Deschooling Quotes: Since ’74

Deschooling Quotes Gathered by pk Since FLEX, Since 1974

1970 to 1974 were the height of the FLEX days. By late 1973 my wife was twisting my arm to find an income, FLEX volunteers were volunteering less, and finally my wife scuttled the whole ship, kidnapping our son, and leaving me with the rent due (and no cash). Nevertheless I continued to gather deschooling quotes (though I couldn’t digitize them till the 1980s when I had my first longed for, belated, word processor).

I had a terrible childhood — I attended a school for emotionally disturbed teachers.

Woody Allen

The educated, in short, were seen as company men.

H. Bartlett, 1841

We are unwilling to accept the necessities that follow from a clear view of the human dilemma.

Gregory Bateson

Indeed, it is precisely because their critique was so devastating that we hear so little about the deschooling movement today.

David Botsford

I do notice however that David Botsford, at least at the time of his statement, had not read much of the deschoolers: beyond Illich himself: certainly no evidence of his having read pk.

School You!

lapel slogan button

Illich went into the ghetto (c. 1970).

Within days the kids had made and were displaying their novelty.

The principal device for the limitation of occupational choice is the education system.

Theodore Caplow

The uninformed … undertake the education of the unenlightened.


Not drop-out; opt-out!


The university brings out all abilities including incapability.

Anton Chekhov

The hypothesis in question is simply not fit for discussion in polite company, no matter what the documentation may be. It is not even a competitor, to be rejected.

Noam Chomsky

Anyone who has spent some time in a university knows how it is done.

Noam Chomsky

The one who comes to teach learns the keenest lessons, while those who come to learn learn nothing.

JM Coetzee

Nobody dares to solve the problems — because the solution might contradict your philosophy.

For most people clinging to beliefs is more important than succeeding in the world.

Michael Crichton

pk notes: True of all of us. No two individuals have the same mix of adventure and caution.

We think we’re this or that absolute; but we mix, and mix.

pk further notes, typical, typical, that the historical Jesus was crucified once, over and done; the mythic Jesus is crucified every minute of every day: so that we can cling to beliefs reason would have falsified long ago given the chance.

Convergence is not universal …
and not all splendid opportunities are seized.

Jared Diamond

If the people lead, the leaders will follow.

Bill Ellis,

Boys are to be treasured and nurtured rather than, as so often happens, crippled and distorted to make them useful to others in the social roles for which they are to be prepared.

Edgar Friedenberg

We must be the change we wish to see in the world.

Mahatma Gandhi

It’s important to note that the underlying premise of Prussian schooling is that the government is the true parent of children – the state is sovereign over the family. At the most extreme pole of this notion is the idea that biological parents are really the enemies of their own children, not to be trusted.

John Taylor Gatto

The public sphere works most effectively for democracy when it is institutionally independent of the state and society’s dominant economic forces.

Jurgen Habermas
and co-authors

Government schooling is the explicit attempt to coerce people into accepting their appropriate place in hierarchical, industrial capitalism.

Matt Helm
[ironic emphasis added]

The universtiy … so untouched by the tarnish of reality

Stephen Hunter

Who would test me?

Harvard Shakespeare professor Kittredge

on why he didn’t have a Ph.D.

School had been torture to him. Yet he had not questioned whether one should go through this torture. He seemed to believe in education through subjection and torment.

DH Lawrence

Education is one thing that people are willing to pay for, and not get.

Thomas R. Lawrence

All the time you are in school, you learn
through experience
how to live in a dictatorship.

Grace Llewellyn

The free development of each was the condition
for the free development of all.

Ken MacLeod

What’s the opposite of diversity?


Without a doubt, the most effective method by which the state creates a mystique is through control of education. The evolution of compulsory state-controlled schooling reads like a history of political maneuvering, in which the goal of teaching children literacy skills plays a minor role. Public education is by no means inept or disordered as it is made out to be. It is an ice-cold, superb machine designed to perform one very important job. The problem is not that public schools do not work well, but rather that they do. The first goal and primary function of schools is not to educate good people, but good citizens. It is the function which we normally label state indoctrination.

Wendy McElroy

School teachers, taking them by and large, are probably the most ignorant and stupid class of men in the whole group of mental workers.

H.L. Mencken

The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it.

HL Mencken

The possible is richer than the real.

Viscount Ilya Prigogine

(I think it’s hysterical that in cases such as Tolstoy, Korzybski, and Prigogine I include their aristocratic titles: in a piece on leveling society! Ah well, know your audience.) (If your heart is in the right place, protest! Make me change it!)

“They have no idea.” Chaim pointed at his head. “They are stupid with what they are told.”

A Red Death

They don’t teach you anything worth knowing.

Rose Walker on school

State-induced diversity (through immigration), followed by state-mandated uniformity (through the school system)

Chantal K. Saucier

The sole true end of education is simply this: to teach men how to learn for themselves; and whatever instruction fails to do this is effort spent in vain.

Dorothy Sayers

All original ideas are at first ridiculed,

then refuted,

then taken for granted.


What gives you any right to change the way people think?
Because we are artists

Bruce Sterling

Education is the tendency toward moral despotism raised to a principle.

Count Leo Tolstoy

[The students] take away from school … such a strong loathing for the paths of science traversed by them that they never again take a book into their hands.

Count Leo Tolstoy

State socialism wishes to instruct everybody;

anarchism wishes to enable everybody to instruct himself.

Benjamin R. Tucker

on the repression, the misfiling, of ideas, of personalities,

by any established elite such as a faculty

He who is unaware of his ignorance will be only misled by his knowledge.

Richard Whately

This is not just a school, he thought. This is an institution for the production of automatons. It is run by automatons who were produced by other automatons, long ago, and now they have forgotten what it is to be human and are engaged in turning us into automatons in turn.

RA Wilson

Ignorance spreading every day from the schools

William Butler Yeats

Education is not the filling of a pail,

but the lighting of a fire.

William Butler Yeats

Vanity Fair Sequence

With some persons those awes and terrors of youth last for ever and ever….How many of those gentle souls do you degrade, estrange, torture, for the sake of a little loose arithmetic, and miserable dog Latin?…If people would but leave children to themselves; if teachers would cease to bully them; if parents would not insist upon directing their thoughts, and dominating their feelings…How far more beautiful and sacred are the thoughts of the poor lad or girl whom you govern likely to be, than those of the dull and world-corrupted person who rules him?

William Makepeace Thackeray

2005 11 07 Then there are quotes that relate to the subject, that though not strictly “schooling” quotes, I must find a place for here.

People felt a gut attraction to decentralized phenomena, even as they clung tightly to centralized preconceptions.

Mitchel Resnick

I hope you see that that is related: FLEX was part of a drive toward decentralization, toward improved organization through deregulation, toward emergence …

I leave a note from an earlier generation of this module:

Most prevalent (at FLEX) of course were quotes of Ivan Illich. But of course there were no PCs, no word processing. I was proposing that the society avail itself of digital record keeping; I had no such capacities. I had contact with main frames that would give FLEX space if the public came up with some minimum of support. I had programmers, stars, people who’d written Fortran! for gods sake, who would write public applications if the public came up with some minimum of support: they’d do it cheap, but not accept bankruptcy for payment. Anyway, the Illich quotes were in my mouth, in his books, of which I put a digital Deschooling Societyonline (since destroyed by the fed court). Since the mid-1990s I’ve digitized my quotes, quotes of others (other than Illich), and here they are; but the most important quotes, Illich’s own, I have not yet selected more than a few of. But then the right thing for the visitor to do is read (and reread) the source!

Yes, I had dreamed of networking, but not imagined digital word processing. My communications were oral and written. My writing was scribbled, typed, Xeroxed, offset litho’d … Little mots I would jot on a FLEX pad printed with those embarrassing smiley faces in yellow (and we didn’t even know to fear Sam’s Wal-Mart yet).

PS FLEX publications I printed on an offset press owned by the Quakers but turned over to some fellow anarchists, the People’s Yellow Pages people — you recognize the spiritual relationship I hope, see when they befriended me when they heard about my FLEX. I cleaned the press, made the plates, did the printing … The materials were paid for by how ever the Quakers’ anarchists found anything: and they got damn impatient with my remaining unable to pay them back!

Here are a few more pk deschooling quotes, some from 1970 through 1974 but not put in the earlier post, and others since 1974:

Surely everyone knows something worth knowing.

That’s the line I wrote to launch FLEX, NYC’s Free Learning Exchange, Inc.

Prescribed consumption is fascism.

Deprofessionalize learning.

(Presume quotes not labeled to be pk: assume the pk blue.)

Schools make information scarce: artificially.
We must liberate its natural abundance.

Schools are so that people who don’t understand what the thinker has said supervise how he says it.

Order: without Authority

Network the networks.

Understand: I was saying that in 1971!

Learning may be chosen; education is coerced.

Today’s parents plan tomorrow’s children in terms of what seemed advantageous yesterday.

If we are to preserve and augment our freedom, we must insist that all information be freely available to all people.

Education:an artificat of the school industry

a commodity for knowledge capitalists.

Learning:what we do to survive,

to entertain ourselves,

to fulfil ourselves,

to satisfy our emptiness.I honor my learning.

I repudiate my education.

Life, like non-life, even more than non-life,

is self-organizing:

leave it alone.

Home schooling is not deschooling.

Free-flowing feedback is the proper antidote to misinformation.
Regulation becomes toxic. Let the liars lie: then speak.

No society will tolerate its institutions being criticized.

And no society will forgive anyone who finds simple solutions to its problems.

School is so that preference is given to robots over humans.

The still, small voice of reason can never get near the amplifier.

Control remains with the illusionists.Intelligence, feedback, fact … remain beaten up in the alleyway, outside the theater.

Semantic incapacity and epistemological naïveté are promoted over sophistication and competence.The graduates are then labeled, falsely of course, sophisticated, competentIn contrast:Harvard is so that advanced advancement can be given to advanced robots: robots who can repeat three variations of three formulas instead of only three formulas.Societies invite us to consider their schools as distributing the cream of their knowledge, their wisdom. But of course without access to all of the society’s knowledge and wisdom, there’s no way to test such claims.

Noah is not given a professorship. If Noah has a professorship, ark-building loses it for him.

After the flood, universities will be filled with professors teaching ark-building.

Schools give added leverage to a culture’s quotidian repression of awareness so that the kids who’ve killed their gods and their parents and are now playing in their clothes, the inmates who’ve taken over the asylum … won’t be contradicted in their game that they’re the parents, they’re the staff, the nurses, the psychiatrists, the case workers …

All of kleptocracy’s institutions have this same cast of pretense. Churches exist so that we can pretend that we’re godly (rather than deicides), governments exist so that the thieves can pretend that they’re lawful (rather than kleptocrats): writing ever new laws until it’s so.

So long as no realities are imposed on us (like a smoker getting cancer, disease deniers dying …), the illusion may persist.

Kleptocracies could not function without managed ignorance and few ignorances are better managed by better managers than schools.

School is so that

the State’s monopoly for mislabeling everything extends everywhere

starting at the root of our childhood.

Acccredited institutions of higher kleptocracy

Learning is what any creature may do to influence its odds of survival;
Education is what hierarchical societies impose:

Learning requires a self; education requires (ha!) teachers.

Facilitate: don’t regulate.

The bigger it gets, the less well federalism works.

FLEX offered the public a cheap cybernetic ride to a free marketplace: and an authority-free world.

(Note that science and authority are antithetical, incompatible.)

Do away with school: FLEX is enough.

Do away with government: FIX is enough.

Don’t ask, don’t tell: Show.

FLEX would have profited everyone; not made anyone a profit.
(prophets galore though)

The purpose of school is to shade any light before it can illuminate anything.

In the 20th Century the United States ran it’s democracy by 18th-century technology while the industrial-military complex ran itself by 20th-century technology.

Rulers guide the public to believe that the experts are there because they know best; actually the experts are there to train the public sit passively while mumbo jumbo trumps sense.

The purpose of school is to accustom the future consumers to passively accept the services of experts: and the purpose of experts to to train the passive consumers, the obediant workers, to allow mumbo jumbo to trump sense.

Schools: government-kept terrariums of Potemkin information

Far more than to educate (whatever that means),
the purpose of school is to indoctrinate:

to civilize a candidate for a particular sect of kleptocracy:
like breaking a horse for a particular rider.

In sum, to domesticate us
for purposes not our own.

My universities were like black holes, my ideas disappeared into them without a trace.

Human Record Keeping: Non too honest, none too bright, foaming with opportunism (and filtered by mass-ego).

These days most sacred cows are secular: the state, the school …

Schools compel us to rehearse litanies of freedom.
Only media that echo the litanies are licensed: by the same warlords who fiated the schools.

Inexperience always believes itself to be nobler than experience.

Unorthodox points simply do not register on ears trained for orthodoxy.

Education isn’t the solution; education is the problem!

I’ve never been in a school that understood what I say.

Worse, no school has shown that it understood that it didn’t understand.

Priesthoods pretend that all are responsible to God, but God

that is, truth,
doesn’t get heard from.

The school holds you unemployed (or under-employed) till you give the schools’ answers to the schools’ questions: “The earth is flat, the government is good.”

On another hand, I have no idea what others may have tried to say that also didn’t get heard.

Humans are not in a position to judge perfections (or imperfections) of understanding.

In parallel, a church may pretend that it understands and can teach what Jesus said; but when does Jesus confirm or correct what’s said?

I offered a lifeboat to civilization; You left me as roadkill.


About pk

Seems to me that some modicum of honesty is requisite to intelligence. If we look in the mirror and see not kleptocrats but Christians, we’re still in the same old trouble.
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