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  • Writer's pictureMihir Pathak

Freedom and Responsibility

Part of the learning is understanding real discipline; not the false discipline resulting from external threat, but the natural integration of our inner drives. We often try to teach kids discipline by forcing them to do something that they don’t want to do, rather than by asking them to see the consequences of their actions and to take responsibility for their words, deeds, and the reactions of those around them. Discipline is not just being able to do the thing that we don’t want to do, but also being able to do the hard thing that we DO want to do.
There are things that we don’t enjoy, yet we will also quite naturally discipline ourselves to do because we understand that the activity that we don’t like allows us to do something that we do like. If I want to be a long distance runner, I don’t want to do the first four or five weeks of training, because it’s difficult and painful, but I understand that I have to break through that to enjoy the sport.
In a democratically run learning community, there are rules that everyone agrees upon. That is a discipline that’s exerted from a community to a person who may not feel like following the rules. Because the structure is democratically generated, each member of the school community has the opportunity to take part in creating it. Breaking a rule by an individual is a violation of community and community will respond in enacting the consequent disciplinary action.
– Excerpts from book “The Happy Child”

Freedom does not exist without responsibility. At BeMe children have all the freedom. They also have responsibilities at individual and community level. When responsibilities are ignored, we do seek the help of systems: Judiciary Committee, Parliament.

Children were excited about the first sleepover of this semester. The BeMe calendar said it is tentative. They put sign up sheet without seeking clarification on why it is tentative. Based on our experience of sleep overs last year, faculty sensed a need to prepare ourselves well on: mosquito control, ownership of chores involved etc. Owing to unpreparedness, the sleepover was demanded to be postponed. Different committees sharing the responsibility of sleep over have done the ground work and presented their plans one week later. Next parliament meeting will listen to committees for the remaining preparation and will decide on the sleepover.

The ownership of the cycling outstation trip budgeting and costing was taken up by children. They didn’t settle the accounts even after 3 months. Faculty who funded the trip sought the help of judiciary committee. Further, outdoor and outstation trips were requested to be suspended until the matter is resolved. Then there was action from children in resolving the matter – expenses were listed (actuals – whatever they had noted, approximate – whatever they missed to note), total costing was done, per head cost was calculated, calculations were displayed on the notice board, communicated and finally collection was done. The action took about ten days and there were bargains being made: Can one child pay on the day of the upcoming outdoor trip? One child is away, can he pay later? etc. The faculty was in no mood to accept any further delay in closing the matter. That put a lot of pressure. It also involved a misunderstanding with a parent – leading to heated communication, and a child being upset. It’s all part of the learning.

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