It’s nearly 50 years since Ivan Illich’s Deschooling Society was published and it is very well worth a (re)read during this unexpected coronavirus quarantine period. Spoiler: Illich nailed it!
Also published in 1971 (they were radical days!) was School is Dead: An Essay on Alternatives in Education, by Everett Reimer, a friend of Illich and fellow proponent of deschooling.
A decade earlier, in The Golden Notebook, Doris Lessing had described schooling as indoctrination to a self-perpetuating regime of thought, which chimes with those of us in the ‘robust and individual’ category who educate ourselves.
The UK-founded Taking Children Seriously movement, based around Karl Popper’s Critical Rationalism, whose website includes numerous articles on autonomous learning / non-coercive parenting, preceded American-based ‘unschooling’ or ‘radical unschooling’ philosophies that have gained traction in recent years.
Further recommended reading for those who are nervous about education outside the warehousing model:
Jan Fortune Wood: Without Boundaries and Doing it Their Way: Home-Based Education and Autonomous Learning
Dr Roland Meighan: The Next Learning System and various titles by Educational Heretics Press
- John Taylor Gatto: The Fourth Purpose – presentation to the HEC’99 conference in London. Transcripts of the Q&A session and closing remarks can be found here
Alan Thomas & Harriet Pattison: How Children Learn At Home (+ others)
- Julie Webb: Those unschooled minds: home-educated children grow up
For young people as well as their parents, The Teenage Liberation Handbook:How to Quit School and Get a Real Life and Education, by Grace Llewellyn, is free to download here.
Our own home education library includes a dog-eared copy of The school I’d like: Children and young people’s reflections on an education for the 21st century. Full text can be requested here.
In 2001, The Guardian launched a competition called The School I’d Like, in which young people were asked to imagine their ideal school. This vibrant, groundbreaking book presents material drawn from that competition, offering a unique snapshot of perceptions of today’s schools by those who matter most – the pupils.
The book is wonderfully illuminated by children’s essays, stories, poems, pictures and plans. Placing their views in the centre of the debate, it provides an evaluation of the democratic processes involved in teaching and learning by:
Identifying consistencies in children’s expressions of how they wish to learn.
Highlighting particular sites of ‘disease’ in the education system today. Illustrating how the built environment is experienced by today’s children.
Posing questions about the reconstruction of teaching and learning for the twenty-first century.
This book offers a powerful new perspective on school reform and is essential reading for all those involved in education and childhood studies, including teachers, advisors, policy-makers, academics, and anyone who believes that children’s voices should not be ignored.
During these unprecedented times, let’s all explore new (and old) ideas and enjoy some autonomous learning without the limits imposed by schooling.