I highly recommend reading or listening to the audiobook of Ivan Illich’s thought-provoking book Deschooling Society, which made him famous in the 1970s.

In the book, he argues that schooling is a model of our centralized consumer society and that the holistic solution to the global ecological crisis is to de-school society.

Ivan Illich Quotes:

Here are some of Ivan Illich’s best quotes:The public school has become the established church of secular society. - Ivan Illich

“School has become the world religion of a modernized proletariat, and makes futile promises of salvation to the poor of the technological age.”

— Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society

“Schools are designed on the assumption that there is a secret to everything in life; that the quality of life depends on knowing that secret; that secrets can be known only in orderly successions; and that only teachers can properly reveal these secrets. An individual with a schooled mind conceives of the world as a pyramid of classified packages accessible only to those who carry the proper tags.”

— Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society

“The re-establishment of an ecological balance depends on the ability of society to counteract the progressive materialization of values. The ecological balance cannot be re-established unless we recognize again that only persons have ends and only persons can work towards them.”

— Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society

“School prepares for the alienating institutionalization of life by teaching the need to be taught.”

— Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society

“Most learning is not the result of instruction. It is rather the result of unhampered participation in a meaningful setting. Most people learn best by being “with it,” yet school makes them identify their personal, cognitive growth with elaborate planning and manipulation.”

— Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society

“Man must choose whether to be rich in things or in the freedom to use them.”

— Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society

In a consumer society there are inevitably two kinds of slaves: the prisoners of addiction and the prisoners of envy.

— Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society

The compulsion to do good is an innate American trait. Only North Americans seem to believe that they always should, may, and actually can choose somebody with whom to share their blessings. Ultimately this attitude leads to bombing people into the acceptance of gifts.

— Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society

“The machine-like behavior of people chained to electronics constitutes a degradation of their well-being and of their dignity which, for most people in the long run, becomes intolerable. Observations of the sickening effect of programmed environments show that people in them become indolent, impotent, narcissistic and apolitical. The political process breaks down because people cease to be able to govern themselves; they demand to be managed.”

— Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society

“Universal education through schooling is not feasible. It would be no more feasible if it were attempted by means of alternative institutions built on the style of present schools. Neither new attitudes of teachers toward their pupils nor the proliferation of educational hardware or software (in classroom or bedroom), nor finally the attempt to expand the pedagogue’s responsibility until it engulfs his pupils’ lifetimes will deliver universal education. The current search for new educational funnels must be reversed into the search for their institutional inverse: educational webs which heighten the opportunity for each one to transform each moment of his living into one of learning, sharing, and caring.”

— Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society

“Modern medicine is a negation of health. It isn’t organized to serve human health, but only itself, as an institution. It makes more people sick than it heals.”

— Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society

“Effective health care depends on self-care; this fact is currently heralded as if it were a discovery.”

— Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society

“The only solution to the environmental crisis is the shared insight of people that they would be happier if they could work together and care for each other. Such an inversion of the current world view requires intellectual courage for it exposes us to the unenlightened yet painful criticism of being not only anti-people and against economic progress, but equally against liberal education and scientific and technological advance. We must face the fact that the imbalance between man and the environment is just one of several mutually reinforcing stresses, each distorting the balance of life in a different dimension. In this view, overpopulation is the result of a distortion in the balance of learning, dependence on affluence is the result of a radical monopoly of institutional over personal values, and faulty technology is inexorably consequent upon a transformation of means into ends.”

— Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society

"School is the advertising agency which makes you believe that you need the society as it is." - Ivan Illich, Deschooling Society