Tomorrow is the 4th of July. Even growing up in Great Britain I was aware that this date had a particular importance. The 4th of July is “Independence Day”.
It got me thinking about the word “independence” and what it really means.
I looked up an online Thesaurus of the word and got this:
independence – freedom from control or influence of another or others
freedom – the condition of being free; the power to act or speak or think without externally imposed restraints
self-direction, self-reliance, self-sufficiency, autonomy – personal independence
Now I looked at these various ideas related to the word and it made me think,as I would being a teacher, about the fact that we often use the word “independence” in education. We want our children to read independently, to write independently, to think independently and to create independently. But our ideals related to this idea do not relate to the practice that can be seen in so many schools.
Do they feel “free” to read what they want, to write what they are concerned about, to think about what matters to them, to create in their own way music, art, videos, to explore their world in the their own way? I think that in so many ways they are not truly independent.
The opposite of independence is control. Control is where someone holds you tightly within their grasp and defines your agenda for life. They state what you should read, what and how you should write and how you should think. It is the Orwellian nightmare of “thought policing” and the total control of your life by a “Big Brother” who is constantly watching you and knows how you should lead your life better than you do.
On a continuum of total control to real independence I wonder where we place our schools today? Are these test driven institutions enabling real independence? I don’t think so.
Independence is an important ideal to me. I believe that we need to aim to produce pupils who are truly independent in thought and action. It is something to reflect upon as we approach the great day.