What is School?

2 min readOct 11, 2020

Is it buildings, a hierarchical teaching and administrative staff, a curriculum industry, and millions of jarring alarms screaming into the ears of human beings all over the world, every morning?

Yes, it is. But an alternate view is of school as schooling.

Schooling is provided by greater-experts to lesser-experts, in an apprenticeship model. Supplemented by peer-based learning in the form of communities of practice.

At least that’s how I interpret the ideas of Ivan Illich.

In Deschooling Society (1971), he describes school as:

the advertising agency that makes you believe that you need the society as it is

He goes on to suggest abolishing schools and universities entirely.

Leaving schooling.

Ilych’s vision for schooling calls on using social networks to pair up those with similar interests to form apprenticeship-style mentoring.

This thinking wasn’t new in 1971 and isn’t new now. It dates to Marx. But nobody put it as forcefully as Ilych — school sells you the idea that your destiny is to think and behave as a machine part in our industrialized society.

That’s a vast over-simplification but that’s OK. The point here isn’t to question traditional education, as others do so well by actually changing it.

The point is what does this mean for people who sell creative, technical, and business expertise remotely online?

Ivan Ilych Predicts Online Course Zeitgeist

Fast forward 4 decades into the Internet age and the old school “Internet Marketer” is a guru selling courses on how to do business online. In a way you definitely couldn’t learn in a traditional school in 2010.

Same in 2020. What’s changed in the last decade is that the online mentoring technology is easier to come by. And now you can learn anything through online courses, which is great.

But there’s a difference between online courses on centralizing aggregator platforms and one person teaching another.

Freelance Creatives and Experts vs Schooling

Something else has changed — there are now over 1 billion solo businesses worldwide, as Steven Pink forecasted in Selling is Human in 2010.

Most sell labor.

But a few are solo or small-group freelance businesses selling something besides labor. I don’t know how many, but I am going to guess about 100 million.

Of that 100 million, there might be 1-million who sell some kind of expertise remotely.

The remote 1 million.

The remote 1 million is forced to use Ivan Ilych-style schooling — it’s how they learn and how they teach and sell. The less they rely on aggregators for schooling, the more value they trade.

The more they seek out, and learn alongside, greater and lesser experts with shared interests, the more schooling they get.




amateur tweets, professional works –pressfield