This summer MARCH Architecture School invites educators from schools around the world to discuss the past, present and possible future of architectural education. It is a series of online conversations, which will bring together professionals, free to determine the direction of their discussion. They are coming from different countries, schools, generations, bringing their various views, experiences, expectations.
Let us forget for a minute the circumstances associated with the pandemic. Then we could broaden the field of discussion to include the advantages of the ‘homeschooling’ model and other models, an alternative to conventional education.
In the 1970s, Ivan Illich and other ideologists of deschooling, of ‘liberation from schools’, suggested that peer-to-peer education, focused on personal needs for knowledge and skills, rather than on fixed curricula, could better serve individuals and communities. He imagined a ‘network of knowledge’:
"The most radical alternative to school would be a network or service which gave each man the same opportunity to share his current concern with others motivated by the same concern. [...] The operation of a peer-matching network would be simple. The user would identify himself by name and address and describe the activity for which he sought a peer. A computer would send him back the names and addresses of all those who had inserted the same description. It is amazing that such a simple utility has never been used on a broad scale for publicly valued activity." (Illich, I. (1971). Deschooling Society, archive.org)
The lockdowns and other restrictions caused a massive transfer of education into distant formats. It does seem like Illich’s networks of knowledge growing through the institutional apparatus. Do we want this to stop or to speed up?
The crisis of architectural education has been a subject of discussions for many years now. And not for the first time in the last 100 years. Architecture as a discipline closely related to power, violence, various forms of oppression and segregation. Schools have been accused of supporting and reproducing these realities, willingly or without knowledge; adding some of their own flaws on top of it, being not critical enough of the situation.
So, we probably do need schools, at least, for some time. But we could also try to change them, by seizing the momentum, by exploiting the acute bizarreness of this academic year ending to put energy in the new round of discussions.