The Sobering Choice for Freedom

September 15, 2008

by Tammy Drennan


I just finished watching part two of the HBO series on John Adams (based on David McCullough’s excellent book on Adams).


In the movie, when the vote for independence was taken and the delegates from the colonies (with New York abstaining) had committed themselves to the monumental and sobering path of freedom, the room was overtaken by a profound silence. I felt as if I was there and the profundity of what those men did weighed on me as if it were 1775 all over again.


And I thought to myself that no other response would have been appropriate. Liberty is a profound choice because it can produce the desired results only with the utmost level of sober responsibility.


It’s not that the alternative – living under some form of tyranny — would be any better than irresponsible liberty, but liberty squandered by careless practice will surely lead back to tyranny, for only serious and thoughtful and disciplined people will be able to sustain the degree of commitment it takes to remain free.


This all pertains to freedom in education. Millions have now declared their independence and removed their children from the hands of the state. We have taken back what is rightfully ours, as we should have. But unless we guard our liberty through the careful and honest practice of it, we will surely lose it.


When we take back our freedom and thus our responsibility for ourselves, we have chosen to stand on our own two feet, to be grown-ups. We have declared that we are perfectly capable of taking care of ourselves.


What do we declare when we turn around and demand that the institution from which we have wrested our children cater to particular whims we wish not to fulfill on our own – sports programs, extracurricular activities, lab access, etc.?


We risk our liberty by treating it as a convenience, as something to use when the fancy strikes us and to disregard when there appears to be gain in some other course of action. Liberty may be an exhilarating condition in which to live but it is also a deeply sobering condition that must be taken seriously and fully embraced in order to be permanently secured.