I’m asking myself what a better world might look like – and then how can education create it? My vision is of a fairer world, a freer world. What might that look like?
In 1941 Franklin D Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States, made his very well-known and moving Four Freedoms speech. FDR’s 4 freedoms were freedom of speech, freedom of worship, freedom from want, freedom from fear
The mindset of ‘Seeking’ is at the heart of freedom of speech; and curiosity, like seeking, is the bedrock of education.
A school that glories in language in all its forms, and in freedom of speech from early years to adulthood, is a glorious school.
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, in her 2022 Reith Lecture said “Censorship means the death of curiosity, the death of learning.”
FREEDOM OF WORSHIP is about freedom of faith, not an agent of coercion and control. Quaker worship is about seeking too, rather than being told. In a Quaker Education, ‘religious studies’ is just that: studying all faiths and religions as widely as possible. Such knowledge and understanding can enrich children, young people and adults in their own spiritual journies; their search for a faith that is right for them.
FREEDOM FROM WANT is about freedom from dangerously dire poverty, a state where there’s no knowing where the next meal is coming from, where clothing and a home are absent or in doubt. What does this mean in education terms?
How can a community, a country, even the world be fair unless free from want? Education can enable children and young people to develop a growing awareness of the injustices generated by poverty, an indignation at the fundamental unfairness of such inequality, and a determination to find ways to move towards a world where social justice is a human right in reality, as well as a vision.
And what does FREEDOM FROM FEAR look like?
One might argue that fear is an inevitable part of the human condition. However in some parts of the world people live in fear of their government, in fear of its armed forces, in fear of police acting undemocratically. In more democratic places the same often applies to various minority groups, for instance people of colour, and gender diversity. And surely we are all subject to fears about the world-wide proliferation of arms. Vulnerability and fearfulness often go hand in hand, making a heavy detrimental impact on people’s mental health. Education that prioritises mental health and wellbeing, right from the start, is laying strong foundations in each child, helping to create a better world free from fear.
I believe education CAN create a better world – one with freedom of speech and freedom to worship, that is free from want and free from fear. And I believe the schools where these freedoms are nurtured are precious indeed.
Rosemary Roberts is a freelance early years consultant and trainer. She has worked in nursery, primary and higher education and the voluntary sector, and trains early years professionals. She began her working life as an Inner London Education Authority primary teacher in the 1960s, subsequently working for ten years as an LEA Nursery School headteacher in Oxfordshire. Rosemary was a founding director of Peers Early Education Partnership (PEEP) – based in a disadvantaged area to the south-west of Oxford – from its inception in 1995 until July 2002.