Every Child is Born Free?

If the saying, by Voltaire is true, “man is free at the moment he wishes to be”, why then is it not worthy also for a child?

 In traditional schooling, teachers have always been convinced that children are definitely not ready or able to be free, nor to decide by themselves about real issues, concerning decisions that can make the difference in their own lives. However, teachers are sure that children must automatically follow what teachers say and do without questioning, and acknowledge everything which is dictated to them as fundamental for their school pathway.

 When people ask me about Glacier Lake School, I tell them to forget what they have always considered essential for a school. It sounds difficult and hard even to imagine. How can kids learn if they don’t have an all-knowing and all-powerful mentor leading them? How can they face school if it is too easy and nothing is compulsory? If there must be a right moment for students to learn a particular thing, and if they do not, could it be too late and will this affect their future?

 At Glacier Lake School I felt free first, because I was surrounded by students and staff members who considered each other as complete people that every day come to a place in which they have room and time to feel what is most compelling and overriding to them. They constitute a community built on mutual trust, where everybody can concretely exercise rights and duties in order to spend school years in a very positive, mindful and significant way.

 Every personal choice matches the educational personal responsibility of every child. Everyone can learn from everyone else and can teach everyone else. Every issue, no matter how big or small, is always seen as solvable because everybody within the school community can use the tools of democracy and has the possibility of disagreeing, and at the same time, of proposing something that matters for him or her.

 It is wisely said that you become really aware of your freedom only when you lose it. What if you have never experienced it in the first years of your life? What about students in traditional schools, where they are not trusted to be free, neither by parents nor by teachers; and paradoxically even when you give them some freedom, they actually don’t know how to use it?

 I think we should try not to paraphrase another French philosopher, Rousseau, saying that every child is born free, because in every traditional school they are in chains.

Isn’t it true though, that children are too full of ideas and thoughts to be locked up in the educational misconceptions of adults?

Maurizio Allasia

Maurizio is an Educator from Turin in Italy and recently came to spend three weeks with the community at Glacier Lake School in Montana.