The core values animating left-libertarian market anarchism are individual freedom and equality of rights. This is preferably applied to children as well as adults. One person who saw this clearly was the radical educator, John Holt. As far as I know; he never identified as a libertarian or an anarchist, but his thought is eminently libertarian or anarchist. He wrote about many freedoms for children, but this post will focus on his view of educational freedom and related issues.
John Holt’s classic book on the subject of child freedom is called Escape from Childhood: The Needs and Rights of Children. In chapter 24; he discuses the right to control one’s learning. He connects it to freedom of thought. Let us review a quotation from his book on pg. 186:
Young people should have the right to control and direct their own learning, that is, decide what they want to learn, and when, where, how, how much, how fast, and with what help they want to learn it.
This is a very important right that ensures freedom is exercised by both the young and old. The absence of aggressive force to compel kids to think about certain things is paramount. It’s not only an ethical imperative, but it allows for the most motivated learning. When children are permitted to learn what they are curious about; they develop a self-motivation to continue learning. This kind of desire based education allows them to continue to be curious all their lives. The use of force would dilute this by instilling the idea that learning involves unpleasant coercion.
Compulsion also dilutes freedom of thought. A freedom that John Holt rightfully relates to freedom to direct one’s learning. We find it more difficult to think freely when force enters the picture. This is due to the fear that can arise when we’re under threat for thinking about what we want. We may bow to coercive pressure out of a desire to avoid punishment. This would show that we’re not choosing freely. This in turn means that freedom of thought is severely diluted. It requires an absence of threats. When threats are present; it’s difficult not to focus on the resulting punishment rather than what one really wants to think about.
The key to implementing the freedoms above is to reform educational structures and end compulsory schooling laws. This is a goal that left-libertarian market anarchists can heartily embrace. Let’s get started on the path to educational liberty for children!