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Unless you give equal opportunity to every kid to learn,
your purpose will be defeated
In Australia we're largely familiar with the word ‘freedom.' We use
‘freedom' phrases constantly, without blinking an eyelid: freedom of
choice, freedom of information, freedom of the press, etc.
Some people think we live in a "nanny state" with too many
rules and regulations. But our freedom is still largely intact. It's
only when we meet people from oppressive countries that we understand
the true value of Australian freedoms. We're free to be creative, to
be self-expressive, to gain and to share knowledge and be who we truly are.
The word freedom has sparked many social changes. Take the Freedom
Ride of 1965, when a group of Sydney University students rode an old
bus through regional NSW towns to draw attention to the sub-standard
state of Aboriginal health, education and housing.
Over the last 50 years Australia has become a mature country that
values skills, knowledge and innovation. And the right to an
affordable education has been big on Australia's agenda. Just how
closely is the concept of freedom related to education? Can we have
true freedom without an affordable and accessible educational system
at all levels?
The ideal form of education can be likened to soccer. This comparison
was made by Jesse Jackson, the legendary American civil rights
activist who twice ran for the US Presidency and is best known as the
disciple of Martin Luther King. "Both sides need an even-playing
field," stated Jackson. "Unless you give equal opportunity
to every kid to learn, your purpose will be defeated." He was
referring to lack of opportunity in the Afro-American communities of
the 50s, 60s and 70s.
TED blogger Demetrius Amadeus argues that a level playing field
requires four fundamentals to reach freedom.
The first is a constant and secure supply of food. No one can be free
with an empty belly.
The second is knowledge. Without it, freedom is just a fantasy. It's
like trying to walk in a dark room without bumping into things.
The third is self-discipline. Exercising your freedom without it
leads you to self-destruction. Anything from obesity to drug abuse and
everything in between.
The fourth is responsibility. A lack of it can lead to debauchery or
crime. It can make you harm others in all sorts of ways - from mental
Can we all educate our children to true freedom? American social
blogger Yaacov Cohen recommends teaching them not to look at reality
as defining their acts, but to look at their acts as defining reality.
A bit like Maslow's hierarchy of needs – only when you've reached
self-actualisation and self-awareness can you truly meet your needs
and the needs of others.
Bill Gates and Steve Jobs – founders of Microsoft and Apple
respectively - attained their own version of freedom. They empowered
everyday people to gain knowledge, to help the oppressed spread ideas
and by challenging the notion that education is only for the
privileged who can afford it.
Gates and Jobs may not have set out to revolutionise education (they
were both college drop-outs), but revolutionising education is
probably what they've done. They've built technology empires that put
education on your desk (with a PC) and in the palm of your hand (with
an iPad or mobile phone).
South African poet Feyisayo Anjorin sums it up this way;
"Freedom for me is knowing that you reap what you sow, and
then sowing without the fear of the harvest."
The central philosophy of TAFE NSW is that anyone can use education
to unlock their abilities and potential, and make a contribution to a
better Australia. In the end, we all hope to live without fear of the harvest.