Ivan Illich’s call to deschool society is certainly a challenging one, and even if I have a hard time imagining many of his propositionsÂ coming to fruition given the stacked deck against which such endeavors would have to be mounted, I can’t help but feel that his fundamental sense of how the educational system doesn’t work is quite right. It is less scary to me to understand the ways in which schools fail students than it is to realize just how monumental and possibly impossible the task of correcting those deficiencies would be because their answers are so far removed from the typical surface solutions of throwing more money at the system or making classes smaller or bringing in more technology. In essence, Illich suggests that such moves are little more than rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic, and the only question is whether or not we have already hit the iceberg.
Reading Illich made me think of a YouTube video I watched earlier this week that was sent to me by one of my Media & Society students. He had been part of a group presentation on media and education, and I am sure that he discovered this video as a part of his research. I include it here not just because it is directly relevant to the points that Illich is making and illustrates many of this thoughts in a graphically intriguing way, but also because my student having sent it to me of his own accord is a small, but compelling bit of evidence of how students will seek out that which they want to learn about on their own and the means by which modern communication technology make it so easy to share.