Deschooling Advocacy

Camino De La Reina

I bet this looked great on paper.

I’m reading a brilliant, though long-winded and too angry, book called _Deschooling Society_ by Ivan Illich.

Many of the lessons from the book can be applied to bicycle advocacy.

For example:

“People who submit to the standard of others for the measure of their personal growth soon apply the rule to themselves…People who have been schooled down to size let unmeasured experience slip through their hands.”

Isn’t this exactly what is happening in advocacy? Many advocates obsess over numbers: crash statistics, this study and that study. They’ll study an issue to death instead of just implementing it.

I, on the other hand, agree with my friends who’s thesis suggests that a good road invites its users to bicycle. When they do, it’s a good experience.

Thus the only way of measuring a good road is to ride one’s bicycle on it.

But the schooled advocate has lost all trust of his own experience and judgement. He won’t invite others to ride with him because he’s too caught up in charts and graphs and tables and academic papers.

When there’s a lack of numbers on the subject, he’ll just say “no” instead of growing some and taking a risk.

Old age used to mean something because older people had more experience, but with the schooled advocate, it’s the opposite. They have no experience because instead of cycling and seeing what it’s like to ride on different infrastructure, he’s too busy driving to meeting where they endlessly pontificate on numbers and vehicle codes.

And when there’s no data to back up his point of view, he’ll make it up.

In fact, when you do mention experience;

“To them, what cannot be measured becomes secondary, theatening.”

Also, they are closed to new ideas:

“They do not have to be robbed of their creativity. Under instruction, they have unlearned to do their thing or to be themselves, and they value only what has been made or could be made [under current law].”

Ivan’s book has many more insights which apply to bicycle advocacy and how the school minded mentality shackles one’s intellect and makes intelligent decisions impossible.

Perhaps this is why there’s such a disconnect between the claims made on how San Diego’s roads, and how it feels to ride on them.

It certainly explains why people can feel that we “waste so much money on cycling” and yet the cyclists feel like they have the smelly end of the tail pipe.

I leave you with the seven steps to Southern California Cycling Infrastructure Mastery

1. Forget what you know.

2. Go outside.

3. Get on a bicycle.

4. NO! Do NOT strap a bicycle to your car–get on a bicycle where you are.

5. Ride (but not too fast).

6. Experience.

7. Now you’re an expert on cycling infrastructure.


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