Freedom from Education

‘Freedom from education?’ Before you think I am dismissing the very thing that enables me to write this post, hear me out.

Education is more than learning facts

Most American school systems surround metrics of success with standardized forms of testing knowledge. Students are asked to respond to a series of questions with a set of answers. With the right answers, they succeed.  With the wrong answers, they fail (at least the test).

This engine of standardizing education for the masses is understandable if we truly believe that knowledge is held only in the form of fact memorization.  But think of how your schooling has practically affected your life. The facts are helpful and necessary, but it was most likely the training of thinking that remains effective. Knowing a multiplication table by memory is different than knowing how multiplication works and functions within mathematical systems.

Raising Critical Thinkers

The more important goal of education should be to raise critical thinkers who are able to navigate facts and explore new ideas of their own design. Advancing this model of education is what changes the world, because it’s the method that almost surely always has been behind key innovations in the human story.

Critical thinking has become an educational platitude, a buzzword that is reduced in its meaning through overuse. Intelligent Education firmly believes that critical thinking–the ability to analyze and observe facts, evaluate their importance and interaction, and form a coherent perspective for them – is a vital skill in our world today. The citizens of our world today must use these critical thinking skills intentionally and continuously, so that they think critically about everything from a Facebook post to their next step in their career, understanding how each action and interaction reflects their view of the world.

'Freedom from Education'

Therefore, what did I mean by 'Freedom from education?' I’m using it here as a bit of a double entendre. Defining each word is key to understanding this phrase.  

Defining ‘Education’

If we choose to define education as “the process of receiving or giving systematic instruction, especially at a school or university," then our definition of ‘from’ is meant to be indicating separation or removal.  While not all of the actors in the American system of education are culpable, we desire, and need, freedom from the definition of success created by overly systematic forms of education in our world today. The gateways to being a successful student should derive from their ability to apply knowledge, not to simply reply with facts.

Education, defined as “an enlightening experience,” carries the light of learning into the very heart of the learner. There are many metaphors for learning, but the one for light and dark has always stood out. Where there is light, there is understanding, exploration, and knowledge. Darkness is mysterious, elusive, and unknown. By enlightening the heart of the learner, they may carry a little light with them to new stories, new problems, new situations. They are better prepared to use that light to affect their world.  This understanding of education changes the definition of ‘from’ to mean the cause, source of, or provenance from which the freedom flows.


Our modern concept of freedom arose from the Enlightenment, when the educated applied their critical thinking to the condition of humanity. No longer did a subject need be submissive to a crown, but each individual could submit themselves to a government “by the People, for the People.” This freedom continued to be expressed in America with the Bill of Rights.  The freedom of thought, speech, and worship derive from critical thought on the ability of humans to govern themselves, according to their own conscience.  These principles are the foundation on which the American form of democracy stands.

Education can be the source, the provenance, the genesis of these freedoms.  Freedom from education means that education can change the world, as well-rounded, critical thinking global citizens engage with arts, sciences, literature, mathematics, and humanities in a manner that deepens their ability to think. 

Intelligent Education seeks to support this mission through our courses and tools for educators. Our courses encourage reflective thinking through journaling exercises, interactive 3D models, and time-tagged notes, which allow learners to engage with the material.  Our series of analysis and commentary books, IE Notes, provide literary insight and analysis on some of the world’s greatest literary works.

Our commitment is to educate the world, because education leads to freedom – freedom from education.