From Scarcity to Abundance: Illich’s Educational Critique and Indigenous Learning

Chris Beeman


This paper takes as a beginning point Ivan Illich’s radical work on education and schooling, which began with his posting to Puerto Rico as vice-rector of the Catholic University at Ponce, in Puerto Rico, in 1956. This work continued with the Centre for Intercultural Documentation (CIDOC), in Cuernavaca, Mexico, through the publication of Deschooling Society (1971) and beyond. Three distinct phases in Illich’s conceptualization of schooling and education are traced. For the purpose of this paper, I will term them de-mythologizing, radical scrutinizing, and re-tooling). In the third phase, Illich and his colleague Edward Reimer posited that what is actually needed in reconsidering education is to improve human interaction with the tool of education. This insight formed part of Illich’s 1973 book, Tools for Conviviality, in which he explored what such a project might look like. In this paper, this idea is pushed further. I offer some stories of Teme Augama Anishinaabe Elders from Turtle Island (North America) with whom I have worked for several years, along with my reflections, to suggest an altogether different view of learning and education, one which takes place in a context of abundance.


Illich; education; Indigenous; abundance

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DOI prefix: 10.14516/ete


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