An educational crisis?

Florence Meichel (in French) examines the US/World financial crisis and looks back at Ivan Illich’s criticism of industrial schooling:

Everywhere the hidden curriculum of schooling initiates the citizen to the myth that bureaucracies guided by scientific knowledge are efficient and benevolent. Everywhere this same curriculum instills in the pupil the myth that increased production will provide a better life. And everywhere it develops the habit of self-defeating consumption of services and alienating production, the tolerance for institutional dependence, and the recognition of institutional rankings. The hidden curriculum of school does all this in spite of contrary efforts undertaken by teachers and no matter what ideology prevails.

Critical thinking and an understanding of the frameworks that guide our political and financial institutions would really help the citizenry to understand the complexities of what is happening. It sure beats listening to politicians and pundits in 30 second sound bites. Unfortunately, it’s what many have been conditioned to accept, because they’ve been told that these systems is beyond their understanding.

Is the financial crisis really an educational crisis?


Will Richardson offers a different perspective and sees all that is happening as one big teachable moment:

I’m sure there are more, but how about these topics, just for a start:

  • How mortgages work
  • What credit is
  • What the tax code is
  • The intricacies of borrowing money
  • Investing in the stock market
  • Balanced budgets
  • What debt, both personal and national, is
  • The political process (or lack thereof) of the two Houses of Congress
  • The electoral college
  • Truth in advertising
  • Vetting of expertise (as in talking heads)
  • The “Global Economy” and our effects on it

3 Responses to “An educational crisis?”

  1. Jeremy

    Fascinating! This is one of those posts that I skimmed…then read properly…then read again. I’m all over Illich, and agree with most of his philosophy, but applying a critical eye to the quote makes me wonder if he was painting with too broad a brush here.

    I certainly agree that institutional dependence (including institutional rankings) is a key pillar of the hidden curriculum, and that has cascading effects through peoples’ choices about their lives. However, I’m not sure I would blame school for the complete laundry list of societal failings. I think that much of what we encounter in society subtly pushes us toward the treadmill of consumption and the myths surrounding benevolent government and the unquestioned supremacy of markets.

    School may be part of that, but the influence is nothing compared to advertising, mainstream media, shopping culture, corporate power, etc, that we’re all confronted with every day. One might even argue that school is somewhat of a refuge from the barrage, although that might have been less true when Illich was writing this.


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