Ivan Illich: Deschooling Skills
Who Is Ivan Illich?
A Croatian-Austrian philosopher. He surfaced in 1926, and departed in 2002. In his time, he writes radical polemics which fundamentally challenged the logic of Western institutions. He was a boldly deviant thinker under-appreciated by both the left and the right in later years. Look him up if you aspire to be a subversive activist, are inspired by visionaries, or have grievances against the education system. I guess that’s all of us?
Exercising the Sociological Imagination
If you were a parent, would you find your kid a tutor who graduated from a top school over one who had no formal education? If you were a hiring manager, would you require candidates to possess a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree? If yes, you have what Ivan Illich calls a “schooled mind“. Don’t worry, he’s not scolding you (neither is he praising you, for that matter).
Illich is criticizing the systems which condition us to view qualifications as the primary marker of ability. We should know this is not the case. Have you ever asked a classmate for help? But hey, they had no qualifications. Are you dumb for asking? No, you are not! You are smart for asking, for not relying entirely on the teacher with 40 students.
Still, we often trust the logic of the system. It’s convenient. But convenient does not mean correct. Illich says that “certification constitutes a form of market manipulation.” Industries set up barriers to entry to restrict the pool of skill teachers. You can’t be a doctor just by watching many medical dramas. People will call you ridiculous! Who cares if you are actually up for it?
We may still go to school. We may still send our kids to school. Because that’s the way society is. That’s how society likes to judge us.
But we know better. We can learn skills outside school. We can stop judging our kids and parents on the level of schooling they attained. We can deschool our minds and be wiser for it.
Btw, to your mind, is Sociology a skill? :]