Power and Freedom

I heard this quote the other day and was struck about how many things that it applies to in schools:

“Freedom is actually a bigger game than power. Power is about what you can control. Freedom is about what you can unleash.” ― Harriet Rubin

When educators think about technology in schools, do they think of “power” and “control”, or do they think of “freedom”?

I have a good friend that has to copy and paste my blogs on her own, and post them on her school website, because my blog is blocked as it is labeled “social media”.  That is not about freedom, but it is about power and control.

Technology should give the opportunity, as Stephen Covey would say, to unleash talent. It should not be about control, but about affording opportunities.

This also applies to leadership.  Many often talk about “distributed decision making”, yet everything must be vetted through them. That is not about freedom, it is about power and control. That creates a lack of trust and an unhealthy environment.  The administrators that I did the most for, showed they trusted me the most.

As soon as a person is hired, that should say, “I trust you”. We need to give them the freedom to unleash their talents.  We need to say say “yes” often, and say “no” rarely.





  1. Power and control are symptoms of fear. Acknowledging it is the first step. And as always your perspective resonates….trusting in your team is a powerful step in diminishing a fear-based environment and building one that flies high.

  2. womp womp….at least ur words are being shared! Gimme a rule and I’ll figire out a way around it! 😉

  3. freedom. But theres a gulf between people like Aaron Swartz and those who use it to lure the hopeful and optamistic into years of unresolved cyclic dogma. Education favours determinism and the idea what is proven is true and can made stable … I’m up for Russell Brand’s leadership on freedom “In an infinite universe; eternal time, why just do what people tell you? ‘ave a laugh; do what you want.”

  4. so it is not about saying yes or no….. but about listening to what is ‘alive’ in the community of practice.

  5. Hi George,

    Interesting post, and not one that I agree with entirely.

    Freedom and Control are polarities to be managed, not problems to be solved. There is no one single right answer.

    Schools, school jurisdictions, and education systems are complex environments in which tensions between freedom and control, centralized and decentralized decision making, cost efficiency and educational effectiveness (to name a few) are constantly in play.

    There are negative aspects to decentralized decision-making and freedom, such as loss of implementation fidelity, inequitable opportunities for students, inefficient operations and so on. Flipped on their heads, these can be positive reasons for some centralized decision-making.

    Likewise, there are downsides to centralized decision-making, including loss of responsiveness to individual learner needs, bureaucratic processes for decision making, slower decision-making and so on.

    So what’s the right answer? The answer is: it depends upon the situation.

    Now in this specific case – the case of the firewall blocking social media – well…are all the facts known?

    Why would reasonable people block social media on a firewall?

    Is it the policy of the school jurisdiction or school to block social media? Why is that the policy? What is the perceived risk, and how can that risk be managed effectively?

    Was this policy implemented on the firewall for efficiency reasons by the IT department? Why? What other pressures is the IT department facing? Are they under-funded? Under-staffed? Is it difficult to manage demand and competing expectations of multiple schools and central office? What can be done about that?

    It has been my experience that the answers to these questions are not simple – but great leadership supported by strong decision-making practices can help manage the tensions between centralized and decentralized, control and autonomy, effective and efficient.

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