by Helen Bryant
Suitable for Whole School (Sec)
To consider the different ways in which people think they are free.
Preparation and materials
- The BBC ran a ‘Freedom 2014’ season and asked lots of people around the world what freedom meant to them. If you can, show the video as it’s excellent (available at: www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-26614481).
- Have available the song ‘Free’ by George Michael and the means to play it at the end of the assembly.
- I wonder what the word ‘freedom’ means to you?
In our Western society, we are often very much concerned with what we don’t have rather than with what we do. We are ‘free’ and we have ‘freedom’ to do what we like, within reason and within the boundaries of the law.
- I want to look today at what freedom means to different people around the world. The first thing I would like us to do, however, is consider the colour of freedom. What colour might it be?
Take answers and possibly reasons for the colours suggested. These might include that freedom is white or rainbow-coloured.
- The BBC ran a ‘Freedom 2014’ season. Lots of people around the world were asked what freedom meant to them. We are going to watch a video of some of their answers and, at the end, I want you to try and pick out just one person who stands out for you
Show the video, then take answers.
I wonder what picture you might take or words you might say if you were asked. How would you show freedom?
- Often, when we want to punish someone for something, we restrict or take away their freedom. So, if at some point you have been naughty or disobeyed your parents, the chances are that you will have been grounded. They will have restricted your freedom and your ability to come and go as you please or they may have imposed certain conditions on you.
They will have done this because they lost an element of trust in you and you will have had to work hard to get it back and restore it.
As a society, we restrict people’s freedom if they break the law or hurt others. To deny them their freedom and their ability to come and go as they please, their liberty, is extremely powerful. It says that if you cannot respect others, your ability to enjoy freedom should be curtailed in some way.
- Restricting freedom gives someone power over someone else. Parents ground children to set and re-establish boundaries, but this power should be used carefully and with due thought. That is why people undergo trials in this country before they are sent to prison.
- As human beings, we have ‘free will. We can make clear choices about our lives, our moral stance and what we do. With that freedom, however, comes responsibility. Yes, we are free to make choices, but are we also free to do what we like if those choices are detrimental to someone else?
It is worth considering, at all times, whether or not the choices you make will affect or hurt someone else. The same goes for free speech, Yes, it is important for people to be able to say what they feel and challenge authority if needed, to disagree with governments, political parties and hierarchy if they wish, but, if your free speech hurts someone’s feelings or destroys their self-esteem and takes little or no account of those who will hear it, then you have not considered your words wisely and in some way you have been unwise in your use of the freedom given to you. You have not used your freedom responsibly.
- Freedom is an essential part of what it means to be human – hence it is included in all constitutions, laws and statutes – and when it is taken away, the effects can debilitating and damaging.
- So, be aware of how free you really are. Consider the importance of your freedom and think of those who cannot speak freely or live in danger of losing their freedom for no good reason. Take with you your colour and your image of freedom into the rest of your day.
Time for reflection
Let’s take a few moments to think about examples that we’ve seen in the media recently of people who have had their freedom restricted or taken away, possibly because they have broken the law or unrest or illness in the area where they live.
How could you support movements for freedom that would affect those people in a positive way?
‘Free’ by George Michael