Any attempt to address inequalities in the provision and outcomes of schooling must be from the position of original-equality. Acting from beneath a veil of ignorance, one is unable to know in advance what their ethnicity may be, what their postal code will be, which strata of society they may come to inhabit, who their parents may be, which of their multiple intelligences they may come to nurture, what their life goals may grow into, what their particular life plan may ripen into and what opportunities, advantages, benefits and privileges they may be afforded or denied by virtue of their birth. From beneath this veil, one will always choose liberties, policies, institutions, opportunities, outcomes, and legislation that will minimise harm to the least advantaged; because they simply cannot know beforehand who they may turn out to be — when the veil is upturned. If the aspiration is to forge a nation out of love for liberty, then liberty itself must be the fire in the crucible for a new ecology of schooling.
Liberty can be explained by reference to three objects: free agents, the boundaries or limitations which they are free from, and what it is they are free to do or not to do. Schoolboards as well as natural persons may be free or not free, and controls may range from duties and responsibilities defined by law, to the coercive influences arising from public perception and social pressure. Just as there are various kinds of agents who may be free – persons, associations and states – so there are many kinds of conditions that constrain them, and innumerable sorts of things that they are or are not free to do. Denominational schools have liberty to determine the filling of vacancies in teaching and administrative positions under the cloak of the Concordat. The principals of state schools have no such equal liberty. The staff is imposed by a Commission, not a Concordat.
There are many different liberties which on occasion it may be useful to distinguish without introducing different senses of liberty. Thus, persons are at liberty to do something when they are free from certain constraints, either to do it or not to do it, and when their doing it or not doing it is protected from interference by other persons. Not only must it be permissible for individuals to do or not do something, but the state and other persons must have a legal duty not to obstruct. All basic liberties must be assessed as a whole, as one system. That is, the worth of one liberty normally depends on the specification of the other liberties, and this must be taken into account into framing laws and a constitution. Clearly, when liberties are left unrestricted they collide. Certain rules of order are therefore necessary.
Liberty is unequal when one class has a greater liberty than another, or liberty is less extensive than it should be. At best, each liberty must be measured on its own scale and then the various liberties can be broadened or narrowed according to how they affect one another. Ultimately the scheme can be assessed from the standpoint of the representative equal citizen. The inability to take advantage of one’s rights and opportunities as a result of poverty or ignorance, and a lack of means can be counted among the constraints definitive of liberty. Thus, liberty and the worth of liberty must be distinguished. Liberty is represented by the complete system of liberties of equal citizenship, while the worth of liberty to persons and groups is proportional to their capacity to advance their ends within the charter the system defines. Freedom as equal liberty is the same for all. But the worth of liberty is not the same for everybody. Some have greater authority and wealth, and therefore greater means to achieve their purposes.
On the one hand, one can think of liberty as the absence of obstacles external to the agent. You are free if no one is stopping you from doing whatever you might want to do. On the other hand, one can think of liberty as the presence of control on the part of the agent. To be free, you must be self-determined, which is to say that you must be able to control your own destiny in your own interests. One might say that while on the first view liberty is simply about how many doors are open to the agent, on the second view it is more about going through the right doors for the right reasons.
Some doors are ajar. The children at St. Jude’s School for Girls, St. Mary’s Home, St. Dominic’s Home and the St Michael’s School for Boys remain under the purview of The Statutory Authorities Service Commission (SASC). The SASC oversees the Zoological Society, the Agricultural Society, The Sugar Industry Labour Welfare Committee, Borough and City Corporations, Municipal Police, and at one time, the Cocoa and Coffee Industry Board. These children are resolving trauma and loss. Some are abandoned, or physically or sexually abused. Others are victims of economic conditions in the country. Some have parents who are addicts. Liberty without virtue is a mildew.