Illich first published "Deschooling Society" in 1970. It was a time when the institution known as school was being challenged widely. To many there had to be a better ways to learn and grow into full members of a truly humanistic society. It was a revolutionary time. Contrary to popular belief, it was not solely a time of drug addicted hippies. There actually was hope for a better world. Universities were hotbeds of revolutionary thought. Everything could be questioned, much to the discomfort of the established order.
As an educator, I came to a very simple idea, Community School/ Community Education, not what it has become today but what it might have been then. The German sociologist, Ferdinand Tonnies divided society into two broad categories, Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft
Gemeinschaft may be seen as a small community in a rural setting. Here, relationships are founded on people knowing people where the support for life comes from one another rather than almost exclusively from organizations, systems or professionals. Gesellschaft is larger and reflects modern society complete with interwoven corporations. and a multitude of informal and formal institutions. It is urban and capitalistic. Many of the interpersonal relationships are simply impersonal monetary connections . Social ties are often instrumental and superficial, with self-interest and exploitation increasingly the norm. Support, if it can be perceived as such, comes from professionals and experts. This criticism extends all the way from government to voluntary associations.
The Community School I envisaged was a simple neighbourhood gathering place that supported learning for everyone of every age. No one was excluded. To start with it worked. Until the organized world discovered its existence and struck. Organizational control reared its ugly head. Only teachers may teach. Students have to be registered. Volunteers must be vetted and trained. Budgets are guarded and spent repeatedly on understood bureaucratic needs. Big brother was watching us. Many big brothers and sisters were watching us. As Jonathan Livingston Seagull found out the flock does not want a 242 mile an hour seagull.
As you can imagine, things changed in order, of course, for things to remain the same. Brilliant hippies were corrupted and became wealth yuppies. Instead of many thriving human centred Community Schools, we built a huge Community College system that is staffed by professionals. Community Centres abound with Pools and rinks and professional staff. Public Secondary schools feature fee bearing elite athletic academies. coached by elite athletes. The academic elite make it to the University/s also staffed by professionals. Grant moneys are consumed here for research and break through discoveries. If anything appears lucrative it is "spun off" into a new private company and everyone gets rich.
Schools continue to strive to do the job they've always done, normalize and condition students to accept what is acceptable. Still, they generally fail to achieve the purposes they set for themselves. Here, once again, comes the Unholy Mission Statement which unmet needs to be rewritten one more time. Then, pursuing the "new grail" teachers will embrace more "professional development" where the blind will continue to lead the blind.