Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “Deschooling Society” as Want to Read:
Deschooling Society
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

Deschooling Society

4.03  ·  Rating details ·  2,293 ratings  ·  229 reviews
Deschooling Society (1971) is a critical discourse on education as practised in modern economies. It is a book that brought Ivan Illich to public attention. Full of detail on programs and concerns, the book gives examples of the ineffectual nature of institutionalized education. Illich posited self-directed education, supported by intentional social relations in fluid info ...more
Paperback, 116 pages
Published July 1st 2000 by Marion Boyars Publishers Ltd (first published 1971)
More Details... Edit Details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

Community Reviews

Showing 1-30
Average rating 4.03  · 
Rating details
 ·  2,293 ratings  ·  229 reviews

More filters
Sort order
Start your review of Deschooling Society
Dec 28, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommended to David by: Graham
Illich questions the basic assumption that most liberal (or for that matter non-liberal) people in the US have: more educational = more gooder. Attacking the idea that compulsory schooling is constructive, Illich offers one of the more radical analyses of the educational system I've ever heard of of, much less read. What, after all, is the relation between schooling and learning, if any?

As someone who has spent a huge portion (like one over one) of their life in school and now teaches at a unive
Jun 15, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
This book challenged my views more than any book I've ever read. Illich's case for the need to deschool society is not only compelling it is transformative. As a person who has become highly critical of public schooling, I was already familiar with where he was going, but to abandon every type of institutional school system including free/democratic schools as well as universities seemed a bit much to me, until he went into detail about the repressiveness of such institutions and how we learn mo ...more
David Schaafsma
Nov 23, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: education
Ivan Illich’s Deschooling Society (1971), like John Marsh’s Class Dismissed, Jacques Ranciere’s The Ignorant Schoolmaster. worries that we confuse learning with teaching to our peril and questions the gospel that schools will save us or will have anything useful for us to prepare for future crises, fix inequality, and so on. Historical critiques of traditjonal education abound, but this is a thought-provoking one. There’s libertarian and anarchist impulses in all this work; he suggests we “de-sc ...more
آية  العوبلّي
Feb 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
This book is a lens that will help you re-evaluate the school system, by urging you to undo what you've been "taught", and explore what you want to "learn".

تلخيص سطرين المصوّر للكتاب (بالعربي)
Aug 30, 2015 rated it really liked it
My mum recommended this short but extremely thought-provoking book to me. She read it decades ago and found it life-changing. I wouldn’t necessarily say the same, but found it disproportionately interesting for its length. It is a critique of the formal, mandatory education system originally published in 1970. My thoughts on it can be roughly grouped under three headings: responses to the theoretical points advanced, reflections on my personal experiences with the education system, and thoughts ...more
Sep 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1970s, dew01-499

This book's ideas have stayed with me. Were I able to influence America's Schooling Institution, Illich would be a guru. He provides scholarly perspective on compulsory institutional schooling.
One of the old professors in grad school provided me with a useful insight ... when I asked why the state enforced compulsory education until age 18, he replied "To keep them out of the labor market."
Nov 17, 2008 rated it really liked it
Ivan Illich is one of our more interesting social critics. Schooled as a priest he became anathema to both the left and the right of the Catholic Church. He was Vice Rector pf the Catholic University of Ponce in Puerto Rico when he was ordered to leave by the Bishop. He went to Mexico where he founded the Center for Intercultural Documentation. In 1967 he was summoned before the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to undergo a modern form of the medieval inquisition. One of the reasons fo ...more
May 18, 2014 rated it it was amazing
I thought this was mind blowingly good. Ivan is basically saying school is like a training ground for the perpetuation of a society to be the way it currently is. And remain that way. I barely remember anything I actually learnt from school which is not to say that I didn't learn much from the process itself but I dare say the years I spent in a well known fee paying grammar school could have been infinitely better spent. A community environment aligned to a mentorship setting I believe is the w ...more
May 12, 2009 rated it really liked it
I found many of Illich's arguments about institutionalized education compelling, especially those around decentralized "learning webs," but I wasn't convinced by his suggestion that true educational freedom requires the implementation of a system of tuition grants that would allow each citizen to direct their own education according to their intellectual and presumably material interests. Illich cites monetarist champion Milton Friedman as inspiration for this model, and that's where we reach ou ...more
Jul 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfic
This book made me acutely uncomfortable, thoughtful, sad, and angry--all in helpful ways. What made me sad and angry is that Illich's critique of the public school system in the United States still rings true today, after a generation in which there could have been positive change. I would say that 80% of the time I spent in public school prior to entering the university system was a waste of my time and intellectual/emotional resources as a young adult. And the university system, while a signif ...more
Jun 30, 2013 rated it it was amazing
"Institutional wisdom tells us that children need school. Institutional wisdom tells us that
children learn in school. But this institutional wisdom is itself the product of schools
because sound common sense tells us that only children can be taught in school. Only by
segregating human beings in the category of childhood could we ever get them to submit
to the authority of a schoolteacher."

Ivan Illich masterfully deconstructs the idea of schooling and all of its perceived advantages. Illich, who wa
May 21, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: unschooling
To have my life long feelings about school be so beautifully articulated in a book, was affirming, exhilarating,mind blowing, and life altering.My heart rate was accelerated through most of it. My whole life, school has literally made me feel sick. I came out of high school depressed, disconnected, and lost. I have spent most of my adult life recovering from it. And I now homeschool my two boys, because I didn't have the stomach to put them through it. But deep down, I have always felt a little ...more
Michael Nielsen
Jan 06, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
The core point changed my life: institutions often deny volition and agency to their clients, and this is perhaps the central fact to understand schools and children. In a nutshell, Illich is pointing out that we don't treat children as truly human when we deny them the most basic choices about what they'll be doing and where and with whom. This is typically true very nearly as much of progressive schools as it of more traditional schools.

I'm inclined to be dismissive of much of the politics in
Michael Burnam-Fink
Illich makes a radical critique of education, capitalism, statism, and almost everything that is both extremely focused and also directs slashes at nearly every underpinning assumption of society. Illich's most direct criticism is at the idea that formal education solves problems. Rather than being about skill acquisition or personal development, Illich identifies schools as the ideological wing of the consumption-production engine that is capitalism. The role of schools is to produce ignorance ...more
Jeremy Wineberg
While there is a lot of outdated information here, particularly in the first few pages where Illich is setting up a context for his argument, the basic of tenants of his argument make incredible sense to me: school is not just a way to prepackage information that substitutes consumption for actual learning, but "an advertising agency which makes you believe that you need society as it is. In such a society marginal value has become constantly self-transcendent. It forces the few largest consumer ...more
Andrew Neuendorf
Nov 03, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Illich takes on the last sacred cow: compulsory public education. Written in early 1970's, he was calling for the use of extended networks linking students to teachers. He was talking about the internet before there was one. I think he's largely correct that public education reinforces class differences and drains students of intrinsic motivation. It's painful to watch a child skip to school in kindergarten, but drag her feet by the time she gets to fourth grade.
Phil Lensi
Jun 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
anything by ivan illich will blow your mind
Cynthia L'Hirondelle
Jul 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Another must read classic by Illich.
Mar 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: my-library
enlightening, liberating and, frankly speakings, really taxing to read. whether or not you like his ideas, you'll gain more than you'd have expected when you read the text.
Petter Nordal
Jun 04, 2012 rated it did not like it
Illich's central argument is that institutionalizing social problems results in a subterfuge whereby people stop thinking about the social problem and instead ask why the institution is failing. If there's crime, what's wrong with the criminal justice system; if there's illness, what's wrong with the hospitals; if people are mistreated, what's wrong with the government, etc. It's a good point, and he is correct in looking at how this question is especially problematic with schools. By creating t ...more
Jan 12, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: education
Ivan Illich has a grudge against institutions. That's the first thing to realize when reading this book -- it's not primarily about school; school is just the best model of a "manipulative" institution that Illichh can find. He places institutions on a left-wing/right-wing spectrum. On the left end are what he deems "convivial" institutions. These are open arenas for user-driven action -- for instance, a public library, the telephone network, and a park would all be towards the left end of the s ...more
Aug 28, 2017 rated it liked it
Illich's critique of compulsory education in Deschooling Society is insightful and valuable to anyone who values learning and sees learning as part of the full development of human beings. Furthermore, he has some novel ideas for how a deschooled form of learning could be organized, and how the passion for learning can be stamped out by compulsory education.

However, his normative critique could be made in a far fewer words, and his analysis of educational institutions could be more thorough and
Feb 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Didn't think I'd find myself in such agreement with Illich. Basically, what he's saying is that when you attempt to organize education from a top-down bureaucracy, lead by authoritarian teachers, organized into standardized cirricula, sanctified by abstract diplomas and certification and strictly confined by age.... the results are less than spectacular. Illich's counter-proposal, in short, is open-learning based on peer-to-peer networking (remarkably predicting of a world where people are linke ...more
Ivan Illich is an admirable intellectual in that he was willing to put his radical ideas into practice. Where my doubts are cast is whether or not his "deschooling" program could honestly be effected en masse, and whether or not they're even possible.

Do I agree with much of his analysis of education? Absolutely. But what seems to be the problem is that despite the deathly flaws in the education system, people still seem to be getting educated in the process. And to "open up" the education system
Tanner Welsh
Mar 29, 2010 rated it it was amazing
There is perhaps no better critique of he education system in it's essence, or a better explanation for why radical restructuring is absolutely necessary for any self-styled democratic society.

Illich, in his grandiose and yet somehow anti-universalist style, points out the fallacies, injustices, hypocrisies, and absurdities of western schooling. The "argument" (if you want to label it as such) is composed of somewhat incongruous anecdotes and musings that all orbit his central message but do no
Feb 01, 2012 rated it did not like it
Didn't like it. It seemed like it was written in the 1970s; there were TONS of references to the Vietnam War which are so outdated it was ridiculous. Also, the philosophy behind the premise was extremely difficult to follow.
Mar 09, 2010 rated it it was ok
Shelves: education
I had great hopes for this given reviews, and Illich does have some interesting opening thoughts, but he never seems to get beyond that.
Essentially correct about the ills of education except on one thing...I don't agree that we should eliminate state education, as corrupted as it is, we need to rebel inside and out.

Christopher Howard
Dec 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I'm glad to disagree with parts of this book because it allows me to engage with Illich and with this extremely complicated concept of institutionalization.
Prerna Munshi
Jun 07, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

This is a long essay and has been compiled into a short book. I got introduced to Ivan Illich through John Holt’s ‘Instead of Education’. The essay primarily focuses on the scene of education in the US of the 70s. And the huge disparity of its accessibility as one descends down South. It could be Illich’s solidarity with the South that he founded the controversial CIDOC in Cuernavaca, Mexico.

Illich’s concern is far deeper than the degrading education scene of the US. He establishes his argument
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 next »

Readers also enjoyed

  • Dumbing Us Down: The Hidden Curriculum of Compulsory Schooling
  • Weapons of Mass Instruction: A Schoolteacher's Journey Through The Dark World of Compulsory Schooling
  • Pedagogy of the Oppressed
  • Industrial Society and Its Future
  • Experience and Education
  • The Underground History of American Education: An Intimate Investigation Into the Prison of Modern Schooling
  • Bu Ülke
  • Compulsory Mis-education/The Community of Scholars
  • The Technological Society
  • Why Hasn't Everything Already Disappeared?
  • Kambur
  • Mutual Aid
  • Growing Up Absurd
  • "A" Is for Ox: The Collapse of Literacy and the Rise of Violence in an Electronic Age
  • The Ignorant Schoolmaster: Five Lessons in Intellectual Emancipation
  • The Foundation for Exploration
  • The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales
  • Türkiye'nin Maarif Dâvası
See similar books…
Ivan Illich was an Austrian philosopher, Roman Catholic priest and critic of the institutions of contemporary western culture and their effects of the provenance and practice of education, medicine, work, energy use, and economic development.

News & Interviews

Contemporary young adult literature has often led the way in depicting the real-life issues facing teens from all backgrounds. To delve into ho...
39 likes · 3 comments
“Most learning is not the result of instruction. It is rather the result of unhampered participation in a meaningful setting. Most people learn best by being "with it," yet school makes them identify their personal, cognitive growth with elaborate planning and manipulation.” 111 likes
“School has become the world religion of a modernized proletariat, and makes futile promises of salvation to the poor of the technological age.” 78 likes
More quotes…