Postmodern Peripateticism: Toward an Antipedagogical Wanderlust in a Schoolless Society
The Schooling Epidemic
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.
From Social Alienation and Isolationism
to Intellectual Alienation and Isolationism
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.
The mere existence of school discourages and disables the poor from taking control of their own learning.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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!
No Reform, Insurgency! Subversion in the Schoolhouse or Just Leave it Behind: Toward an Antipedagogical Wanderlust
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.
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
A 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.
That child spins around 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.
Conceptualizing a Schoolless Society: Postmodern Peripateticism and the Organic Network
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.
An Architecture for the Schoolless Society
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 Thinking* thesis 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
The aim of education is to be a provocation to thought; the aim of thought is the renovation of the world.
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.
The great aim of education is not knowledge but action.
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.