Have you ever thought about what it takes to be free? Not the kind of hedonistic anarchy that inevitably devolves into destructive chaos, but a lawful and rational kind of freedom. The kind of freedom that the American Founding Fathers envisioned, consisting of reasonable rules limiting physical threat and conflict from human interactions so that each individual could pursue their own values. A truly free society such as this would require us to make responsible decisions. We would have to think about the consequences of our actions, plan them out in advance, play out scenarios, and make decisions based on their long term ramifications. For many, that may seem like too much work, requiring a great deal of knowledge, experience, and critical thinking skills. As an American educator, I shudder at the thought because we no longer have a knowledgeable citizenship to make those decisions, both on the political as well as personal level. From an early age, students are taught under a Prussian militaristic system to obey, to take what they are given at face value, and above all else, never to question the teacher! (If you are wondering how this happened, I could have an all-day coffee date filling in the historical details, citing policy, and the underlying philosophy that has driven us here, and I am certain I will explore this in future blog entries.)
Thomas Jefferson made his argument for freedom in The Declaration of Independence in which he stated so eloquently that “the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” was a self-evident truth. Now, the American Founding Fathers took great responsibility in forming a new country based on philosophical ideas. This was the first time in all of history this had occurred. Think about that for a minute. Prior to the 1770s, no other civilization had been formed from the studying of the philosophy, great ideas, and historical lessons of the past. These men took their role seriously and yes, there were heated arguments and compromises that had to be made, but what came forth was a new way to govern, not a democracy, but a republican style of government that allowed for some of the democratic principles within it. They also knew that with this new formulation of a state, there would need to be responsible citizenry, an educated society on the principles that they put forth in the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and the Federalist Papers. This is where things have broken down.
This is what I mean by responsibility. I don’t mean the pop culture mantra of “With great power comes great responsibility.” My definition is not based on altruism, rather it is based on the individual. To live a free life, one must make the best decisions for oneself; however, those decisions must not interfere or impede in any way on the freedom of another. For instance, if I want to get a car, I will work for it, save up for it, or find a way that allows me to get it without hurting or abusing anyone else in the process. This means I will not steal it, manipulate anyone to get it, or use any other means that would negatively impact anyone else’s right to life, liberty, or the pursuit of happiness. I will use what I have, my own abilities, whether mental or physical, to labor to get that car.
Now, let’s apply these principles to living in a free society. I will use education as that is my field. If we lived in a truly free society, parents would have the right to educate their children as they saw fit. This could mean that a farmer might need to train his kids in the agricultural trades to take over the farm. But, he may also want them to be able to think and solve problems while farming, as one must regularly do in this line of work. So, he will teach them to read and write so they can learn how to formulate their own ideas and communicate them. He will teach them math so the kids can figure out how much seed to buy, how much yield they can expect in that year’s crop, and how much to charge based on the yield. He will also want his kids to understand science, notably ecology, meteorology, and even some chemistry if trying to find natural ways to fertilize. So, this farmer now has a well-educated family equipped not only with the knowledge of how to farm, but with knowledge on how to think, problem solve, and reason. It is in the best interest of not only the farmer to raise his kids to be knowledgeable but also for the farm, and the legacy he leaves behind.
So, with this line of reasoning, let’s address homeschooling, which is what I believe is the best way to educate one’s children. With homeschooling, it is left to the parents to decide the best path for their children’s education. And yes, this is maybe one of the greatest responsibilities that a citizen will have. To educate their children to be thinking adults that are responsible for their own life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, which does not impede upon another person’s same right. You may think that is a tall order, but it is possible. And yes, there will be those who choose not to live within those parameters so now what? You can only be responsible for your own self and those that depend on you, your family. If someone else is restricting the right for your family, then you can use the law to protect your rights. And, if a parent is impeding the rights of their children, then the law can once again assist.
I know you are thinking this is just not possible in the modern world, but perhaps it could be. I am currently in the process of moving to El Salvador. The reason, freedom. I choose to live in a free society and take that responsibility seriously. I also choose to advocate for the right for parents to homeschool their children. After researching countries around the globe, there has been a decrease in the ability to homeschool one’s children. Countries that used to allow it, now have regulations making it nearly impossible, or have banned it outright. In fact, El Salvador is the only Central American country to allow any form of homeschooling. And, I hope to find a way to expand the definition in this country, not just for expats, but to help Salvadorian and all children here to have the best education possible by using the principles outlined here.
When I mentioned this in a Tweet not too long ago, someone responded with a very important point: the reason that homeschooling is outlawed in this region is because young children might disappear, become exploited, or worse without a centralized authority to keep track of them, such as a public education system. That such things happen to children is horrific and not just a problem here. Child trafficking happens around the globe, even in the United States. So, why not just outlaw homeschooling and be done with it, like many countries do. Well, we are back at the first principle, freedom.
People from around the globe, particularly Canadiens, Australians, and Americans are flocking to El Salvador because President Bukele is making his country freer. He is protecting his citizens from the corruption and crime that used to plague his nation. For the sake of consistency, my hope is that he continues to allow his citizens and the expats flocking here the freedom to use Bitcoin, to set up businesses, and work as digital nomads and also apply that kind of freedom to education. To work with the Ministry of Education to set policy to allow homeschooling, to build a free society that takes responsibility for their own lives and the lives of their children. And, like cleaning up the streets and countryside of corrupt officials, create a pathway of justice that holds those despicable human beings who exploit children responsible for their actions. But doing it in a way that does not impede the freedom of the families who are responsible and want to homeschool their children.
Ultimately, my hope is that President Bukele will create what the Founding Fathers set forth in their formulation of a state and make El Salvador the haven for freedom-seeking individuals. People who live here, who left and are coming back, and who are flocking here full of hope, can live a responsibly free life and have their life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness respected. That he does not allow El Salvador to fall into the same trap as America and other Western nations have by becoming more and more oppressive with education. I hope El Salvador continues to go against the trend that Western “free” nations are setting by creating more and more tyrannical laws to control its citizens. Whereas the United States once stood as the beacon of hope for individuals seeking life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, El Salvador can now fill that void that my country has left.