Education Freedom Manifesto – Section 5: Knowledge and the Human Curriculum

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

Education Freedom Manifesto

Section 5

Knowledge and the Human Curriculum

Thought is the wind, knowledge the sail, and mankind the vessel.
Augustus and Julius Hare

The Right to Learn

He who receives ideas from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine;
as he who lights his taper at mine receives light without darkening me.
Thomas Jefferson

The fundamental freedoms of thought, belief, and sharing belong to all mankind. All people have the right to learn and the right to share knowledge with each other.

Control over the use of one’s ideas really constitutes control over other people’s lives;
and it is usually used to make their lives more difficult.
Richard M. Stallman

Knowledge must be free. That is, free from artificial limits to access, use, adapt, and share. It is also generally available without significant cost, since modern technology has made the cost of copying, storing, and sharing information negligible. Printing and libraries changed the world for the better; electronic media and networks are accelerating that change.

Nothing could be more misleading than the idea that computer technology introduced the age of information.
The printing press began that age, and we have not been free of it since.
Neil Postman

Knowledge freedom also requires technology freedom. Computer software, standards, and file formats that respect people’s rights to learn and share are increasingly important in our modern world. The alternatives of artificial scarcity and unnatural monopoly of ideas can be profitable for some, but at the cost of ignorance, exclusion, and marginalization of the majority. The tragedy of the commons has no effect on information; it is not conserved like matter and energy.

Access to knowledge determines our degree of participation in society today.
Free Knowledge Foundation

The Human Curriculum

A liberal education… frees a man from the prison-house of his
class, race, time, place, background, family and even his nation.
Robert Maynard Hutchins

All knowledge is interrelated and must be understood in proper context. The human curriculum has two aspects: intellectual studies and practical studies. These two aspects are naturally linked and provide balance in education and life. Each subject area represents a category of concepts and activities that enable people to live in greater independence, abundance, and peace in our modern world.

Intellectual Studies


Be not the slave of words.
Thomas Carlyle

Language shapes the way we think, and determines what we can think about.
Benjamin Lee Whorf

Our thoughts are limited by the language we can employ to give them substance. Deep thoughts are enabled by a deep vocabulary and a deep understanding of how to use words.

Most people are unable to write because they are unable to think.
Henry Louis Mencken

Writing and learning and thinking are the same process.
William Zinsser

Reading and writing well are the pillars of a formal education. They directly affect the ability to think and create. They also help to clarify ideas that are worth expressing to others.

To have another language is to possess a second soul.

In an increasingly networked global society, knowing more than one language is more valuable than ever. Learning another language also provides a unique perspective for examining your own language.

Language exerts hidden power, like the moon on the tides.
Rita Mae Brown

Essential Topics: Reading, Writing, Grammar, Rhetoric, Public Speaking, Foreign / Ancient Language

Historical Awareness

If you would understand anything, observe its beginning and its development.

Mankind are so much the same, in all times and places, that history informs us of nothing new or strange
in this particular. Its chief use is only to discover the constant and universal principles of human nature.
David Hume

History is mankind’s collective memory. It is a testament of human nature. People who study the past can see the world and themselves in context. Human nature is at the heart of our past, and those who do not understand it are easily misled.

The only true knowledge of things is the knowledge of their causes.
Archbishop Leighton

I thought it necessary to study history, even to study it deeply,
in order to obtain a clear meaning of our immediate time.
Paul Valery

It is not enough to know the names and dates of historically important events. We must know their context, their causes, and how they have shaped the present. We must learn from the mistakes and build on the successes.

There will always be a connection between the way in which men contemplate the past
and the way in which they contemplate the present.
Harry Thomas Buckle

For wisdom is the great end of History. It is designed to supply the want of experience.
Hugh Blair

Reading about the past accelerates life experience. By investigating the experiences of others, we become better equipped to discern the origin of current realities, as well as how to best deal with them.

Honest history is the weapon of freedom.
A.M. Schlesinger, Jr.

A complete education must include a historical and practical understanding of governments and economics. Too many history books or courses are focused on details of the lives of famous people and the wars they instigated, rather than on the principles they acted upon. History is not just one long war handed down from generation to generation by famous people. It is a record of the human struggle for freedom. It is essential to investigate and focus on the principles behind people and events.

Essential Topics: The Human Condition, Geography, Civilization, National History, Government, Religion, Law, Philosophy, Economics

Problem Solving

Intelligence is not about memorizing old answers and avoiding mistakes—
behavior our old system defines as intelligent. True intelligence is about
learning to solve problems in order to qualify to solve bigger problems.
True intelligence is about the joy of learning rather than the fear of failing.
Robert Kiyosaki

The world is full of problems to solve. Solving complex problems requires numeracy and the ability to reason. Without an understanding of numbers and logic, people are limited to living with unnecessary problems.

The universe is a grand book which cannot be read until one first learns to comprehend the language and
become familiar with the characters in which it is composed. It is written in the language of mathematics.
Galileo Galilei

What we easily forget, in our passionate twentieth-century love affair with abstract thinking,
is that to make an abstraction out of some part of reality we must take some meaning out of it.
John Holt

Too often we give children answers to remember rather than problems to solve.
Roger Lewin

Mathematics and related disciplines should not be treated as a set of abstract facts to be memorized without context or application. Mathematics and related disciplines are tool sets for solving increasingly complex problems. Mathematical formulas should only be learned as part of the process of solving interesting problems.

Essential Topics: Arithmetic, Logic, Algebra, History of Mathematics, Geometry, Trigonometry, Calculus, Computer Science, Statistics and Probability, Engineering

Reasoning and Discovery

No doubt those who really founded modern science were
usually those whose love of truth exceeded their love of power.
C. S. Lewis

We gain our ends only with the laws of nature; we control her only by understanding her laws.
Jacob Bronowski

Educated people know how the physical world works. They are familiar with natural laws of cause and effect, matter, energy, living organisms, gravity, environmental systems, and solar systems.
Science is simply common sense at its best; that is,
rigidly accurate in observation, and merciless to fallacy in logic.
Thomas Henry Huxley

Natural truths are discovered by people who have learned to observe accurately, reason with discipline, and make educated guesses.

Wisdom begins in wonder.

Knowledge is an unending adventure at the edge of uncertainty.
Jacob Bronowski

Essential Topics: Earth Sciences, Biology, Chemistry, Physics

Creativity and Expression

My contention is that creativity now is as important in education as literacy,
and we should treat it with the same status.
Sir Ken Robinson

In a world where computers and machines perform so much predictable and physical work, the capacity to formulate new ideas and create new things is crucial to success.

Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep.
Scott Adams

Creative expression gives meaning and pleasure to effort. It connects what we feel with what we think, and helps us move beyond the limitations of what we know and believe.

Art is a lie which makes us realize the truth.
Pablo Picasso

Essential Topics: Creativity, Music, Visual Arts, Design, Authorship, Innovation

Practical Studies

Physical Wellness

To keep the body in good health is a duty… otherwise we shall not be able to keep our mind strong and clear.

Those who think they have no time for healthy eating, will sooner or later have to find time for illness.
Edward Stanley

Physical activity and healthy eating are essential parts of a good life. Everyone should know how human bodies function and develop.

Knowing self-defense is something everyone should be concerned with. No one has the right to hurt you, ever.
Michael Janich

Personal safety is a human right, and knowing how and when to defend yourself and others from harm is an important part of life.

Leave all the afternoon for exercise and recreation, which are as necessary as reading.
I will rather say more necessary because health is worth more than learning.
Thomas Jefferson

Recreation is not only important for personal reasons, but for social reasons as well. People must set aside significant time to enjoy with others.

Essential Topics: Human Health and Development, Nutrition, Self-Defense, Recreation


I know no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves;
and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion,
the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion by education.
Thomas Jefferson

Free people know what their rights are, how to exercise them, and how to defend them. People in positions of power can only abuse that power with the consent of their constituents.

I am a citizen, not of Athens or Greece, but of the world.

I am a citizen of humanity first and by necessity, and a citizen of France second, and only by accident.
Charles de Montesquieu

Essential Topics: Manners, Culture, Community, Civics, Ethics, Teamwork, Leadership


Self-reliance is the only road to true freedom, and being one’s own person is its ultimate reward.
Patricia Sampson

Everyone is a self-made person, but only the successful admit it.

Educated people have useful practical knowledge and skills. They know how to produce and prepare food, make and maintain clothing and shelter, and navigate their environment.

The highest manifestation of life consists in this: that a being governs its own actions.
A thing which is always subject to the direction of another is somewhat of a dead thing.
St. Thomas Aquinas

Exercises in self-reliance do more than teach the basics of survival. They teach people that they can trust and rely on themselves even when they aren’t forced by circumstance to do so. The resulting confidence is something every mature individual should possess.

Essential Topics: Agriculture, Cooking, Sewing, Navigation, Property Maintenance and Repair, Shelter Construction


Science and technology multiply around us.
To an increasing extent they dictate the languages in which we speak and think.
Either we use those languages, or we remain mute.
J.G. Ballard

All people should be familiar with basic tools and machines and how to safely use them. They should learn to make simple useful objects from common materials. They should be able to troubleshoot and make elementary repairs on the devices in their daily lives. In modern society, people who do not know how a car functions, how a light switch functions, or how a computer functions are at a considerable disadvantage in life.

Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
Arthur C. Clarke

Essential Topics: Hand Tools, Power Tools, Appliances, Machines and Manufacturing, Transportation Technology, Computer Technology


The number one problem in today’s generation and economy is the lack of financial literacy.
Alan Greenspan

Those who are financially illiterate live their lives at the mercy of others. From a very young age, people should exercise the financial discipline to earn their own money, track income and expenses, and avoid consumer debt. Educated people are comfortable and familiar with topics such as: value, exchange, commodity, stewardship, money, debt, credit, fiat currency, scarcity, abundance, supply and demand, equity, market, monopoly, capital, cash flow, asset, liability, deficit, foreclosure, bankruptcy, surplus, net and gross income, profit, investment, dividend, principle, simple interest, compound interest, compound inflation, liquidity, funds, accounts, risk, exit strategy, tax, tariff, fee, premium, incorporation, insurance, collateral, mortgage, public and private stock, bonds, derivatives, regulations, and so on.

Entrepreneurship is neither a science nor an art. It is a practice.
Peter Drucker

A wise man will make more opportunities than he finds.
Francis Bacon

Educated people can earn material things they need for life. They do not believe that the world owes them a job, or that success is decided by chance. They are proactive and prepared to make their own opportunities. They mitigate risk rather than avoid it. They make long-term financial resource management plans for their financial security rather than blindly trusting others with their material future. Regardless of their profession or station in life, they take responsibility for their work.

If a man empties his purse into his head, no man can take it away from him.
An investment in knowledge always pays the best interest.
Benjamin Franklin

Essential Topics: Budgeting, Financial Literacy, Entrepreneurship, Business Management, Accounting, Investment

Spiritual Development

Just as a candle cannot burn without fire, men cannot live without a spiritual life.

I pray thee, O God that I may be beautiful within.

Follow effective action with quiet reflection.
From the quiet reflection will come even more effective action.
Peter Drucker

Educated people handle solitude and time well. They are comfortable in their own mind and at peace with their own conscience. They know who they are and what their lives are about. They understand and accept their own mortality. They find meaning in life and strive to live a life of meaning.

Know Thyself.
Inscription at the Temple of Apollo at Delphi

He who knows others is learned; he who knows himself is wise.
Lao Tzu

Wisdom and love cannot be developed without careful searching of one’s own soul.

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?
Mark 8:36

Essential Topics: Spiritual and Scripture Study, Meditation and Prayer, Service


Next in this series: Section 6: Learning, Teaching, Evaluation, and Their Counterfeits

2 thoughts on “Education Freedom Manifesto – Section 5: Knowledge and the Human Curriculum

  1. Pingback: Education Freedom Manifesto – Section 4: True Human Values | Living Voluntary

  2. Pingback: Education Freedom Manifesto – Section 6: Learning, Teaching, Evaluation, and Their Counterfeits | Living Voluntary

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