Purpose: The purpose of this paper is to propose a model of education that is non-reproductive; that is, productive of non-trivial machines. The reason for this is the postulate that society’s main problems are second-order deficiencies, which cannot be fixed by doing what we do better or more intensely, but rather by changing what we do. Design/methodology/approach – This paper proposes several guidelines for non-reproductive education based on Von Foerster’s concept of a non-trivial machine and of legitimate questions, and Ashby’s law of requisite variety. The ideas presented are corollaries and the result of a philosophical fleshing-out of said concepts and laws. Findings: In order to have a non-reproductive education, it is necessary to limit the role of central control and promote self-evaluation in education at every level of recursion: that is, in the relationship between state and educational institutions, educational institutions and teachers, teacher and students and students as evaluators of themselves. Originality/value – First, the concept of genuine self-evaluation is proposed, to distinguish this from what is currently called self-evaluation; which, it is shown, is not truly so. Second, the concept of authentic research is proposed, as distinguished from original research. This is useful for seeing how legitimate questions work at all levels of education. Third, a number of relationships between cybernetics and philosophical thought are established. Fourth, a model for non-reproductive education is proposed.
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