Freedom and education

I just started reading this excellent little book, called Freedom, by Nick Stevenson… 

I’m only a few pages in and already I have a million ideas rolling around in my head. Consider these quotes:

“…part of my question is not only which definition of freedom whould we value, but also how did it become a value? The historical sociologist Orlando Patterson (1991) argues that Western society only began to value freedom once it had experienced slavery. If we want to know who were the people who first valued being free, then we should look at slaves rather than philosophers. To be a slave in Ancient Greece was to experience a form of social death where your life literally was ruled by the will of another. Patterson argues that freedom became valued to the extent to which slavery was feared. To become a slave was to suffer a form of humiliation, though freedom was initially considered to be a feminine rather than a masculine value. Whereas an enslaved woman could dream of freedom in the future, such an option was not available for men. For men it was better to die than suffer the dishonour of slavery. Here, right at the beginning of Western ideas of freedom, we see that it begins life as the quest for personal freedom.” (p.7)

“As will soon become apparent,” Stevenson explains, “I have chosen to focus upon debates in the context of the development of Western societies. In particular the relationship between Europe and North America is central to the story that I wish to tell. The idea of freedom has been central to the self-understanding of Western society and it is best understood as a narrative where citizens have struggle for rights and democratic societies.” (p.2)

“Freedom really matters to me,” he declares. “As someone born into a poor but working family freedom was something that could only be won through courage, flexibility and collective endeavour. Schools were places where people like me learned to labour, the media was dominated by light entertainment and the workplace was mostly a space of dull compulsion. The question that emerges is, where in this setting could you learn about the possibilities of freedom? The labour movement, new social movements and more rebellious forms of popular culture such as punk and reggae had, it seemed to me, some of the answers. Freedom here became the struggle for an identity, questions that had no straightforward answers and the idea that the future was open. In particular the central educative message of the labour movement, that we should each have the possibility of discovering identities beyond the needs of our employers, is one to which I remain committed [I couldn’t agree more!!!]. Freedom appeared to me less as an abstract problem to be solved, and more of a concrete question as to how we should live.” (p.4)

There are grave dangers to freedom if the media is largely understood to be about entertainment or if education is largely just about the passing of exams. Journalists, educators, artists and social movements more generally have a special responsibility to keep alive the practice of freedom. We must learn to be critical.” (p.3)

Ref: Nick Stevenson () Freedom.

Table of Contents: Series Editor’s Preface. 1. Freedom Now and Then 2. Freedom and Happiness 3. Big Brother and Freedom 4. Cultural Freedom 5. Cosmopolitan Freedom 6. Freedom and Virtue Bibliography


About backyardbooks

This blog is a kind of electronic storage locker for ideas and quotes that inform my research... literary research into fiction for young adults (with a special focus on New Zealand fiction). Kiwis are producing amazing literature for younger readers, but it isn't getting the academic appreciation it deserves. I hope readers of this blog can make use of the material I gather and share by way of promoting our fiction. Cheers!
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