To one person, you can’t be free if you’re forced to pay for someone else’s necessities. To another, you aren’t free if you have to worry about your basic needs. To one, freedom demands a recognition of gay marriage. To another, freedom is the right to refuse to recognize any marriage that isn’t between one man and one woman. Is freedom the right to bear arms or is it the right to be nowhere near weaponry? The right to smoke or the right to be smoke free?
Go to a public school and they’ll tell you that freedom is an education without charge. Perhaps some might demand more leeway for teachers in running their classrooms. Go to a Montessori school and they’ll tell you that freedom is letting children choose their activities... so long as those activities involve the Montessori materials and conform with the teacher’s wishes. A Waldorf school will tell you it’s the freedom to live by Anthroposophism (a philosophy that promises experience of a spiritual world through inner development). And there are a number of free schools where teachers still interrupt the children at play to determine what they should learn at that moment.
So let us be clear what we mean when we say our children are free at a Sudbury school. We mean that they may do whatever they please, within a loose set of restrictions determined by majority vote of both students and staff. Those restrictions all have to do with the boundaries of others. For example, we have rules against theft and assault and harassment, as well as leaving messes and interrupting people’s activities. We also have guidelines for school management and safety rules. If your actions wrong someone in some way, including if you’re likely to hurt yourself, you’re likely breaking the rules. Otherwise, you are free to live without limits.
So that is what we mean when we say freedom. Do as thou wilt, an it harm none.