The highest value
… Each man has his or her values and highest goals in this real world. Yet, there is one highest value, which all other goals and values correspondingly relate to.
It is extremely important for teachers and educators to understand what this highest value is.
In our opinion this highest value is something, which people have dreamed and argued about for thousands and years, and which has been the most difficult thing for people to understand – and it is freedom.
We are asked, “Who must we raise up now?”
We answer, “A free man.”
What is freedom?
In order to answer this question hundreds of books were written on the subject and this is understandable because freedom is an infinite concept. It belongs to the highest concepts of men and that is why, in principle it can’t have an exact description. Infinite things can’t be described in words, they are beyond words.
At whatever time people live, they will always try to understand what freedom is and will always strive for it.
There is no complete social freedom in the world, there is no economic freedom for each man, and likely, it will never be. But, there are lots of free men. How has this happened?
The word freedom has two different concepts which are diverse from one another. In fact when we talk about freedom, we talk about two different things.
Philosophers analyzed this difficult word and came to the conclusion that there is “freedom from” as freedom from external oppression and compulsion. And there is “freedom for” – the internal freedom of a man for his or her self-realization.
External freedom can’t be absolute, but internal freedom can be unlimited even in the most difficult life.
In pedagogy free upbringing has often been discussed. Teachers of this direction strive to give a child external freedom at school. Here we are talking about something else, and that is internal freedom – something a person can afford in any circumstances, for which it is not necessary to create a special school.
Internal freedom doesn’t depend strictly on the external one. In a free society there can be dependent people, and in the most dependent country where people are oppressed, there live free people. Therefore, it is never too early or too late to bring up free people. We must raise up free people, not because our society has reached freedom – this is questionable – but because our pupil himself or herself needs internal freedom, in whatever society he or she lives.
A free man – is a man who is free internally. As all other people, externally he or she depends on society. Internally he or she is independent. A society can become liberated externally – from oppression, but it can become free only when the majority of people are free internally.
This must be, in our opinion, the goal of upbringing – the internal freedom of a man. By raising up internally free men we bring the highest benefit to our students and to the country that strives for freedom.
This is nothing new. Look at the best teachers, recall your own best educators – they all strived to bring up free students. That is why we remember them.
The world is maintained and developed by internally free people.
What is internal freedom?
Internal freedom is as contradictive as freedom itself. The internally free man, a free personality is free in one way and not free in another way.
What is the internally free man free from? First of all – he or she is free from fear of people and life; from conventional opinion. He or she is independent from the crowd, from stereotypical thinking. He or she is able to have their own personal point of view; free from prejudices. He or she is free from envy, selfishness and from aggressive personal drives.
We can see- everything human is free in him.
We can easily recognize a free person. He behaves unaffectedly; he thinks differently, he never shows servility and aggressive impertinence. He appreciates the freedom of each man. He doesn’t boast about his own freedom, and he doesn’t fight for his personal freedom – he always has it. It is given to him as an endless possession. He doesn’t live for freedom – he lives freely. This is an easy man, people feel good being with him, and they are always loved.
But there is something which the free man is not really free from. This is very important to understand.
What is the free man not free from?
What is conscience?
If we don’t understand what conscience is then we won’t understand what an internally free man is. Freedom without conscience is a false freedom. This is one of the hardest dependencies. A free man without conscience is a slave to his bad strivings, a slave of life’s circumstances. Such a man will use his external freedom for evil purposes. People won’t call such a man free. In the social consciousness freedom is perceived as goodness.
Please, be attentive of that important difference: we didn’t say: he is free from his own conscience as people usually say. It is because conscience can’t be someone’s own. Conscience is both personal and universal. Conscience is that one thing that is available in each individual man. Conscience is something that unites people.
Conscience is the truth, living among people and in each person. It is one for all of us. We perceive it with language, upbringing, and communication with each other. We don’t need to ask what the truth is. It is as inexpressible in words as freedom is. But we recognize it by the feeling of fairness, which each of us experiences when life is fair. And each of us suffers when justice is violated – when truth is encroached upon. Conscience, a purely personal and yet, a public feeling, tells us where the truth is, and where it is not. Conscience makes a man follow the truth, that is, to live with the truth, to live fairly. A free man strictly obeys his conscience, and nothing else.
The main thing in upbringing is that a teacher whose goal is to bring up free men must be fair.
There is no vacuum. We don’t need any governmental order. There is only one goal of upbringing for all time – the internal freedom of a man, freedom for the truth.
The education of an internally free man begins in childhood.
Internal freedom is a natural gift, a special talent, which can be stifled as any other talent, or it can be developed. This talent, one way or another, is available in each person, as each person has conscience. But a man both listens to his conscience and tries to live with it, or it is suppressed by life’s circumstances and upbringing.
The goal – the upbringing of a free man – defines all forms and methods of communication with children.
If a child doesn’t know oppression and learns to live with his conscience, then other living and social skills, which traditional theories of upbringing often talk about, come to him by themselves. In our opinion, upbringing means development, maintenance, and guidance of internal freedom, which each child already has.
But children can be free-willed, capricious, and aggressive. Many adults, parents and teachers think that it is dangerous to give children freedom.
Here is the threshold between two approaches in upbringing; those who want to raise up a free child will accept him as he or she is. They will love the child with a liberating love. They believe in the child, and this faith helps them to be patient. Those who don’t think of freedom fear it, and don’t believe in the child, – they inevitably oppress the child’s spirit, and thus, kill and suppress his conscience. Love to the child becomes oppressive. Such stifling upbringing results in unpleasant people in society. Without freedom all goals, even if they seem to be lofty, become false and dangerous for children.
In order to grow up free, from childhood a child must be around free people, and from the beginning – free teachers. Because internal freedom doesn’t depend directly on society, a teacher can strongly influence the talent for freedom which is hidden in each child, as happens with musical, athletic, and artistic talents.
Upbringing of a free man is possible for each of us, each individual teacher. Here is that field where one person can do everything. It is because children are drawn to free people, trust them, admire them, and are thankful to them. Whatever happens in school, an internally free teacher can be the victor.
A teacher who is free accepts a child as equal. This way he creates an atmosphere in which a free man can grow. Perhaps the teacher gives the child a taste of freedom – and therefore rescues the child, teaches him or her to appreciate freedom, and shows that it is possible to live as a free man.
It is much easier for a teacher do take the first step in the upbringing of a free man and showing the talent for freedom, if the teacher works in a free school. At a free school there are free children and free teachers. There aren’t too many of such schools. However, they do exist, and therefore the ideal can be embodied.
The main thing in the free school is not that children are allowed to do whatever they want. Freedom doesn’t mean a release from discipline, but it means that the teachers’ free spirit, independence, and respect for teachers is present. There are many very strict schools with traditional order, but those elite schools give society the most valuable people. It is because they have free, talented, and honest teachers who are devoted to their work; therefore the spirit of justice is maintained in those schools. However, in such authoritative schools not all children grow up free. Some of the weakest children lose their talent for freedom. The school may break them.
The truly free school is such where children go with joy, where freedom rules in each lesson. Only in such schools do children get some sense of life. They learn to think freely, to behave independently, to live freely and to appreciate freedom, their own and other men’s freedom.
The way to bring up free people
Freedom is a goal and a way.
For teachers it is important to enter this way and to follow it. The way to freedom is very difficult. It can’t be passed without mistakes, but let’s pursue the goal anyway.
The first question of freedom teachers: Am I sure I oppress my students or not? When I force them to do something, what is the reason for it? I think that it is for their benefit, but am I sure I am not killing their freedom talent? I have a group of pupils and I need certain order to conduct lessons, but won’t I break a child while trying to maintain discipline?
Perhaps not every teacher finds the answer for each question, but it is important that those questions are asked.
Freedom dies when fear appears. The way to bring up free people – is complete liberation from fear. A teacher doesn’t fear children and children don’t fear their teacher – and freedom itself is in the classroom.
Liberation from fear is the first step to freedom at school.
What is left to add is that a free man will always be beautiful. Isn’t it a dream of teachers to bring up spiritually beautiful and proud people?
This article is written by S.Soloveychik, 1994, translated by A.Aubanova and V.Dull, 2006