Education is about the Search for Freedom

11 Feb


The basic instinct of human beings is their search for freedom. Warren Miller

There are many ideas shared about what education is and or ought to be as we look to the future. Knowledge, skills, habits and attitudes are all justifiably interconnected in how we prepare learners for a future that is uncertain.  A great deal of research has been conducted in what will be “best” for the next generation of learners. Positive psychology has proven to be a pathway toward leading a flourishing life that can transform our future and the world. However, in addition to the positive psychology, I would like to offer a simple concept to reflect on and share, with the hope of generating some feedback and discussion. Education is about the search for freedom. I realize this metaphysical perspective may not be new but it is worthy of resurrection as we continue to discuss how the search for freedom can best serve the needs of learners in our respective communities.

It seems to me that the search for freedom represents virtues of truth, wisdom and transcendence that surface as aspirational qualities worthy of cultivation. Ultimately, what we are really seeking is enlightenment, which can only be achieved through how we think, speak and act. Appreciation for beauty in humanity and the natural world, justice and the ability to make ethical decisions with consistency — all contribute to freedom, learning and leading a flourishing life.

As a former competitive athlete, optimal performance was the elusive piece of the puzzle that I could never really grasp. I have felt it at times, but never really understood why or how it was achieved. What was this “zone” that is so often spoken about?  Much later, it became clear to me with the assistance of  Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi and his image below.


This idea of achieving flow is synonymous with maximizing PERFORMANCE by minimizing or eliminating interference from our potential; P=p=i.  Tim Gallwey, The Inner Game of Tennis

The zone of optimal performance is a place we find when we live in the moment,  neither the past nor future is part of our conscious thought. We are, for all intents and purposes, free. We believe we can accomplish anything and subconsciously push ourselves to do more, transforming our abilities as learners to new heights. The feeling is euphoric.

One premise may be that freedom is locked inside a capsule of suffering within us. Suffering can be evident in many ways: over-dependence on material possession; unnecessary distractions; fear of inadequacy; the state of being consumed by ego.  “In our classrooms, this may manifest in an obsession with the latest device or designer clothing item; the constant distract of the phone in the pocket; fear of making a mistake or failing a test; an ego exaggerated by competitiveness or adolescent hormones”. (Jocelyn Wiley)  All of these points of interference prevent us from seeing or appreciating what is right in front of us.  It is what is right in front of us at that moment, that sweet spot that we so desperately are looking for, where freedom resides. It is what brings us happiness, peace, fulfilment and a willingness to do more. If only this can be imagined, cultivated and celebrated in all of our classrooms.

The search for freedom is in everything that we do: academics, athletics, arts, business, leadership and relationships. Freedom is not a journey necessarily done alone. Adding value to the lives of others while simultaneously adding value to yourself is part of the experience of fulfilment that brings us that much closer to freedom.  “Those that know, don’t. Those that do not know, know.” Lao Tzu’s claim that we are in perpetual search for knowledge and freedom is the beauty of life’s experience as a lifelong learner. For me, as a husband, father, son and educator, the best way to experience life and the pursuit of freedom is to not only espouse words or teachings but to convey principles of living through it.

Teaching and learning are optimized when there is collaboration, truth, harmony and a willingness to experience discomfort at times.  Flow is a key element to freedom which is waiting to be released from within all of us if we are able to eliminate that which interferes with our performance.  Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, a beacon in the fight and or search for freedom, outlined a blueprint for life, for freedom, in 1967 to a group of middle school students saying…

  •      “Have a  deep belief in your own dignity … We all have worth and significance”.
  •      “Have the determination to achieve excellence…  If you can’t be a highway be a street…..But be that best at whatever you are.”
  •      “Have a commitment to the eternal principles of beauty, love and justice. … We must always keep moving”.

As we celebrate Black History Month, we are reminded of the significance and perpetual struggle for freedom. However, any struggle or challenge is worth committing to be it political, social, economic, or psychological.  All such challenges are learner-centred. As we find our own way to truth, wisdom and transcendence we also help learners find their freedom so they can pay it forward, transforming our globe.

Leave a Reply