De-institutionalizing the academic
Some quick thoughts on the de-institutionalization of schools and universities.
- It's not a question of abolishing academia, but rather opening its doors, reducing the paper-load for academics, and providing them channels and opportunities for engaging with the wider public. Linking universities up with schools - on the one hand, giving academics back a sense of the wider relevance and social worth of their work, on the other hand, giving young people the benefit of their thinking, and a sense of connection to higher learning.
- The wealth of a school lies as much in its connections as its staff. And those connections can be engineered. Ivan Illich's conception of the school as a network hub, providing connections to outside experts, willing to give their time to the school, and acting as mentors to promising young students in their field.
- For both the school and the university, it's a question of providing the basic network infrastructure to put together the student who wants to learn something and the expert who can provide some introduction and guidance in that subject.
- Free schools are not necessarily that free. They offer more autonomy for headmasters with a particular vision or philosophy of how to raise children. But do they offer as wide a network of contacts and opportunities to young people as possible? Again, a network model could do that. A good school should certainly pass on an ethos to its students, but it should also present them with multiple opportunities to develop their particular talents, and their own particular philosophies.
For more on this, check out Dougald Hine's thinking, for example this interview about Illich's philosophy, and one of Dougald's many projects, the School of Everything.