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Illich and Ortega y Gasset

One more thing on my mind, this from the book Deschooling Society by Ivan Illich: “The current search for new educational funnels must be reversed into the search for their institutional inverse: educational webs which tighten the opportunity for each on to transform each moment of his living into one of learning, sharing, and caring.” To have such, of course, individuals would have to respect themselves enough to be involved in such sharing of the product of their reasonings and, for it to be productive, individuals would have to engage in the kind of reasoning that brings about sound, supportable ideas regarding what they see in the goings on in the world around them. Jose Ortega y Gasset wondered whether the “people” were ready to take on the responsibility of governing themselves, participating productively (humanely) in the discourse by which public policy be wrought. He worried about the nature-the nurtured nature–of the modern human being–in regard to ability to make the good decisions. He writes about “the mass,” saying this: “Strictly speaking, the mass, as a psychological fact, can be defined without waiting for individuals to appear in mass formation. In the presence of one individual we can decide whether he is “mass” or not. The mass is all that which sets no value on itself–good or ill–based on specific grounds, but which feels itself “just like everybody,” and nevertheless is not concerned about this; is, in fact, quite happy to feel itself as one with everybody else.” Consider how these two philosophers of the twentieth century just might be describing what it means to identify with, say, with a party rather than with particular ideals or ideas and how it might be that our system of schooling, as Illich argues, causes us to give up individual identity, to lose trust in our ability as individuals to think our way to viable ideas and the consequences of this for a system of governance dependent upon the participation of “the people.”

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