chapter  4
29 Pages

THE FREE CHILD

Those who locate the child at the centre of the educational situation usually assert the importance of freedom in schools. They are also apt to be suspicious of authority, necessarily so it seems, since freedom is usually taken to be the antithesis of authority. To justify authority appears to limit the right to freedom. Exercising authority is taken to mean imposing upon the child, making value-judgements on his behalf and ensuring that his behaviour conforms to what adults think is valuable. Some adherents of the child-centred tradition believe that, in the interests of creativity and our need for innovation in a rapidly changing world, the values of adults should not be imposed upon children. Some would even hold that teachers, from a vested interest in maintaining obsolete subject matter in the curriculum, are the last people capable of assessing the implications which changes in the environment have for the work of the school. Hence, their authority is often suspect and against this is asserted the right of the child to freedom as a primary value. But must it be taken for granted that freedom and authority are necessarily incompatible? Can we assert the need for both freedom and authority in education without self-contradiction?