In this episode, we explore the opposing ideas of freedom and coercion, from their philosophical roots to their modern societal manifestations to their influence on unschooling theory and practice.
Thomas Jefferson (1816): “If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be.”[i]
In 1817, Jefferson wrote: “It is better to tolerate the rare instance of a parent refusing to let his child be educated, than to shock the common feelings and ideas by forcible asportation and education of the infant against the will of the father.”[ii]
John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (1859):
“An individual] cannot rightfully be compelled to do or forbear because it will be better for him to do so, because it will make him happier, because, in the opinions of others, to do so would be wise, or even right. These are good reasons for remonstrating with him, or reasoning with him, or persuading him, or entreating him, but not for compelling him, or visiting him with any evil in case he do otherwise.”
“Those who are still in a state to require being taken care of by others, must be protected against their own actions as well as against external injury.”
“It might leave to parents to obtain the education when and how they pleased, and content itself with helping to pay the school fees of the poorer classes of children."
“A general State education is a mere contrivance for moulding people to be exactly like one another : and as the mould in which it casts them is that which pleases the predominant power in the government, whether this be a monarch, a priesthood, an aris tocracy, or the majority of the existing generation, in proportion as it is efficient and successful, it establishes a despotism over the mind, leading by natural tendency to one over the body. An education established and controlled by the State, should only exist, if it exist at all, as one among many competing experiments, carried on . for the purpose of example and stimulus, to keep the others up to a certain standard of excellence.”
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[i]Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Charles Yancy, January 6, 1816, http://tjrs.monticello.org/letter/327
[ii]Thomas Jefferson, The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, ed. Andrew A. Lipscomb (The Thomas Jefferson Memorial Association, 1904), 423.