|Many students, especially those who are poor, intuitively know what the schools do for them. They school them to confuse process and substance. Once these become blurred, a new logic is assumed: the more treatment there is, the better are the results; or, escalation leads to success. The pupil is thereby "schooled" to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something new. His imagination is "schooled" to accept service in place of value. Medical treatment is mistaken for health care, social work for the improvement of community life, police protection for safety, military poise for national security, the rat race for productive work. Health, learning, dignity, independence, and creative endeavor are defined as little more than the performance of the institutions which claim to serve these ends, and their improvement is made to depend on allocating more resources to the management of hospitals, schools, and other agencies in question.|
— The opening paragraph
Ivan Illich focuses on schooling as a singularly important example of the counter-productiveness of other modern social institutions. It is a far reaching and insightful critique into the perils of institutionalization and professionalization, and does not stop at pointing out the problems, but goes on to suggest ways which we can take as individuals and as a society to resist the dehumanizing thrall of large institutions.