1984 was my year of freedom. I had finished school and headed off to Jerusalem, spending my Gap Year with other young people from Jewish communities across the globe. After a few months of freedom, I began to ponder the balance between freedom and hedonism.
How was I differentiating between my independent choices and self-indulgence? What constituted self-satisfaction and how did that differ from self-determination?
To put that into a Gap Year context, what did I choose to do – given the lack of boundaries and parental control? What informed my decision making?
Moshe Chaim Luzzatto wrote in Derech Hashem (“The Way of God”) that
“People are placed between perfection and deficiency, with the power to earn perfection. People must earn this perfection, however, through their own free will… “
Celebrating Pesach (Passover), a festival, which tells our story of freedom as a people, is a great time to reflect on the how we achieve a balance when we are offered personal freedom.
Parents often debate how much freedom is an appropriate amount for children and young people. If young people have too much freedom, they might ‘go wild’.’ However, if young people do not have freedom, perhaps they may lack independence and possibly struggle to become self-sufficient.
Giving young people free will is often challenging for educators, parents and young people themselves. Decision-making is an essential part of being a free person. And setting boundaries for oneself needs to figure into the mix too.
Being free to think for oneself and deciding on what feels right at any given time, in any situation, is one of the challenges of freedom. Asking questions of yourself and of the young people around you, may help to fathom the balance that freedom offers.
It’s traditional at this time of year to ask four questions. Here are mine.
- How do we balance giving young people freedom to make their decisions?
- How do we support young people when they change their minds?
- What does being free mean to you?
- What learning might happen in the ‘wilderness years’ that helps a person develop?
Part of our role as educators is to guide and support each individual, as they leave the construct of childhood, into the wilderness of learning how to be themselves.
Some of us stay in that wilderness for a pretty long time… And in my opinion, that’s ok. There’s lots to discuss, plenty to think about and a great deal to learn on the journey.