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Deschooling Society

4.06  ·  Rating details ·  1,999 ratings  ·  185 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, 118 pages
Published July 1st 2000 by Marion Boyars Publishers Ltd (first published 1971)
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4.06  · 
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 ·  1,999 ratings  ·  185 reviews

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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
Aya Al-Oballi
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)
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
Sep 16, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

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."
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
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: _non-fiction_
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
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
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
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
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
Cynthia L'Hirondelle
Jul 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Another must read classic by Illich.
Phil Lensi
Jun 24, 2009 rated it it was amazing
anything by ivan illich will blow your mind
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
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
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.
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.

Laszlo Szerdahelyi
Nov 16, 2017 rated it really liked it
The book offers an excellent critique of modern educational practices and the folly of assuming that injecting greater resources into the educational system will lead to more learning, knowledge or education for that matter. The division of teaching, instructing, curriculum vs learning, acquiring skills in a free environment bring to the fore the issue of institutionalization and reproduction and maintenance of society's myths as well as the cycle of production and consumption sustained and rein ...more
Azat Sultanov
I don't know how to rate this. Illich shows us that the institute of schooling as we know it shouldn't be taken at face value and argues for its abolishing. I think this is obvious from the title. Rather than changing the way we teach he says we should step away from schools altogether. It has never occurred to me to question the basis of schooling. At least it got me thinking.
Things we take for granted were someone's design at some point in history. Hence it could have been different. This is a
John Campagna
Jul 21, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Since the initial publication of "Deschooling Society" in 1971 there has been little change to the structure of public school and centralized institutions, at least in the United States. Illich's pessimistic message on the future school and institutional forces did little to create any change in society during his time. Yet, upon reading Illich, one is often shocked at the resonance of the problems in his time with those of today

Illich's basic premise is that school is a degrading institution wh
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.
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
Adriane Devries
Jan 26, 2012 rated it really liked it
“For most men, the right to learn is curtailed by the obligation to attend school.”

Austrian-born Ivan Illich, author of Deschooling Society, lists life-long accomplishments and passions, not formal education, as his credentials. Assistant pastor at an Irish-Puerto Rican parish in New York City, and later serving as vice-rector to the Catholic University of Puerto Rico, he co-founded of the Center for Intercultural Documentation in Cuervabaca, Mexico.

In his philosophy and experience, public and c
Mar 20, 2014 rated it it was ok
"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. Such a system would require the application of constitutional guarantees to education. Learners should not be forced to submit to ...more
Lane Pybas
Apr 01, 2014 rated it really liked it
A thought provoking critique of compulsory education. Illich argues that institutionalized education allows schools to monopolize learning, which is harmful because schools fail to distinguish between learning and teaching. Schools are based on the premise that learning is the result of teaching, begetting the belief that people need to be taught. Under this system, people can abdicate themselves of responsibility for their own growth, relying on teachers to impart them with knowledge. This is d ...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
Apr 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing
I have read this book four times now. That is not to say that I agree with all contained in its pages, but to say that the book i really astute, clearly written, and thought-provoking. Illich's concern is that our push for 'education for all' (however good the motives behind it) has the effect of imposing one vision of education onto everyone - a vision where we become dependent on others imparting information into us rather than us exercising independence. And the more schooling we get, the mor ...more
Rose Peterson
Jun 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing
One of the original reviews of Deschooling Society describes Illich's book by stating, "He seduces, cajoles and electrifies the imagination." Illich's book still stimulates the imagination in this same way 45 years after its original publication. He claims that "school is the advertising agency which makes you believe that you need the society as it is" (113) and uses that perception as the foundation of his eloquent, distilled case for why society ought to be deschooled. Illich reminds readers ...more
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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.
“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.” 106 likes
“School has become the world religion of a modernized proletariat, and makes futile promises of salvation to the poor of the technological age.” 70 likes
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