What is this desire for freedom?

Bird Droppings July 1, 2022
What is this desire for freedom?

“Brute force, no matter how strongly applied, can never subdue the basic human desire for freedom and dignity. It is not enough, as communist systems have assumed, merely to provide people with food, shelter, and clothing. Human nature needs to breathe the precious air of liberty.” His Holiness the Dalai Lama

In life, as I look back, humans also, while seeking freedom, seem to have an urge to subjugate others. When I was riding down to Emory University’s Oxford campus a few years back to drop my youngest son off for a summer workshop, we talked about people who need to feel in control, in power, to be in charge. So often, people take teaching jobs subconsciously for that reason, I have found over the years as I observe teachers. In talking with my wife about the same topic, she looked from a medical standpoint and, as I often do, looking from a psychological view.

We each, in our way, see the idea of freedom perhaps in differing lights and lenses. While attending a wedding shower recently in a subdivision in another part of the local community, I was not a free person. In my existence, I tend to be somewhat monastic, picking and choosing times to be social and spending much of my day by myself reading, writing, and pondering uninterrupted by the where and whys of social interaction. Everything was under control. I was told each piece of silverware and dish exactly where they needed to be, and gifts placed just so. I escaped as soon as possible.

I recall a few years back, the students’ first day of school in our county. Parents’ posts are all wonderful and glowing about how they are so excited for school to start. Then in the following comments under the first day of school picture, my child forgot their mask; mine will only wear one for a few minutes, and mine won’t wear one. I did not teach last year and would not sub in those situations. Parents are so excited about their children returning yet will not even do the basics of providing or insisting on a mask. My son is teaching high school, and I am curious to see how many students did not wear masks. One thousand people were dying daily in the US, and we were still experimenting with kids in schools. I have worked with many disturbed kids, and I project there will be kids claiming to be positive and coughing on others and many other “pranks” related to Covid19. This is not impinging on your freedom wearing a mask. Why is that so hard for folks to understand.

Last night I watched a rerun of House on Netflix where a blogger laid her life out in minute detail in her blog while living somewhat isolated. She communicated and interacted on a level that was, in many psychological terms, very social. I recalled going to a wedding shower and was lost in a crowd of people I did not know or care to be among. I eventually walked outside after sitting for nearly an hour and a half talking to my cousin, the groom’s father. But as I look at my first paragraph, I had no control over the situation.

Does this apply to learning and education most assuredly, as we often place children in places with little control and few liberties? Often the response is one of flight or harmful behavior as we define the norm and allow only what we as teachers deem appropriate. Freedom is another word: the song from the early 1970s and mid-1960s written by Kris Kristofferson. Working with children with emotional problems whose affect is impacted for whatever reason has me look at the kids I work with differently than most teachers may even attempt.

But in my research over the past few months, I found that in the early 1950s, a group of educational psychologists came up with several learning domains. One of these aspects or domains is the affective domain.

“Receiving, willing to listen, Responding, willing to participate, Valuing, willing to be involved, Organizing, willing to be an advocate and Characterization, willing to change one’s behavior, lifestyle or way of life” Cindy Vinson Ed.D.

These are the five areas of that domain outlined above, so what does an affective domain have to do with freedom? What do bossy people have to do with either? We set ourselves up for failure so often in life. Internally a desire for liberty is confounded by structure in societal entities, school, work, social organizations, and such where we are told what to do by a teacher, boss, or president. So many years ago, I recalled listening to someone discussing business and management back in the day; my son would say. I had dinner with my father and the great management guru Peter Drucker at a management meeting in Chicago.

“So much of what we call management consists in making it difficult for people to work.” Peter Drucker

I read the great business author Peter Drucker’s thoughts and pondered how often he is teaching much the same. I reworded the statement a bit with, could it be then that so much of what we call teaching makes it difficult for students to learn. But later, when discussing this thought, I remembered another quote from a book my father wrote many years ago.

“It is not about telling workers (students) what to do, it is about asking them to do it and further if they believe it is their idea and they take ownership of that idea far more will be accomplished” Frank E. Bird Jr., Practical Loss Control Management

In educational research, empowerment, and ownership significantly increase their achievement level. I have often seen this premise work in industry as workers take ownership of an idea and turn a company around through safety programs. I have seen students who have input in a classroom light up and move forward more than when manacled by a dictator-like teacher. In my research and studies, as I work on my dissertation on The Foxfire Approach to teaching, the number one Core Practice states the following.

“From the beginning, learner choice, design, and revision infuse the work teachers and learners do together.” Foxfire Core Practice one

As I have been directly or indirectly involved for nearly fifty years in training and teaching when a learner, be it adult or child, has ownership of the idea, so much more is accomplished. Work goes from tedious to enjoyable, and success becomes the norm rather than failure. As teachers, how do we give ownership to students of material such as Algebra or US History? How can we take student ideas and intertwine them with the mandated curriculum? These are not simple questions, and there are no simple answers. It takes effort and work and often not being totally in control to allow this to happen and flow.

As I thought a bit more, I wonder if by accepting an inherent desire to be free, as stated by the Dalai Lama and Dr. Vinson’s idea of an affective domain and building upon that, we might have succeeded as students and workers. Imagine if we could build upon this in schools and improve schools because kids want to and not because of federal standards and demands. This concept is essentially the premise behind democracy in the classroom and much of John Dewey’s work on education and democracy in our own country. Every prominent politician is now for or against specific policies, and each has a different reason. However, I find it still necessary to end as I have for nearly fifteen years. Please keep all in harm’s way on your mind and your hearts. For so many years, as I look back and each day find in harm’s way goes so far beyond the wars and tribulations of man. Several friends have battled cancer and won, and as I look even at my own family over the past few years, the emotions and heart-wrenching in harm’s way is a rather broad term. We need to be looking behind each corner and searching our hearts and keep as humans uplifting rather than tearing each other down.

The potential for man is great, but we continually allow ourselves to be sucked into the vacuums of greed and denial. How do we rise and offer a hand? How do we become a nation of people rather than of profit? It takes understanding, and as Dr. Vinson offers, we need to be in the affective domain.

“Receiving, willing to listen, Responding, willing to participate, Valuing, willing to be involved, Organizing, willing to be an advocate and Characterization, willing to change one’s behavior, lifestyle or way of life” Cindy Vinson Ed.D.

So, another first day of school is about to start, and I ponder what I might bring to the table today as a teacher. Hopefully, something that will positively impact students and me close as I have for nearly fifteen years; please keep all in harm’s way on your minds and in your hearts and always give thanks namaste.

My family and friends, I do not say this lightly,
Mitakuye Oyasin
(We are all related)

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