Learning to be Free

Banksy, Children with Paradise Landscape, 2005, Bethlehem, Palestine.

Setting the Scene

The freedom to decide upon one’s life is the most fundamental source of motivation and well-being. When Rousseau wrote “Man is everywhere in chains”, what he meant is that most people do not choose their lives. They feel they have no “free will”. They are doomed to struggle for survival and even most of those who have security and food are constrained by the dominant repressive social system to “accept their faith” and play their role rather than explore their dreams and realize the way of life they want.

A very brief history of the evolution of learning technology

Hitting the target without aiming

Freedom as Motivation for Learning

In the following paragraphs, I outline my understanding of positive liberty as the primary leitmotiv for education. I illustrate the essence of freedom as fundamental motivation for education by exploring the meaning of Epimeleia Heautou, the Greek practice of taking care of oneself, and swaraj, the Indian concept of finding inner and external liberation.

Swaraj — To liberate the Power of Self

In the early hours of dawn a man enters a room and, looking in a dark corner, believes he sees a long snake. He escapes from the room in panic. Later, when the sun has lightened the room, he finds that his not-seeing caused him to mistake a coil of rope for a snake.

Epimeleia Heautou — To take care of oneself

Foucault (1983) introduces one of his lectures in Berkeley by recounting a story of the Greek scholar Hermotimus, who has been taught for the last ten years by a great philosopher. The scholar is desperate, because the studies have consumed all his wealth and he still has not learned what he aspires to. What he strives for is to learn to take care of himself (in Greek: Epimeleia Heautou).

Ever-changing knowledge — Or why to pursue understanding

“In a fight there can be no flaw” is an old samurai saying illustrating the true believe that, when engaged in a performance, there is not a second to think about what to do next; no time to analyze and reflect. There is no time to understand — only to act.

I learn what I want to learn

Why teach for free?

At 42 all learning opportunities are for free. Learner share their knowledge as teachers. What motivates the teachers to dedicate their time and effort? There are two key motivations: It is hardly news that “by teaching we are learning” (stated by Seneca two thousand years ago) but possibly even more relevant as an “incentive” for teaching Martin defined gain in the three higher elements Maslow’s pyramid of needs (3: social love & belonging, 4: esteem & self-confidence, and 5: growth through self-actualization) as being substantially stimulated by teaching as the act of sharing knowledge and coaching learners.

Qualitative and Discrete Performance Measures

At 42 there are no exams to pass. We believe that what is understood brings one to the next level; hence, progress is reflected through further learning and teaching activities in particular. The peer learners and teachers are encouraged to share their impression of the level of understanding and give social feedback; both meant to be foremost a constructive recommendation for concrete improvements and referrals to additional learning resources. Because 42 collects all sorts of information about the learning efforts, an additional perspective is composed of the landscape of learning activities.

Creating our Future, 42 Style


Benkler, Y. (2006). The Wealth of Networks: How Social Production Transforms Markets and Freedom. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.



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42 Wolfsburg/Berlin

42 Wolfsburg/Berlin


42 is an innovative, higher education software engineering school, sponsored by Volkswagen