which we become con­vinced is our only real­i­ty. Much of what we learn comes first from ran­dom expo­sure, we then learn through a dis­cov­ery process that is any­thing but lin­ear.

An organ­ic learn­ing net­work express­es the acces­si­bil­i­ty to resources that are freely open to all. Illich con­cep­tu­al­ized “four dif­fer­ent approach­es which enable the stu­dent to gain access to any edu­ca­tion­al resource which may help him to define and achieve his own goals:”


1. Ref­er­ence Ser­vices to Edu­ca­tion­al Objects—which facil­i­tate access to things or process­es used for for­mal learn­ing. Some of the­se things can be reserved for this pur­pose, stored in libraries, rental agen­cies, lab­o­ra­to­ries, and show­rooms like muse­ums and the­aters; oth­ers can be in dai­ly use in fac­to­ries, air­ports, or on farms, but made avail­able to stu­dents as appren­tices or on off-hours.

2. Skill Exchanges—which per­mit per­sons to list their skills, the con­di­tions under which they are will­ing to serve as mod­els for oth­ers who want to learn the­se skills, and the address­es at which they can be reached.

3. Peer Matching—a com­mu­ni­ca­tion net­work which per­mits per­sons to describe the learn­ing activ­i­ty in which they wish to engage, in the hope of find­ing a part­ner for the inquiry.

4. Ref­er­ence Ser­vices to Educators-at-large—who can be list­ed in a direc­to­ry giv­ing the address­es and self-descrip­tions of pro­fes­sion­als, para-pro­fes­sion­als, and free-lancers, along with con­di­tions of access to their ser­vices. Such edu­ca­tors, as we will see, could be cho­sen by polling or con­sult­ing their for­mer clients.

The­se net­works would form a sort of skill-shar­ing or mutu­al knowl­edge econ­o­my. How­ev­er, in order to suc­ceed in an equal access knowl­edge econ­o­my, Illich out­lined the goals for an edu­ca­tion­al rev­o­lu­tion:

1. To lib­er­ate access to things by abol­ish­ing the con­trol which per­sons and insti­tu­tions now exer­cise over their edu­ca­tion­al val­ues.

2. To lib­er­ate the shar­ing of skills by guar­an­tee­ing free­dom to teach or exer­cise them on request.

3. To lib­er­ate the crit­i­cal and cre­ative resources of peo­ple by return­ing to indi­vid­u­al per­sons the abil­i­ty to call and hold meetings–an abil­i­ty now increas­ing­ly monop­o­lized by insti­tu­tions which claim to speak for the peo­ple.

4. To lib­er­ate the indi­vid­u­al from the oblig­a­tion to shape his expec­ta­tions to the ser­vices offered by any estab­lished profession–by pro­vid­ing him with the oppor­tu­ni­ty to draw on the expe­ri­ence of his peers and to entrust him­self to the teacher, guide, advis­er, or heal­er of his choice. Inevitably the deschool­ing of soci­ety will blur the dis­tinc­tions between eco­nom­ics, edu­ca­tion, and pol­i­tics on which the sta­bil­i­ty of the present world order and the sta­bil­i­ty of nations now rest.

The organ­ic net­work acts as a con­tin­u­al flow of infor­ma­tion and knowl­edge. It express­es in it, an infinite poten­tial­i­ty of knowl­edge for who­ev­er wish­es to access it. More­over, the organ­ic net­work encour­ages prax­is over dox­is (or doxa). Far from het­ero­doxy and ortho­doxy, an organ­ic net­work must explore the infinite nature of curios­i­ty and knowl­edge-build­ing and the infinite paths to obtain­ing one’s edu­ca­tion­al goals. Organ­ic net­works lib­er­ate the indi­vid­u­al com­plete­ly allow­ing for unhin­dered explo­ration and exper­i­men­ta­tion. Acces­si­bil­i­ty is the core prin­ci­ple of the organ­ic net­work, and thus post­mod­ern peri­pateti­cism. 

Post­mod­ern peri­pateti­cism also describes the ide­al uni­ver­sal access to learn­ing mate­ri­als in the auto­di­dac­tic world. It relies on open and organ­ic net­works con­nect­ed by a series of phys­i­cal nodes. Remem­ber the­se organ­ic net­works are social net­works that pre­date our cur­rent con­cep­tion of net­works as embed­ded in telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions tech­nolo­gies. Phys­i­cal nodes with­in organ­ic net­works are rep­re­sent­ed by the fam­i­ly, home, farms, busi­ness­es, com­mu­ni­ty cen­tres, art gal­leries, muse­ums, libraries, parks and so on. For the most part, the infra­struc­ture for a school­less soci­ety already exists. Infor­ma­tion net­works help us access the­se phys­i­cal net­works and com­mu­ni­cate more open­ly and freely. Hav­ing tech­nol­o­gy as a learn­ing aid as we explore the phys­i­cal world is sim­ply a ben­e­fit that hasn’t exist­ed for all that long. Not only does such tech­nol­o­gy help us nav­i­gate and con­nect to the world, it is an indis­pens­able tool on the path to auto­di­dac­tic. So, post­mod­ern peri­pateti­cism is about acces­si­bil­i­ty; how­ev­er, it requires that the pri­ma­ry node in the net­work, the fam­i­ly, have the means avail­able for access. That means, like pub­li­cal­ly fund­ed school­ing, an eco­nom­ic mod­el needs to be devel­oped. An econ­o­my of a school­less soci­ety is far beyond the scope of this essay, but it isn’t hard to imag­ine that the fund­ing per stu­dent, which aver­ages $11, 0000 in both Canada and the US, could be man­aged in a vari­ety of ways. For instance, a pub­li­cal­ly fund­ed voucher sys­tem could be admin­is­tered to each fam­i­ly for each child. The mon­ey could be used for child­care and edu­ca­tion costs. Insti­tu­tions that already exist could be pro­vid­ed addi­tion­al fund­ing for edu­ca­tion­al pur­pos­es and/or men­tor­ship pro­grams. For­mer teach­ers would shift from schools into posi­tions with­in their exper­tise and be hired by libraries, muse­ums, com­mu­ni­ty cen­tres, non-prof­its  or busi­ness­es to ful­fill work­ing men­tor­ship, research, col­lab­o­ra­tive and cre­ative roles. 

With the dein­sti­tu­tion­al­iza­tion of edu­ca­tion, the role  of the teacher in soci­ety will change dra­mat­i­cal­ly. The pro­fes­sion teacher will cease to exist. Teach­ing will become a flu­id con­cept, and most teach­ers will fall nat­u­ral­ly into men­tor­ship, research or cre­ative roles with­in the pre­ex­ist­ing edu­ca­tion­al infra­struc­ture. George Bernard Shaw’s old max­im “He who can, does; he who can­not, teach­es” will be turned on its head. Teach­ers will become the doers they were meant to be. No longer rel­e­gat­ed to the role of glo­ri­fied babysit­ters teach­ers will be able to ful­fill roles in soci­ety as com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers work­ing with­in the com­mu­ni­ty at large. Some will work specif­i­cal­ly as coun­selors or men­tors, and some as edu­ca­tion­al con­sul­tants, while oth­ers will take com­mu­ni­ty lead­er­ship roles with­in muse­ums, com­mu­ni­ty cen­tres and libraries and so on. Many, of course, will be out of work; how­ev­er, when one thinks about the num­ber of excel­lent teach­ers pit­ted again­st medioc­re or ter­ri­ble teach­ers it shouldn’t be of any sur­prise. The best teach­ers have always been the ones who already defy Shaw’s max­im. The best teach­ers have always already been doers and com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers, so it is only right for them to ful­fill their nat­u­ral roles.

The non-lin­ear nature of the organ­ic net­work and the lib­er­a­tion of the stu­dent from the teacher and vice-ver­sa requires a dra­mat­ic reor­ga­ni­za­tion of social and eco­nom­ic roles. How­ev­er, if it seems like a huge stretch … ide­o­log­i­cal­ly it isn’t. The pre­vail­ing thought in lib­er­al edu­ca­tion is that it is meant to empow­er and lib­er­ate the indi­vid­u­al. The organ­ic net­work and post­mod­ern peri­pateti­cism would force those who make this claim to take their words and thoughts much more seri­ous­ly. Edu­ca­tion is about lead­ing our­selves for­ward and pro­gress­ing both intel­lec­tu­al­ly and social­ly. Tak­ing Illich and his pro­pos­als seri­ous­ly isn’t just dream­ing utopia. They provide a con­cep­tu­al frame­work from which we can work from and con­crete goals which we can achieve (espe­cial­ly in the tech­no­log­i­cal sense). 

The dra­mat­ic shift in social organ­i­sa­tion might be dif­fi­cult to accept; how­ev­er, the roles of those employed by schools and edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu­tions can evolve and mor­ph into the pre­ex­ist­ing infra­struc­ture and con­sti­tute the basis of new plat­forms for edu­ca­tion­al ser­vice. The men­tor­ship, coun­selor, con­sul­tant and lead­er­ship roles teach­ers will come to ful­fill will be in order to ori­en­tate, guide and aid the edu­ca­tion­al need of auto­di­dac­tic peers and pupils. As stat­ed before, most, if not all, of the infra­struc­ture exists; how­ev­er, in order to help coor­di­nate a tran­si­tion into a school­less soci­ety based on organ­ic net­works we need to look at its design and archi­tec­ture.


SIX // 

An Architecture for the Schoolless Society


Guy Debord, Guide Psychogeographic de Paris

Guy Debord, Guide Psy­cho­geo­graph­ic de Paris

At the source of the entire process of social change there is a new kind of work­er, the self-pro­gram­ma­ble work­er, and a new type of per­son­al­i­ty, the val­ues-root­ed, flex­i­ble per­son­al­i­ty able to adapt to chang­ing cul­tur­al mod­els along the life cycle because her/his abil­i­ty to bend with­out break­ing, to remain inner-direct­ed while evolv­ing with the sur­round­ing soci­ety. This inno­v­a­tive pro­duc­tion of human beings, under the con- ditions of the cri­sis of patri­ar­chal­ism and and the cri­sis of the tra- dition­al fam­i­ly, requires a total over­haul­ing of the school sys­tem, in all its lev­els and domains. This refers cer­tain­ly to new forms of tech­nol­o­gy and ped­a­gogy, but also to the con- tent and orga­ni­za­tion of the learn­ing process. As dif­fi­cult as it sounds, soci­eties that will not be able to deal with this issue will encoun­ter major eco­nom­ic and social prob­lems in the cur­rent process of struc­tural change.

Manuel Castells, The Net­worked Society: From Knowl­edge to Pol­i­cy 


THE archi­tec­ture and design of our schools shape who we are. The Prus­sian mod­el of edu­ca­tion gave rise to the indus­tri­al school//the school as fac­to­ry. Ped­a­gogy adapt­ed to the envi­ron­ment becom­ing much more mechan­i­cal.


INCREASINGLY soci­ety is becom­ing more and more depen­dent on poly­math­ic, [organ­ic] net­work intu­itive thinkers and doers. The archi­tec­ture and design of con­tem­po­rary edu­ca­tion are unsuit­able for our cur­rent soci­etal needs.


ARCHITECTURE and design speak both to the process of admin­is­tra­tion and the phys­i­cal­i­ty of schools. The archi­tec­ture and design of the admin­is­tra­tion of schools have tak­en the form of an edu­ca­tion­al panop­ti­con. From bureau­cra­cy to the lim­i­ta­tions of cur­ricu­lum design and imple­men­ta­tion, schools have been designed to repro­duce medi­oc­rity and class/gender/social dis­par­i­ty.


THE indus­tri­al mod­el of edu­ca­tion resists the pro­gress of organ­ic net­work or autonomous mod­els of school­ing and edu­ca­tion.


THE indus­tri­al mod­el of edu­ca­tion requires cen­tral­iza­tion; there­fore, the panop­ti­cal effect is max­i­mized. Con­trol becomes almost effort­less and the vol­un­tary sur­ren­der of auton­o­my rein­forces the archi­tec­tures of oppres­sion inher­ent in the sys­tems design and pur­pose.


AUTONOMOUS mod­els of edu­ca­tion need to coun­ter and attack the indus­tri­al mod­el. The aban­don­ment of the admin­is­tra­tive sys­tem is essen­tial. Fur­ther­more, the redesign or destruc­tion of the phys­i­cal loca­tions (schools) is nec­es­sary in order to move away from the repro­duc­tive cycle of indus­tri­al edu­ca­tion.


JENNIFER Wong’s Sys­tem­at­ic Think­ingthe­sis is a good start; how­ev­er, it must be tak­en fur­ther. The Decen­tral­iza­tion of edu­ca­tion is nec­es­sary. Admin­is­tra­tions must be dis­man­tled and the idea of “school” as a loca­tion must be aban­doned.


THE Net­work Soci­ety describes a future-space (or cur­rent space) that requires auton­o­my and self-edu­ca­tion. It requires open access to infor­ma­tion and spaces of infor­ma­tion (i.e. libraries and the Inter­net). The class­room needs to be demol­ished, and the col­lec­tive needs for edu­ca­tion should be met in pub­lic spaces which deny insti­tu­tion­al­iza­tion and reflect net­work think­ing and action.


WE need to seri­ous­ly rethink the archi­tec­ture and design of edu­ca­tion in order to build spaces and com­mu­ni­ties that encour­age auton­o­my, col­lec­tiv­i­ty, and cre­ativ­i­ty. Com­mu­ni­ties not defined by loca­tion or space, but foot­loose com­mu­ni­ties that take advan­tage of tech­nolo­gies and tools for democ­ra­cy and lib­er­a­tion. School(s) as loca­tion and social admin­is­tra­tion must be tak­en down brick by brick or the per­pet­u­a­tion of medi­oc­rity will remain and soci­ety will con­tin­ue to suf­fer.

*Please take some time to read Jen­nifer Wong’s book below. I real­ly think it is extra­or­di­nary.

 Jen­nifer Wong is an artist, archi­tect, and design­er liv­ing in Man­hat­tan. 



Participation & Transformation: An Architecture for Citizenship and Responsibility in a Schoolless Society 

Suzanne O'Donovan

Suzan­ne O’Donovan, Bridg­ing: pro­gram­mat­ic and mate­ri­al con­nec­tions bridg­ing past, present and pos­si­ble.
Syn­ergies – spaces of poten­tial and exist­ing actors with whom sym­bi­otic links could be forged are iden­ti­fied through­out Ursus cre­at­ing an intan­gi­ble and rhi­zomat­ic syn­er­get­ic net­work of mate­ri­al and ener­gy flows as well as pro­vid­ing oppor­tu­ni­ties for appro­pri­at­ing socio-cul­tur­al, eco­nom­ic and polit­i­cal flows
Ambas­sadors – ele­ments of the exist­ing build­ing (struc­ture and mate­ri­als) are dis­as­sem­bled and reassem­bled at key nodes as pavil­ions, bridges, sculp­ture and art tan­gi­bly bridg­ing aspects of both past and present and invit­ing the pos­si­ble.

The aim of edu­ca­tion is to be a provo­ca­tion to thought; the aim of thought is the ren­o­va­tion of the world.

McKen­zie Wark

Edu­ca­tion is slav­ery, it enchains the mind and makes it a resource for class pow­er. When the rul­ing class preach­es the neces­si­ty of an edu­ca­tion it invari­ably means an edu­ca­tion in neces­si­ty. Edu­ca­tion is not the same as knowl­edge. Nor is it the nec­es­sary means to acquire knowl­edge. Edu­ca­tion is the organ­i­sa­tion of knowl­edge with­in the con­straints of scarci­ty. Edu­ca­tion ‘dis­ci­plines’ knowl­edge, seg­re­gat­ing it into homoge­nous ‘fields’, presid­ed over by suit­ably ‘qual­i­fied’ guardians charged with polic­ing the rep­re­sen­ta­tion of the field. One may acquire an edu­ca­tion, as if it were a thing, but one becomes knowl­edge­able, through a process of trans­for­ma­tion. Knowl­edge, as such, is only ever par­tial­ly cap­tured by edu­ca­tion, its prac­tice always eludes and exceeds it.

McKen­zie Wark

The great aim of edu­ca­tion is not knowl­edge but action.

Her­bert Spencer

The rash and uncrit­i­cal dis­es­tab­lish­ment of school could lead to a free-for-all in the pro­duc­tion and con­sump­tion of more vul­gar learn­ing, acquired for imme­di­ate util­i­ty or even­tu­al pres­tige. The dis­cred­it­ing of school-pro­duced, com­plex, cur­ric­u­lar pack­ages would be an emp­ty vic­to­ry if there were no simul­ta­ne­ous dis­avowal of tie very idea that knowl­edge is more valu­able because it comes in cer­ti­fied pack­ages and is acquired from some mytho­log­i­cal knowl­edge-stock con­trolled by pro­fes­sion­al guardians. I believe that only actu­al par­tic­i­pa­tion con­sti­tutes social­ly valu­able learn­ing, a par­tic­i­pa­tion by the learn­er in every stage of the learn­ing process, includ­ing not only a free choice of what is to be learned and how it is to be learned but also a free deter­mi­na­tion by each learn­er of his own rea­son for liv­ing and learn­ing — the part that his knowl­edge is to play in his life.

Ivan Illich, After Deschool­ing, What?

If we focus just on the insti­tu­tion and not on the mind­set involved as well as oth­er insti­tu­tions, the deschool­ing move­ment could be a wast­ed rev­o­lu­tion. We need more than deschool­ing.

A.C. Snider, Notes on After Deschool­ing, What?

EDUCATION or to be edu­cat­ed hasn’t much to do with moral­i­ty. That is, a school­less soci­ety doesn’t con­sti­tute some form of utopia; in fact, a school­less soci­ety doesn’t mean that we are on the path to utopia. Schools are mere­ly a symp­tom of an inequitable soci­ety. Schools are no bas­tions of moral­i­ty and we have seen in the his­to­ry of the insti­tu­tion and through their hid­den cur­ricu­lum that they have been and are used as tools for moral cor­rup­tion. The edu­cat­ed class can be as moral­ly bank­rupt as any oth­er class. It is for this rea­son that a school­less soci­ety must also be a soci­ety who is crit­i­cal and weary of all insti­tu­tions. A school­less soci­ety ought to be based on a flu­id egal­i­tar­i­an phi­los­o­phy or there is no point. The rev­o­lu­tion for a school­less soci­ety starts in the fam­i­ly home, and is an attack on the fam­i­ly as an insti­tu­tion; that is, the fam­i­ly as an eco­nom­ic unit–the fam­i­ly as polit­i­cal cur­ren­cy, as state appa­ra­tus. The fam­i­ly and com­mu­ni­ty are the pri­ma­ry loci for ide­o­log­i­cal dis­sem­i­na­tion, and if there is inequity in the home or the com­mu­ni­ty that hosts it the inequities repli­cat­ed and rein­forced by oth­er insti­tu­tions.

Moral­i­ty is learned in much the same sense gram­mar and lan­guage is, through obser­va­tion and rep­e­ti­tion, use and reception.The fam­i­ly is the pri­ma­ry learn­ing source. Deschool­ing requires an onto­log­i­cal view­point that avoids any idea that humans are sim­ply and innate­ly evil. The onto­log­i­cal per­spec­tive required for a school­less soci­ety might look very sim­i­lar to the bio­log­i­cal altru­ism of Peter Kropotkin’s Mutu­al Aid The­o­ry. That is com­mu­nal­i­ty, coop­er­a­tion and empa­thy are bio­log­i­cal fac­tors dri­ving our evo­lu­tion not rad­i­cal indi­vid­u­al­ism, self-inter­est, and greed. The moth­er shares her milk out of love not so that she can cre­ate a work­er to sup­port her in her old age. 

Restruc­tur­ing (or aban­don­ing) the fam­i­ly insti­tu­tion requires an onto­log­i­cal archi­tec­ture for a post-insti­tu­tion­al­ized cit­i­zen­ship. The fam­i­ly embed­ded in their com­mu­ni­ty must encour­age and espouse egal­i­tar­i­an prin­ci­ples such mutu­al­ism, coop­er­a­tion, love, and empa­thy and so on. As a con­se­quence of inequity in the home came the real­iza­tion of the pri­vate seg­re­gat­ed fam­i­ly home and along with it the myth of the fam­i­ly as a pri­vate sphere some­how sep­a­rate from the pub­lic sphere and gaze of the com­mu­ni­ty. This myth has given legit­i­ma­cy and pow­er to the pre­dom­i­nant patri­ar­chal ide­ol­o­gy which has become a micro­cos­mic mir­ror of the social insti­tu­tions out­side of the home, includ­ing schools and in the work­place, cre­at­ing a sus­tain­able neg­a­tive feed­back loop enforc­ing hege­mony in all insti­tu­tions. The ques­tion is, how do we change this … how do we dis­rupt and decon­struct the­se insti­tu­tion­al feed­back loops? First­ly, we need to purge our­selves of the insti­tu­tions that main­tain hege­mon­ic social rela­tions, and; sec­ond­ly, we need to active­ly and fear­less­ly par­tic­i­pate in fam­i­ly pol­i­tics and fight for equal­i­ty and lib­er­a­tion with­in the famil­ial and com­mu­nal spheres. We need to democ­ra­tize and decen­tral­ize the famil­ial prax­is dis­rupt­ing the famil­ial doxa of patri­archi­cal rule. This will result in the rein­force­ment of demo­c­ra­t­ic egal­i­tar­i­an val­ues out­side of the fam­i­ly home and com­mu­ni­ty nodes. 

Fol­low­ing the ren­o­va­tion of the fam­i­ly comes the ren­o­va­tion of the world. Improv­ing social spaces doesn’t mean aban­don­ing the infra­struc­ture. What ren­o­va­tion entails is the adop­tion of and reartic­u­lat­ing their social val­ue, cur­ren­cy, and use. Adapt­ing and con­struct­ing new social spaces with­in an old infra­struc­ture is much sim­pler than recon­struct­ing brick-and-mor­tar soci­ety. The process of ren­o­va­tion is far more prac­ti­cal than rebuild­ing. A brico­lage of pre­ex­ist­ing infra­struc­ture and com­mu­ni­ty spaces that can meet pre­vi­ous­ly unseen poten­tials is nec­es­sary for grant­i­ng us time for an onto­log­i­cal and ide­o­log­i­cal rev­o­lu­tion. Stu­dents unbur­dened by the con­straints of schools can find new uses and val­ues from the­se spaces, and/or for­mer teach­ers can find unmet poten­tial­i­ty in such spaces as con­vert­ed to com­mu­ni­ty cen­tres, art spaces or places or new places of busi­ness. Relic spaces and old infra­struc­ture will be freed from their insti­tu­tion­al­ized paral­y­sis and fall adja­cent to the new ontolo­gies of equi­ty through cit­i­zen­ship and par­tic­i­pa­tion.

If there is any hid­den cur­ricu­lum behind post­mod­ern-peri­pateti­cism and an antiped­a­gog­i­cal wan­der­lust it is the real­iza­tion of active par­tic­i­pa­tion with­in the world being ben­e­fi­cial to the indi­vid­u­al and the com­mu­nal whole. The hid­den cur­ricu­lum is that tak­ing care of one’s needs means com­ing to the aid of anoth­er. The moral­i­ty of teacher/liberator becomes the moral­i­ty of all. To dis­cov­er, explore and then share one’s find­ings with an open and free com­mu­ni­ty rein­forces one’s sense of pride and respon­si­bil­i­ty in their com­mu­ni­ty and at the same time allows one to express their indi­vid­u­al­i­ty through the out­ward expres­sion of their inter­ests and knowledge/skill base. A school­less soci­ety encour­ages a sort of indi­vid­u­al­ist com­mu­nal­ism. Far from con­tra­dic­to­ry, an indi­vid­u­al who pur­sues their intel­lec­tu­al inter­ests embed­ded in an organ­ic net­work that encour­ages an out­ward expres­sion of pas­sion through com­mu­nal par­tic­i­pa­tion and glob­al cit­i­zen­ship is ben­e­fi­cial to the whole. Entre­pre­neuri­al­ism becomes a socialist/communalist enter­prise. An organ­ic net­work is an open­source net­work. Infra­struc­tural spaces will need to be sub­vert­ed and adapt­ed to meet the needs of a school­less soci­ety. The­se sub­vert­ed spaces will come to act as nodes with­in an assem­blage the­o­ry of econ­o­my; that is, a flu­id the­o­ry of eco­nom­ic com­mu­nal­ism based on the Mutu­al Aid The­o­ry. A knowl­edge-based econ­o­my neces­si­tates open and free access to infor­ma­tion, knowl­edge, and skill-shar­ing. This is again real­ized through an organ­ic net­work of inter­est­ed and skilled work­ers, men­tors, coun­selors, con­sul­tants and com­mu­ni­ty lead­ers housed with­in the skele­tal remains of a now decon­struct­ed and decen­tral­ized but once bureaucratic/institutional soci­ety.

A syn­er­get­ic enthu­si­asm for the trans­for­ma­tion­al pow­ers of knowl­edge, edu­ca­tion through auto­di­dac­ti­cism with­in an exist­ing infra­struc­ture will undoubt­ed­ly result in the cre­at­ing of new and cre­ative uses for old spaces. The dra­mat­ic shift in our onto­log­i­cal view­point toward the sort of mutu­al­ism we’ve explored will result in the aban­don­ment and sub­ver­sion of insti­tu­tion­al­ized life. While in no way can this essay provide a con­crete archi­tec­ture for the school­less soci­ety, it can provide a philo­soph­i­cal, ide­o­log­i­cal and con­cep­tu­al frame­work from which we can pro­gress. The core con­cept for a school­less soci­ety is egal­i­tar­i­an­ism. Keep­ing this in mind, the archi­tec­ture for cit­i­zen­ship and par­tic­i­pa­tion in a school­less soci­ety rests upon the foun­da­tion­al prin­ci­ples of free­dom, inclu­siv­i­ty, equal­i­ty and democ­ra­cy. An antiped­a­gog­i­cal wan­der­lust carves the path for self-deter­mi­na­tion based on par­tic­i­pa­tion and respon­si­bil­i­ty. Respon­si­bil­i­ty to the self and in this process the real­iza­tion of one’s respon­si­bil­i­ty to their com­mu­ni­ty and world. If any­thing, we need opti­mism. Opti­mism is a lesson we teach our­selves only through the real­iza­tion of cer­tain poten­tial­i­ties that expose the pos­i­tive nature of an ontol­ogy based on indi­vid­u­al and com­mu­nal wel­fare and good: an ontol­ogy rest­ing some­where on the The­o­ry of Mutu­al aid in the real­iza­tion of our respon­si­bilty to our­selves, our com­mu­ni­ties, and to our world.