Freedom to learn: Introduction

Rogers describes his purpose in the book as assisting "our youth to learn, deeply and broadly, and above all, to learn how to learn."

He sees educational institutions as conservative, rigid and resistant to change, charged with teaching the 'basics', what is right and wrong and how to obey and follow.

"This book takes a very different stance. It believes in young people. It gives evidence that in a genuinely human climate, which the teacher can initiate, a young person can find him or herself respected, can make responsible choices, can experience the excitement of learning, can lay the basis for living as an effective concerned citizen, well informed, competent in knowledge and skills, confident in facing the future."

Rogers quotes a parent, who says that "People who can't think are ripe for dictatorship!". This is a good indication of Rogers' overall project, which centrally questions the role of authority in teaching and learning.

This edition is much changed from the original Freedom to Learn (1969), as it contains research evidence by Aspy & Roebuck and Tausch & Tausch which shows that "when a teacher is real, understanding, and caring, students learn more of the 'basics', and in addition exhibit more creativity and problem-solving qualities."

Rogers outlines the goals that are implicit throughout the book:
  • It aims toward a climate of trust in the classroom in which curiosity and the natural desire to learn can be nourished and enhanced.
  • It aims toward a participatory mode of decision-making in all aspects of learning in which students, teachers and administrators each have a part.
  • It aims toward helping students to prize themselves, to build their confidence and self-esteem. 
  • It aims toward uncovering the excitement in intellectual and emotional discovery, which leads students to become life-long learners. 
  • It aims toward developing in teachers the attitudes that research has shown to be most effective in facilitating learning. 
  • It aims toward helping teachers to grow as persons, finding rich satisfaction in their interactions with learners. 
  • Even more deeply, it aims toward an awareness that, for all of us, the good life is within, not something which is dependant on outside sources.