A dangerous idea? Freedom, Children and the Capability Approach to Education

This article begins by observing how education is currently appreciated primarily for its utility value, a view informed by utilitarianism and neoclassical economic theory. A critique of that framing is offered and an alternative way of valuing education informed by a Capabilities Approach is presented. In doing so, I also observe that while key proponents of the Capabilities Approach promote the idea of freedom, they deny it to children and some young people. The argument they present is that in the hands of children, freedom destroys their capabilities because they lack capacity for good judgment and therefore should only make minor decisions. The focus should be on adulthood because only at that stage can we exercise good judgment and exercise freedom properly. I explain why this view limits the application of Capabilities Approach, why it is problematic and offer a way of overcoming that constraint.

At what age should a young person be able to exercise substantive choice? The answer I suggest is: at the age they express an interest in doing so. When a student expresses an interest in exercising choice, whether it relates to the curriculum, the school they attend or national politics, that is when educators need to be able to detect and tap into that interest, to educate by offering relevant information about the viable options and to assist students in making good judgments about what they value.

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About Giorgio Bertini

Director at Learning Change Project - Research on society, culture, art, neuroscience, cognition, critical thinking, intelligence, creativity, autopoiesis, self-organization, rhizomes, complexity, systems, networks, leadership, sustainability, thinkers, futures ++
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