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Education Is About the Search for Freedom

By Derrick C. des Vignes

07/18/2019

Education Is About the Search for Freedom
“The basic instinct of human beings is their search for freedom.”
—Warren Miller

There are many ideas about what education is 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 education 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 education model, I would like to offer a simple concept on which to reflect 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 the 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 of these 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 (see image).

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 possessions, susceptibility to unnecessary distractions, fear of inadequacy, the state of being consumed by ego…

Jocelyn Wiley explains that in our classrooms “this may manifest in an obsession with the latest device or designer clothing item; the constant distractions of the phone in the pocket; fear of making a mistake or failing a test; an ego exaggerated by competitiveness or adolescent hormones.”

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 we are so desperately looking for: the place where freedom resides. It is what brings us happiness, peace, fulfilment, and a willingness to do more. If only helping students to access this state could 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. Its pursuit is not necessarily a journey on which we embark alone. Adding value to the lives of others while simultaneously adding value to oneself 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 search for freedom, outlined a blueprint for life and 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.”

In celebration of Black History, 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-centered. 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.

Derrick des Vignes is an educator and coach at Ridley College in St. Catharines Ontario. Ridley College’s positive education community is one of only ten Visible Well Being Foundation Schools in the world and the first in North America.




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Comments

07/18/2019 - ChrisIrvinEducation
Thank you Derrick for writing and sharing this article!

I have three big take-aways:

Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi & her “zone” (great stuff)

Favorite quote from your writing: "Adding value to the lives of others while simultaneously adding value to oneself is part of the experience of fulfillment that brings us that much closer to freedom."

Finally with discrimination still being rampant on the world scale (especially in the US right now) drawing correlations from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr is always welcome (needed in fact!).

Keep up the writing!

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