The Peoples' Institute for Re-thinking Education and Development

Vimukt Shiksha - Resisting School

Editor's Note - Vimukt Shiksha

What does resistance to schooling mean? Why is it necessary to resist schooling today? How are different people resisting schooling?

Many of us around India are concerned about how much damage schooling is doing to our children, the burden and stress it is putting on them, and the need for radical change in the current pattern of education. Yet, very few of us have the courage or the conviction to do something about it. Ignoring our common sense, we accept the physical, psychological and spiritual tortures inflicted daily on our children — rationalizing this for the ‘good of the Nation’ or for their ‘future career’. There are also, of course, parents’ own selfish motives of not having enough time nor inclination to take care of their children to which school provides the ideal babysitting solution. Many parents in India who understand the damage being done by schooling still do nothing — their silence continues to cement our collective self-paralysis. Some (who can afford it) send their children to private ‘alternative schools’, where the daily deprivation is better concealed and the institutional tortures imposed by mainstream schooling are delayed. These ‘alternatives’ are problematic because they perpetuate the illusion that all schools can ultimately be reformed. Their insular focus on micro innovative pedagogies prevents us from bringing out schooling’s insidious linkages to larger Systemic agendas and injustices. The relentless assault of the ‘Schooling for All’ Propaganda (which promises miraculous changes in India once everyone is enrolled and made ‘letterate’) carried out by international agencies and Government, and their NGO contractors creates a hostile and debilitating moral pressure which discourages any open debate on the meaning of education. This discourse is particularly harmful because it prevents us from critically/creatively discussing the crises that are emerging because of the ‘schooled mind-set’.

Those people who claim to be interested today in challenging global exploitation and homogenization, in exploring new alternatives to Western Development, Science and Progress, or in really empowering local communities must be willing to seriously think about processes of resisting schooling. Resistance is necessary to create more spaces for new reflections and conceptualizations on who we are and who we want to become. It is also critical to processes of revaluing and regenerating informal community learning spaces. Resistance is important to understand because it serves to open up new personal and collective sources of power/motivation/creative action outside the control of the State/Market. It stimulates the formation of new collaborative and mutually nurturing relationships.

This issue of Vimukt Shiksha is dedicated to celebrating the courage and wisdom of those individuals, families and communities who are trying to resist being schooled/conditioned/ institutionalized/dehumanized and, in the process, are trying to reclaim control of their own learning/lives. They express their resistance in a variety of ways: ranging from disobeying the orders of school authorities, to rejecting important schooling symbols (i.e. examinations and degrees), to prioritizing other family/community activities, to creating their own self-learning activities. The System has tended to label the ‘most successful’ of these resistors under the victimizing category of ‘ignorant drop-outs’. However, it is not that these so-called drop-outs do not understand what schooling is all about. In fact, they understand all too well not only how irrelevant the entire exercise is but also how it violently tries to mold them into the dehumanizing ‘discipline’ of an industrial-consumer society.

Before reading this issue, some people will accuse us of trying to keep down the ‘poor’ by denying them access to the tasty fruits of schooling. Or they will try to silence critical discourse by arguing that if we, the Editors, had not gone to school, how could we be so ‘empowered’ to write all this. On the contrary, we are writing this in spite of our schooling, and because we believe that people can better develop their unique full individual and collective potentials without interference by schooling. Our intention here is to create new spaces for questioning the sacred monopoly of schooling and exposing certain illusions of the System i.e., the benefits currently realized by a few will ultimately ‘trickle-down’ to the masses, and only the ‘school-educated experts’ should have the power to make decisions. We also wish to challenge obnoxious phrases such as: ‘first-generation learners’, ‘joyful learning’, ‘minimum levels of learning’ and ‘compulsory education’, which trivialize the diversity and complexity of the human learning process. Lastly, we wish to highlight that there are other inspiring voices and experiences out there and, consequently, that other meaningful options for living and being still exist. We invite you to join us in the process of pursuing these.

Full Issue of Vimukt Shiksha Resisting Schooling