i’m reminded of that mark twain quote

I never let schooling get in the way of my education

(or something like that, i don’t really remember it)

confusion

often, we pay to partake in the kinds of “confusion” Illich describes as the primary function of formalized education as it’s practiced. in return, we sometimes receive the product we explicitly seek — education in educational context, health in health-care contexts — but often we simply receive the aesthetic and social benefits of its process — lecture halls, white lab coats, and so on. the benefits of process largely modulate the way their recipient feels and the way others view her.

are the social/personal benefits we reap from “process” without “substance” sometimes valuable for the psychological or interpersonal benefits they grant us? isn’t this sometimes what we’re paying for? isn’t paying to receive these non-content markers valid, and even required in human society?

where there is more than 1 person, there is meaningless fanfare 

it is not clear to me that the example of “casual learning” with language analogizes to all disciplines. some science implies we have some neural hard-coding that makes language human-learnable, whereas such structures may not exist for, say, linear algebra. in those kinds of domains, we probably need a human teacher and at least some degree of formalized interaction between teacher and student.

in interpersonal learning environments, is even it possible, from our armchair experience as human beings, to really eliminate contentless process from our teaching practices? isn’t contentless process something that emerges in all human interactions — from shaking hands to saying ‘whats up’ to getting married?

pastures/owning/sewing/reaping

finally, a question about Tools for Conviviality:

Around [1913] a patient began to have more than a fifty-fifty chance that a graduate of a medical school would provide him with a specifically effective treatment [..] Since then medicine has gone on to define what constitutes disease and its treatment

abstractly, this is an example of the same fences/pastures/common phenomenon Illich discusses in Silence. by drawing boundaries and making definitions, the subject of these definitions and the areas within its boundaries become subject of the enterprises, the guilds, the owners. education is much the same way. what aspects of education currently lie within the fences of the formal institutions? what parts lie outside? are these parts (say, hacker communities) feeding on the commons, or are they making their own pasture, acting as their own enterprise?

1 thought on “i’m reminded of that mark twain quote

  1. you asked:

    are the social/personal benefits we reap from ‘process’ without ‘substance’ sometimes valuable for the psychological or interpersonal benefits they grant us? isn’t this sometimes what we’re paying for? isn’t paying to receive these non-content markers valid, and even required in human society?

    I would respond:
    1. Yes, there are valuable benefits that come from the ‘process’ of institutionalized group learning as opposed to self-determined learning. For example, anecdotally, I have witnessed that home-schooled children tend to lose out on some of the social conditioning that their school-schooled peers receive. However, they tend to do great on the Scripps National Spelling Bee, so I guess there’s a tradeoff there. More seriously, you make a valid point, however, it is one that I think Illich himself recognizes in a way when he says this:

    School does offer children an opportunity to escape their homes and meet new friends. But, at the same time, this process indoctrinates children with the idea that they should select their friends from among those with whom they are put together.

    2. The notion that schooling is a commodity that is paid for by students is, in my view, somewhat American-centric, and certainly not the norm around the world (although that may be changing). Interestingly, Illich is not really analyzing the problem in those terms, he sees the solution as lying in some kind of free-market voucher scheme. The problem for him is not that we are paying to receive “process” without substance. Rather, it is that this process-based schooling is compulsory, and that it is institutionally monopolized and co-opted for whatever authority happens to be in power (and it doesn’t matter the form that authority takes). This is the “hidden curriculum” he refers to when he writes:

    Everywhere the hidden curriculum of schooling initiates the citizen to the myth that bureaucracies guided by scientific knowledge are efficient and benevolent. Everywhere this same curriculum instills in the pupil the myth that increased production will”” provide a better life. And everywhere it develops the habit of self-defeating consumption of services and alienating production, the tolerance for institutional dependence, and the recognition of institutional rankings. The hidden curriculum of school does all this in spite of contrary efforts undertaken by teachers and no matter what ideology prevails.

    3. Thus, you are right that paying to receive the kind of education that we receive in schools is necessary to live in our current society; however, Illich is not advocating that we stay in our current society, which he views as fundamentally broken. Rather, our current society is in need of a radical overhaul, starting with the schools.

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