Declaring myself on LiDA103 – Learning in the Digital Age, OERu, Open Educational Resource
Open Education has been around for a long time, though we tend to forget about what is possible – and what is normal – as barriers rise silently around us, cutting off access in the name of propriety rights, illegitimately asserted by those who would enrich themselves by impoverishing others.
This process of expropriation runs throughout history and we can find examples of it in every age and in every culture. I’ve studied education since the early 70’s. As a teenager I read A.S. Neil, John Holt, and Ivan Illich among others. Illich was a visionary who saw the potential of education freed of institutional barriers. His best work on the subject, Deschooling Society (Internet Archive), separated education from institution and argued that institutions destroy the very things they arise to protect.
Illich described how education systems could be organized collaboratively and cooperatively to serve the needs of humanity, decades before the advent of the Internet.
Open Access is not a radical or even a new idea. It has been around for thousands of years, from the Iron age and earlier, when technology was freely shared, winding its way along the footpaths and trade routes that bound humanity together. The fabrication of tools, animal husbandry, agriculture, and writing – none of this was patented or copyrighted, no one claimed ownership, no one demanded royalties.
For me, Open Access means a return to normalcy, to a way that brought us out of darkness, again and again. It means to reassert our right to knowledge as the lost property of humanity: it cannot be owned, it cannot be bought or sold, and it cannot be controlled, regulated, or suppressed.
Today, institutions are in crisis. Universities declare that they may not survive the pandemic, that they cannot continue to operate at a deficit, and this is meant to threaten us with an absence of knowledge and learning. Perhaps they overestimate their own importance and centrality, assuming that without personal profit, nothing is possible. If Illich were alive, he probably would not lose much sleep over this, and neither should we.