Freedom for the business. Freedom for the individual
I have been interested in the idea of 'frames' for a long long time; these are the thoughts, images and emotions that come to mind when we think of a particular object, place, idea or process. So, if I say the word 'house' an image of a house will almost automatically come into your head. But, the image that comes into your head is probably different to the one that pops into mine, or your partners, or your colleagues. Was it a detached, a semi or terraced? How tall? Garden? City centre, suburban or rural? You might have an emotional response too, you might have thought about a specific house. It might be your current home, your childhood home or one you are renting. It may or may not be something you wanted to think of, especially if there is a leaky roof that needs fixing; apologies if so!
Here's another one: 'freedom'. An idea rather than a physical thing, a more complicated set of thoughts and emotions. Last week, George Monbiot described freedom as a 'sacred value' at the centre of modern society. To question it is to put one 'outside the circle of respectable opinion'. The problem with freedom according to Monbiot is that it is framed as an unconditionally good thing; everyone and everything should have maximum freedom at all times - policies designed to increase freedom are good, policies that curtail it are bad. So to question whether 'freedom' is a good thing in a particular scenario is to commit an act of heresy. Likewise, if you do something in the name of 'freedom' you apply a coating of Teflon to it. Frames are constructed, activated and reinforced, especially by the powerful. Language is very carefully chosen and captured so that ideas like freedom take on a meaning in the collective conscious. Donald Trump regularly indulges in this dark art, George Lakoff is writing article after article to highlight and decode this.
In response to one of Professor Bill Scott's blog posts 'More Liberalism' I wrote about a con trick that we appear to be falling for as a society. The main point I was making was this: 'The great con trick of the last 35 years has been to present liberty for business and liberty for individuals as the same thing, when quite clearly they are not.'
'Freedom' is a very powerful idea; we need to think very critically about it. We need to ask what we have freedom from and whether that freedom is secure or threatened. Are we talking about freedom for people, or for businesses, or for teachers, or for artists? One person's freedom is another person's oppression.
The head of a Free School has a large degree of freedom to design and deliver the curriculum of their choice. The seven year old who has to go to that school, sit and listen attentively to the teachers and learn what their told, has much less freedom. Their educational experience is decided for them by their parents/guardians and teachers - in the name of freedom.