What is freedom?

... human freedom is not a "freedom from" but a "freedom to".

Freedom is not something we "have" and therefore can lose; freedom is what we "are."

--Viktor E. Frank

What is freedom?

Freedom means doing what you like, so long as you don't interfere with the freedom of others. The result is self-discipline.

Freedom is necessary for the child because only under freedom can he grow in his natural way - the good way. I see the results of constraint in new pupils coming from other schools. They are bundles of insincerity, with an unreal politeness and phoney manners. Their reaction to freedom is rapid and tiresome. For the first week or two, they open doors for the teachers, call me 'sir', and wash carefully. They glance at me with 'respect', which is easily recognized as fear. After a few weeks of freedom, they show what they really are. They become impudent, unmannerly, unwashed. They do all the things they have been forbidden to do in the past: they swear, they smoke, they break things. And all the time, they have polite and insincere expression in their eyes and in their voices.

Freedom works best with those who have enough combined free emotion and free intelligence to absorb it.

In our educational policy a nation, we refuse to let live. We persuade through fear. But there is a great difference between compelling a child to cease throwing stones and compelling him to learn Latin. Throwing stones involves others; but learning Latin involves only boy. The community has the right to restrain the antisocial boy because he is interfering with the rights of others; but the community has no right to compel a boy to learn Latin - for learning Latin is a matter for the individual. Forcing a child to learn is on a par with forcing a man to adopt a religion by act of Parliament. And it is equally foolish.

Freedom is a relative term. The freedom we think about in Summerhill is individual freedom, inner freedom. Few of us can have that inner freedom. In our school freedom means doing what you like so long as you do not interfere with the freedom of others. That is the outer meaning, but deeper down we strive to see that children are free internally, free from fear, from hypocrisy, from hate, from intolerance.

Their attitude was: "This is a free school: I'll do what I like." It took them some time to grasp the fact that freedom does not mean doing exactly as you like. They found that in a self-governing school they had to obey the law made by the whole community. And it was hard for some of them to conform.

--A. S. Neill