First Illich said that the Church should deprofessionalize its priesthood. Then he said that deschooling should deprofessionalize teaching and learning. Certification by “experts” is not good enough for a convivial society of in(ter)dependent citizens.
That’s the aspect of FLEX I emphasized in my first writings to promote it.
The following was among the first FLEX docs that I printed and circulated. It was definitely the first FLEX document to get reprinted by an outside organ.
January 1, 1972, Manhattan Tribune, p. 11
Free Learning Exchange Debuts
Surely everyone knows something worth knowing. But how many of us have the opportunity to share that knowledge? As we turn our lives more and more over to the care of specialists, it becomes harder to share our insights even with our own families. Our society has an abundance of communications and information systems. Unfortunately, a basic need is still not being met. We have many periodicals to give us the same information, such as what movie is playing at what theater, but there has yet been no service which could tell us which of our neighbors might be interested in discussing that movie.
The Free Learning Exchange has been established to remedy that situation for the upper west side of Manhattan by a college English teacher who believes strongly that formal schooling is not the only path to worthwhile education. Think for a moment. How many people must there be in your neighborhood alone who have a skill which you need and which they might be willing to help you learn, either out of pride or love, or for a fee, or in exchange for your special way of making spaghetti sauce. The Free Learning Exchange invites all people to register both the skill (or skills) they would be willing to teach and the subjects they would like to learn. The Exchange will then do its best to match people according to their interests.
pk in ’71
What skill do you have that you would like to help another person toward? There is no end of subjects: How to read poetry, the care and feeding of the two-stroke motorcycle engine, fluency in Mandarin, or in French. Maybe you’ve never thought of some of the things you do best as being “subjects.” Think again. Think how useful they might be to other people. How to scan the newspaper? The buying and preparation of fresh vegetables? How to tell whether or not you’re getting full value in buying a used car?
Or use the Free Learning Exchange to create group seminars. Try your hand at creative writing and get together with others for sessions of criticism. The next time the President gives a speech, instead of airing your views with friends who already know what you think, get together with a different group and see what it does to your world view.
The institute calls on you register now. Don’t be shy. There’s no need to be embarrassed. Give your name address, phone number, and subjects to the Free Learning Exchange, 305 Riverside Drive, apt. 7E, New York, New York 10025.
Note: The editor took my copy and printed it exact except for modifications of the paragraph about me.
My first FLEX publications were oral. The first documents printed were just typewriter carbons, followed by photocopies. I was however shortly invited to do my own printing on a “free press” owned by the Quakers and run by my new anarchist friends from Free U. We amateurs were always inheriting a filthy press, routinely found blood and bits of fingers mixed in with the ink, and liked printing in rainbows of color. It may be embarrassing now, but I wouldn’t have done it if I didn’t think it looked neat at the time.
2011 12 10 I vividly remember my first reaction from “the public” to handing out the above statement: mimeographed, on College Walk of the Columbia campus. I recognized somebody on the faculty, said, “Hey, take a look at this,” and handed him my very first FLEX flier.” He glanced at it, raised his eye brows, and said, “This could fly!”
Our initial trajectory was “up”; but we soon crashed into a brick wall, and it wasn’t by accident. I would say that was not only the first but also the last understanding I witnessed on the Columbia campus.