Deschooling Society 50 Years Later

Revisiting Ivan Illich in the Era of COVID-19




Ivan Illich, deschooling, unschooling, COVID-19, learning webs, school democracy


In the COVID-19 era, most governments around the world closed schools to mitigate the spread of the virus. Students, educators and families had to navigate uncharted learning landscapes. Alternative models of delivering education proliferated. In this context, we revisit Illich’s educational ideas through the lens of pandemic-related shifts. We pay particular attention to four educational models occurring beyond school buildings: remote learning, homeschooling, microschooling (pandemic pods), and unschooling. To what extent do they constitute a step forward toward Illich’s radical proposal to deschool society? Which are closer to his conceptualization of learning webs as convivial spaces? Can schools still make a contribution to freedom, equality, and participation? After exploring these questions, we conclude that an emancipatory educational project should include two simultaneous tasks: the continuous development of prefigurative pedagogical experiments outside schools such as cooperative learning webs and other collaborative arrangements, and constant efforts to democratize schools and educational systems.


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Author Biographies

Tara Bartlett, Arizona State University, United States of America

Is a doctoral student in Arizona State University’s Educational Policy and Evaluation program. Her research focuses on youth participatory governance, community development, and civics efficacy. Before pursuing a doctoral degree, Tara taught for fourteen years in public education middle school classrooms as an English and Social Studies teacher. The experience, coupled with the observed outcomes of civic programs in her classroom, led Tara to reimagine how K12 education can integrate participatory governance opportunities and better prepare youth to become political and civic changemakers within their own communities.

Daniel Schugurensky, Arizona State University, United States of America

Is a Professor at Arizona State University, with joint appointments in the School of Public Affairs and the School of Social Transformation. He is also the Director of the Social Pedagogy Program. Among his recent books are Global citizenship education and teacher education: International perspectives (Routledge 2020), Social pedagogy and social education: Connecting traditions and innovations (Social Pedagogy Association 2018), By the people: Participatory democracy, civic engagement and citizenship education (Participatory Governance Initiative, 2015), Informal learning, volunteer work and social action (Sense 2013), Paulo Freire (Continuum 2011), and Learning citizenship by practicing democracy: International initiatives and perspectives (Cambridge Scholarly Press, 2010).


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