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Popular Educational Classics

A Reader

Edited By Joseph L. DeVitis

The last half century has created deep tensions in how we analyze educational and social change. Educators, policymakers, and concerned citizens have had to cope with competing belief systems in evaluating and acting upon school policies and practices. This illuminating book untangles many of the roots of those persistent debates that have divided the nation for so long. It offers readers a critical opportunity to reflect on our continuing ideological struggles by examining popular books that have made a difference in educational discourse.
The editor has specifically selected key books on social and educational controversies that speak to wide audiences. They frame contextual issues that so-called «school reformers» have often neglected – much to the detriment of any real educational progress. Ultimately, this text is meant to stir our consciences, to disorder our certainties, and to compel us to treat education and culture with both reason and passion. It is highly relevant for courses in social foundations of education, school reform, educational policy studies, philosophy of education, history of education, politics of education, curriculum studies, and teacher education.
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Chapter Eight: Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society (1971)

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EIGHT

Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society (1971)

David Gabbard

I. Synopsis

Deschooling Society (Illich, 1971) should begin where it ends, with the story of Pandora. In what Illich describes as the prehistoric telling of her tale from matriarchal Greece, Pandora was an Earth goddess, sent to Earth with an amphora or pythos—what we would recognize today as a lidded urn made of clay. Within this urn dwelt every variety of evil. It contained only one good, and that was hope. One day, Pandora accidently allowed all of the evils to escape, but she replaced the lid before hope could follow.

Pandora’s story intertwines with that of two brothers, Prometheus and Epimetheus. Both are central to our understanding of what Illich means by our “schooled” society and what “deschooling” that society would look like. What he does not mean is a society in which people have created schools. The presence of schools does not define a schooled society. Schooling signifies something far different, something Illich associates with the figure of Prometheus and how his story, as the bearer of foresight and the god of technological innovation, mirrors the story of modern man.

Through his trickery of the gods, Prometheus brought fire to humans, granting them the power to forge iron, enhancing their capacity to produce tools, and giving rise to the inseparable ideas: that first, with the right tools, humans can plan and...

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