Freedom, democracy and education
Education can bring freedom, the capability to break out from the confines of one's mind, to take risks, to ask difficult questions. Most of us have the potential to learn what we want. Sir Ken Robinson remarks that he cannot play the piano. This is not because he is incapable of playing piano, but because he has never learnt how, or taken the time to discover for himself what it is to play. True education can draw people out from within, enabling them to see themselves from a new perspective, as someone who has creativity, and can apply it to achieve just about anything they wish.
Carl Rogers wrote about freedom to learn - where people can acquire an insatiable curiosity for learning that results in them declaring: 'I am discovering, drawing in from the outside, and making that which is drawn in a real part of me.' For Rogers and other humanist educators, the child is central to the learning process, and must have freedom to decide what is important to them, including how to think and how to communicate those thoughts to others. It also involves learning at a pace and in a mode that suits each individual. Without the agency to make these choices, there can be no real freedom.
Progressive educator John Dewey also placed the onus of freedom at the door of each learner. He argued that there are essentially two components of freedom - access to the means to achieve your dreams, and the ability to choose wisely once you have those means. Regardless of your great aspirations to be a world renowned concert pianist, if you have no access to a piano, you will never realise your dreams. According to this view, freedom is largely in the mind, and can be realised when people are knowledgeable enough to make the right choices with the means they have at their disposal.
Dewey, J. (1916) Democracy and Education. New York: MacMillan.
Jenkins, H. (2006) Convergence Culture: Where old and new media collide. New York: New York University Press. p. 11.
Robinson, K. (2011) Out of Our Minds: Learning to be creative. Chichester: Capstone. p. 159.
Rogers, C. R. (1969) Freedom to Learn: A view of what education might become. Columbus, OH: Merrill Publishing. p. 3.
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Freedom, democracy and education by Steve Wheeler is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.