Unequal Opportunity/Access to Education
One of the issues with the current education system is the inequality of access to education. There is primarily a focus on the connection between socioeconomic status and education, stating that the wealthy are given an advantage through their ability to travel, ability to afford a private education, and the simple ability to purchase more books. Thus, the educational disparity between the wealthy and poor increase.
Although this reading is from another decade, today this is especially true, as one is often limited financially in receiving a higher education. University tuition and competition have increased significantly as education and degrees become status symbols. Consequently, demands for higher test scores, like the notorious SATs become critical for acceptance, and an entire industry is created based around commercializing education. Textbooks and tutors become important and expensive commodities and gain value.
The reading makes an interesting point when looking at the original role of education being a route of escaping the social hierarchies in any society. It was supposed to be equal opportunity, yet it has created a new caste system, making the number of years of schooling, the currency of value. Due to this desire of degrees, it has manipulated the “American Dream” and manifested itself as a major goal amongst many high school students in the US.
Due to the inequality, the poor believe that they are powerless without education, thus they rely on institutional care. Their helplessness leads to a psychological impotence and social polarization – a modernized poverty that does not provide essential and equal opportunities to everyone, such as with equal schooling.
The American education system favors the rich, as the students tend to have longevity in the schooling system, which therefore brings in revenue. “Most learning happens casually, and even most intentional learning is not the result of programmed instruction, (12)” however our society has equated the act of learning with school, just as we use hospitals synonymously with our well being. Our society has become so dependent on the educational system, while other outlets of institution have been discouraged. Illich recognizes the “antischooling” effect that the system has which in part, impairs the poor, furthering the gap between the rich. As for the rich or even middle class, educational advantages are readily available.
Society controls learning. It creates a parasitical relationship with disadvantaged people relying on institutions for knowledge or basic skills. Based on Illich’s essay, this reliance needs to be abolished. Just like people detached from the monopoly of church, there should be a disestablishment of schools in order to liberate them from societal control.
Political relationship w/ Education
There have been methods to try to fix education in America, such as Title One. This program provided three billion dollars to help benefit six million children, but ultimately failed to do so, because of three reasons: 1) the money provided was not sufficient, 2) the money was not divided properly, and 3) education in schools is not the sole way to restore the problem of “educational disadvantage”. Even with more funds, the government needs to provide money for both inside and outside the school. An environment that supports self-motivated learning after class can benefit students greatly and teach them more than just a day at school can.
Idealized Learning Environment (acc. to author)
It is suggested that the opposite of a “school” environment, argued to be a better method of education would be an instance in which people seek out their own education, instead of being forcibly mandated with curriculum. People can actively learn when given the ability to choose their interest and organize a group of people who have similar interests.
Monetary Spending on Education
In the reading, it is argued that contrary to popular belief, there is a nonlinear relationship between monetary spending and education. Many people believe that by increasing spending on particular groups with an unequal opportunity, this will improve their chances and abilities. However this is not necessarily the case, as it was found that there are several problems, including insufficient funds and misspending.
“The Educational Web”
Illich describes deschooling as the act of abolishing the system from discriminating an individual based on sex, education, socioeconomic level, and age. An implementation of other alternatives of learning is difficult in our current state, but third world countries could benefit off a different type of education. Much like temples, schools have the risk of becoming outdated, and as Illich claims, and there needs to be a solution to garner more pupils through a new system. He uses an example about how a few decades ago a lot of men over the age of 20 knew how to fix cars, but in our increasingly specialized society, only some mechanics will know how to approach such a task. However we must keep in mind that self interest will keep skills from being shared, and at the same time this is affecting society negatively because less “experts” are appearing in each sector. Nurses are a good example where they are now under represented in their field thanks to the amount of money and education process.
Our society is increasingly becoming specialized and that could be a problem. The author offers a solution: unlike having to expect an outcome of skill teaching (from certified “experts), this alternative will offer the exchange of information and nothing more, essentially institutionalizing a communication network. One shouldn’t be withheld to a certain kind of curriculum, nor should face discrimination due to a lack of diplomacy. Because of our current institution, inventive, creative minds are discouraged. We may know how a radio works but we can’t see for ourselves without being told that we could in fact ruin it. With the implementation of a skill exchange, the relationship changes into master and practitioner. Not only will one have the opportunity to not only know how a radio works, but how to disassemble it and put it back together.
Certificate versus skill
When schools look to hire teachers, they really only look for people who are certified, but what about all the people who may not be certified but still have the skills to teach about what they are passionate about? Illich mentions in his book, “What makes skills scarce on the present educational market is the institutional requirement that those who can demonstrate them may not do so unless they are given public trust, through a certificate.” This dependance on a certificate limits the potential of schools to provide their students with professionals who are willing to share their knowledge with children who want to learn. This also limits those people who want to learn and practice in the areas that they are passionate about, but do not have the funds to pay for certified teaching. It is so discouraging for people who want to learn more and gain more experience in areas that interest them, but can’t. They find no reason to keep going and stop trying to improve their skills all together, all because they can’t afford it.
However, what if learning through apprenticeship was more accepted in society? Through apprenticeships more people can learn what they want through skilled professionals (even if they do not have certificates) without the burden of not being able to afford it. What if their sheer passion for learning is the only thing that they need to achieve their goals? In this instance Illich proposes “free skill centers open to the public.” He suggests that there be a place where skilled people can help others improve their own skills so that they can then go on to be a part of apprenticeships. I agree that there should be a place where people can go and get the opportunity to gain skills that they thought were impossible to learn before. This kind of place could give hope to so many people who lost the hope of learning in the first place because they couldn’t afford professional, certified teaching.
While some believe that learning is a direct result from teaching, Illich states that students tend to acquire most of their information outside of school. Drilling in a subject may be an effective learning technique, to a certain extent, but to truly learn something, you have to do it on your own. Schools should be centers of learning that encourage students with similar interests to have an opportunity to understand something together. What schools lack now is an atmosphere that creates a self-motivated environment.
What shatters a common teacher and student educational approach is the fact that what is taught is determined by the competency of the teacher. If the teacher is “skilled” or “certified” in a subject, they may serve with a programmed structure, teaching only what they believe and molding the students in a certain manner. Students should not be forced to learn an obligatory curriculum if it does not interest them. Because of this, students may not have the willpower or motivation to learn, thus causing students to harness what they really would want to learn. However, a teacher can morph into a number of roles, all that can guide a student to learn.
In his essay, Illich proposes a pragmatic program that is based on a self-directed approach. This allows students to explore different subjects that interest them casually. To learn casually, or to delve into a subject that intrigues oneself, is the best method of learning, according to Illich. He stresses how anyone who is self-motivated should not be denied the access to learn and that people who are interested in communicating with others about a given subject, they should do so. Illich suggests to match people according to interest and empower or share with each other about what excites them.
Something interesting that Illich advocates is to include “educational artifacts” within a school environment to encourage more casual learning. These could range from tool shops, libraries, laboratories, to even game rooms, the ideas are endless. These less-restrictive, less-controlling, and less-manipulative spaces would allow learners to gain benefits by exploring. The self-motivation is crucial for this program to function though. With curiosity and excitement as their companions, students under Illich’s proposed program would be skilled for life-long learning.
BY SAMMIEESAM, REX, KMOO, ALEU, & KMI