Friday 25 November 2016

What would Ivan Illich say about Ken Robinson? A response to @thinkdif

When everyone is deeply confused about education, we should be on our guard for "thought leaders". These are people who are usually more interested in their egos than in society. They want to tell a story about education where they emerge as the saviour. Ken Robinson is such a person (he gave a talk with Peter Senge here: Am I simply jealous in saying this?

Ivan Illich might also be considered to be a "thought leader". Except that there's a difference. Illich talked but also knew the pointlessness of talking. He knew the futility of education. It's worth being reminded of this passage from Deschooling Society:
"Universal education through schooling is not feasible. It would be no more feasible if it were attempted by means of alternative institutions built on the style of present schools. Neither new attitudes of teachers toward their pupils nor the proliferation of educational hardware or software (in classroom or bedroom), nor finally the attempt to expand the pedagogue's responsibility until it engulfs his pupils' lifetimes will deliver universal education. The current search for new educational funnels must be reversed into the search for their institutional inverse: educational webs which heighten the opportunity for each one to transform each moment of his living into one of learning, sharing, and caring. We hope to contribute concepts needed by those who conduct such counterfoil research on education--and also to those who seek alternatives to other established service industries."
There's an 'emptying' of ego in this statement: the sharing and caring is Illich's own. He's saying that education isn't scarce - it's abundant. When it's seen to be abundant, the idea of learning and "the learner" is seen to be a construct of education. As soon as we talk of school or university, we participate in the fabrication of the scarcity of education and this construction of "learning". This participation even corrupted the interpretation of Illich's message - it's unfortunate that his "learning web" was misconstrued as a kind of functionalist educational internet - that clearly isn't what he meant. Illich's position remained that of a priest, but not, I think, a guru.

Why do universities and schools talk of "learners" and not simply "persons"? The distinction is simply drawn on economic grounds as to whether one is signed up for a course. (Managers of institutions are never "learners") As soon as this distinction is drawn, the theory lunatics get to work on defining what "learning" is. Then we are really in trouble. What they produce are varieties of Kant's "transcendental subject" - a fabricated, disembodied, hollow abstraction of a person. Then institutions take this abstraction and create bureaucracies and technocracies around it which only serve to make everybody miserable, and create a market for "Ken Robinsons".

Robinson doesn't appear caring or sharing - he's feathering his own nest! Meanwhile the misery of school (and university) goes on, reinforced by his pronouncements of its deficiency - and as long as it does, he stays in business. He ought to be intent on putting himself out of work, along with all the other gurus. The state of fuckedness of the world is proportional to the number of gurus.

We need to stop talking about education and learning and to fight for a better society which doesn't need to contain these things. That, I think, is a society which is more aware of 'status' and 'scarcity'. Lets talk about status and scarcity instead (not that I want to be guru about that). Let's talk about the haves and have-nots, why the haves have what they have and why the have-nots don't. Let's listen to the voices of the dispossessed and the Trump voters, and have a dialogue about the uncertainties, worries and doubts of everyone.

Let's get angry and give up on education - it's an addiction which is killing our society. And when we do all of that, we will find that we've turned towards a new age of science. 

1 comment:

Juan José Calderón Amador said...

que así sea ;-)
salúos y salú desde Zeviya CalYFlato IndePendiente #laCunaDelPobreRío █▄【♥】▀▄▀ ▇☰☆✡EZLN۞✞