Education Freedom Manifesto – Section 2: The Education of a Free Mind

This is the third post in a series comprising my Education Freedom Manifesto (full PDF Download). For part two in this series, click here.

Education Freedom Manifesto

Section 2

The Education of a Free Mind

Earth is a school, and learning is freedom in practice. It is the means by which people deal with reality and discover how to transform their lives and their world.

Choice and Responsibility

The greatest gifts you can give your children are the roots of responsibility and the wings of independence.
Denis Waitley

The essence of life is choice; do not cripple others by taking it from them. By the same token, do not shelter them from natural results; let real consequences shape their understanding. Agendas of control and entitlement prevent people from becoming thoughtful and independent. The best preparation for life is living it.

Self-Determination

The objective of education is to prepare the young to educate themselves throughout their lives.
Robert Maynard Hutchins

An education cannot be given; it must be taken. The first and most important lesson a free mind must learn is that someone else cannot educate you. Learning can happen without a teacher, but there is no learning without a learner. If people aren’t interested, they won’t learn. People must consciously make the decision that they will educate themselves. Self-determination is the beginning of learning.

All men who have turned out worth anything have had the chief hand in their own education.
Sir Walter Scott

Any teaching that the learner has not asked for is likely to impede and prevent his or her learning.
John Holt

You cannot teach someone against their will. The opposite is also true: self-determined people are unstoppable. Those who insist on knowing the truth and are willing to look for it are the ones who will recognize it when they find it. People must pursue knowledge, not the other way around. The same is true of all worthy pursuits: only those who seek will find.

Nothing can stop the man with the right mental attitude from achieving his goal;
nothing on earth can help the man with the wrong mental attitude.
Thomas Jefferson

The Fruits of Self-Determination

Persistence

Nothing in the world can take the place of persistence.
Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent.
Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb.
Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts.
Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent.
The slogan, ‘Press on,’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.
Calvin Coolidge

Also known as attention span, persistence is the ability to stay with a task for a reasonably long period of time. Unmotivated people give up easily when they are not instantly successful. People learn persistence when they are successful at a challenging task. Overcoming setbacks and failures shows people that challenges should not be overwhelming.

Challenge Seeking

Accept the challenges so that you may feel the exhilaration of victory.
George S. Patton

Motivated people seek challenges. When they have experienced success in meeting a challenge, they welcome other challenges. Mastering appropriate challenges is very satisfying. Unmotivated people will choose very easy tasks that ensure instant success, which is not satisfying.

Independence

Man’s release from a tutelage is enlightenment.
His tutelage is his inability to make use of his understanding without guidance from another.
Immanuel Kant

People with strong intrinsic motivation do not need others constantly watching and directing their activities. People who are conditioned to need constant attention and assurance from others cannot function independently. Dependence on others greatly limits a person’s ability to live a life of dignity.

Satisfaction

If you want to be happy, set a goal that commands your thoughts, liberates your energy, and inspires your hopes.
Andrew Carnegie

Self-motivated people are happy. They enjoy their work and find great satisfaction in it. People who have been conditioned to only follow orders become sullen and bored, and often complain. People should never need to ask if they have done well; they should know and be confident in their own success. It is not necessary to praise and reward people for their own actions as they learn to control their lives and their environment.

Intrinsic Motivation

The process by which children turn experience into knowledge is exactly the same,
point for point, as the process by which those whom we call scientists make scientific knowledge.
John Holt

The assumption that people need artificial incentives to learn is false. By the age of 2, children set their own goals and evaluate their own efforts. By the age of 3, they become interested in doing things well, as opposed to just doing them. They judge their success by their own internal standards, and do not need a lot of adult feedback about the quality of their efforts. By the age of 4, children become active verbal problem solvers and direct their own learning through speech and direct their own behavior to solve problems. They can often be heard talking themselves through a problem. As they get older, this talking becomes an internal monologue.

You cannot teach a man anything; you can only help him discover it in himself.
Galileo Galilei

People learn from everything they do and experience. They are naturally curious; they want to learn and discover. If their explorations bring pleasure or success, they will want to learn more. In their first few years of life, people form attitudes about learning that can last a lifetime. People who receive the right sort of support and encouragement during their formative years are most likely to be creative and adventurous throughout their lives.

You can motivate by fear. You can motivate by reward.
But both of these methods are only temporary.
The only lasting thing is self-motivation.
Homer Rice

When people make their own choices, they achieve satisfaction from both the act of choosing and from pursuing their interest. Their motivation is self-sustaining for as long as they want to continue the activity. Since intrinsically-motivated activity is more rewarding in and of itself, people learn more from this sort of activity, they learn faster, and they retain that learning better. Learning is most dependent on inherent interest, which inspires emotional engagement, authentic social interaction, physical activity, and the pleasure of mastery.

How to Think, Not What to Think

Learning how to learn is life’s most important skill.
Tony Buzan

Giving answers to people apart from teaching how to get answers is wrong.
Wrong because just giving an answer alone creates dependence upon the one answering.
That is not the way in which I have tried to proceed.
Instead, I have tried to teach how to obtain your own answers.
The whole purpose of teaching is NOT to create dependence. It is to make you independent.
Denver Snuffer

The most valuable skill is the ability to think creatively and independently. The ability to think and reason is more important than memorizing facts and procedures. Facts are only meaningful if you can find them, interpret them, analyze them, and connect them to each other.

We learn more by looking for the answer to a question and not finding it than we do from learning the answer itself.
Lloyd Alexander

Mental acuity comes from solving problems, not from being told how to solve them. Understanding a meaningful problem is more important than memorizing the related opinions of others. Good questions are more valuable than their answers.

Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.
George Orwell, 1984

That which can be done without thinking usually is done without thinking. Free minds ask their own questions and are not satisfied with dogmatic responses. Free minds reject the superstition of memorizing and believing things they don’t understand.

Education is more than filling a child with facts. It starts with posing questions.
D.T. Max

Thinking is a Set of Skills

Many people think they are thinking when they are merely rearranging their prejudices.
William James

Like other skills, thinking skills can be practiced and improved. Every mind is a tool that can be sharpened. Great thinkers are made, not born; and it’s never too late to start.

You are not thinking; you are merely being logical.
Niels Bohr

Deep, critical thinking is more than organizing the apparently obvious; it is an exercise in purposeful examination and problem solving. Beyond logic, great thinkers must learn: problem perception, information gathering, evidence appraisal, relevant context, precise language, historical precedence, unstated assumptions, core values, self-examination, pattern recognition, nuance discernment, accurate interpretation, implication projection, conclusion evaluation, alternative consideration, and effective communication.

Even people who aren’t geniuses can outthink the rest of mankind if they develop certain thinking habits.
Charles Munger

When skills of thought are practiced correctly and consistently, they become positive habits of mind. People who develop these habits are not susceptible to the propaganda of marketers, con men, or politicians. They are not easily swayed by irrational arguments or emotional manipulation.

The whole of science is nothing more than a refinement of everyday thinking.
Albert Einstein

Simply trusting important matters to experts is not always wise in a world where experts often disagree with each other. Even great thinkers do not always reach the same conclusions. In matters of significance, everyone must examine the truth for themselves.

He who will not reason is a bigot; he who cannot is a fool; and he who dares not is a slave.
William Drummond

Connections to Truth and Greatness

Those who know how to think need no teachers.
Mohandas Gandhi

Free minds don’t benefit from having reality edited on their behalf by certified professionals; they benefit from exposure to truth and greatness in all of their genuine forms.

Experience is a good school, but the fees are high.
Heinrich Heine

Time is a great teacher, but unfortunately it kills all its pupils.
Hector Berlioz

Time and experience teach us all, but people ideally learn wisdom from the times and experiences of others as well. Great thoughts and great lives are elevated on the shoulders of others.

I don’t pretend we have all the answers, but the questions are certainly worth thinking about.
Arthur C. Clarke

What is important is to keep learning, to enjoy challenge, and to tolerate ambiguity.
In the end there are no certain answers.
Matina Horner

Free minds are not without their doubts and uncertainties. Indeed, it is their doubts and uncertainties that guide them in finding and recognizing truth and greatness. A free mind must develop a tolerance for uncertainty.

Education is the ability to listen to almost anything without losing your temper or your self-confidence.
Robert Frost

It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.
Aristotle

Great Books and Great Ideas

To be ignorant of what happened before you were born is to be ever a child.
Marcus Tullius Cicero

It is chiefly through books that we enjoy intercourse with superior minds.
William Ellery Channing

The great conversation of human history is filled with experiences and insights that are too often neglected. Even people with years of formal training are often led to accept false dichotomies and flawed assumptions that distract from and distort truly great ideas.

Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people.
Eleanor Roosevelt

For a mind to become a great tool, it must be sharpened on great ideas. Great ideas help people find solutions to practical concerns, but they also answer the most basic questions of life. Wrestling with great ideas promotes liberty and prosperity, brings about new technologies, and enriches human life with purpose and meaning.

Employ your time in improving yourself by other men’s writings
so that you shall come easily by what others have labored hard for.
Socrates

In order to comprehend the ideas that have shaped the world, we need to confront those ideas at their sources. We must face reality and grapple with its complexity and variety. This is best done by reading real books and engaging in real experiences. Reading and writing about great ideas refines the human mind and enlarges its capacity faster than any other activity.

Philosophy is everybody’s business.
Mortimer J. Adler

Exposure to the ideas and lives of great people gives balance to perception and weaves together the common principles in all facets of life: programming machine systems, practicing law, learning languages, analyzing business opportunities, considering politics, playing team sports, settling conflicts, creating art, etc.

It is books that are the key to the wide world; if you can’t do anything else, read all that you can.
Jane Hamilton

Great care must be taken by every free mind to seek out and study the best books.

Reading furnishes the mind only with materials of knowledge;
it is thinking that makes what we read ours.
John Locke

The combination of critical thinking and great ideas empowers men and women to control their own lives and change the world they live in for the better. Great minds are not only able to converse freely about great ideas; they are able to engage in great causes and bring about good results for themselves and others.

When you want to teach children to think, you begin by treating them seriously when they are little,
giving them responsibilities, talking to them candidly, providing privacy and solitude for them,
and making them readers and thinkers of significant thoughts from the beginning.
Bertrand Russell

Next in this series: Section 3: The Role of Family

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