The freedom to learn from each other

In June, InterestEng. shared the ideas of a group young people who were part of a project called ICE MELT [International Civics Exchange: My Effort to Learn Tolerance]. The response was such that we decided to share their final class with you. Students from China, Afghanistan, and Ukraine met to discuss the question: “What does freedom mean to you?”  Here are a few of the ideas from a nearly two hour discussion.  



SHAIQ: Can I just say that, for me, the best part of this project was learning with people from different countries. I’m really happy that we were free to say our own ideas. I mean, it wasn’t a problem if we disagreed. 

ANDREI: I wish we could have such discussions in school. Here we had the chance to really talk to each other and learn from each other. In school that doesn’t happen. We just say what we learn from our textbooks. But in this project we could gather the best from everyone. By taking the best from each other, you build something more whole and you come together in the process. Someone would start to say something—then someone else would add to it and make it even better.

SHAIQ: We became friends easily; actually, on the first day. I think that is because we listened to each other and respected each other’s ideas. 

YUQI:  I think we changed each other’s views of the world and how we think.  

ANISGUL: I was so amazed to hear everyone share their ideas so freely! And I was surprised to hear such good ideas. I didn’t expect that. . . . Nothing happens with just one idea. You need lots of ideas. I think freedom is about having lots of ideas and then freedom helps you think. I mean it should help you think about what you do and how you live.  

YUQI: I think it is important to be free to make mistakes. Then you learn and you won’t do it again.  

SHAIQ: But if you make mistakes that’s not freedom. I mean, you can’t just let people make the “mistake” of killing someone or hating other people. 

ANDREI: Everyone has different ideas about freedom. If half the people make the “mistake” of killing the other half, soon there will be no one left. Some people think they are free to kill others so freedom can’t let you just make mistakes. . . 

ANISGUL:  I don’t think you understood what Yuqi meant. He didn’t mean you are free to do bad things. But you have to be free to learn. You shouldn’t be afraid of making mistakes. You can learn from them and do better.

YUQI: Yes, that’s what I meant. I didn’t mean you are free to hurt others. I meant the freedom to learn even if you make mistakes while you are learning. You can’t just be told what to do. You have to learn yourself. Without being free to learn, people can’t know what freedom means. Freedom to learn will solve the problem of people knowing what is good or bad. Freedom has to include making mistakes or else you have to live being told what to do.

ANDREI: You’re free until you hurt someone. So you have to have some rules that people agree on; things everyone agrees people can and can’t do. 

SHAIQ: You don’t have to agree all the time but you can’t be allowed to make some mistakes; you can’t hurt each other. That’s not freedom.

         So what makes freedom work?

ANDREI: Good laws, good parents, education. Most of all, taking care of each other. You have to want to take care of others or freedom doesn’t work.  

ANISGUL: Freedom must make some place a better place to live in. It should make the best conditions for living. It should make peace. When there’s war everywhere there’s no freedom. There’s only sadness and no life, and no one is happy. Freedom has to have peace to be freedom. That’s the most important thing for me—that freedom brings peace.

YUQI: Freedom means to learn about ideas that aren’t like your ideas. You need to be free to see where you agree and disagree with others. If you have to agree all the time that is not freedom.

SHAIQ: I agree!  But freedom works only if there is respect for other cultures and other religions.  Without respect, freedom will never come.

 ©InterestEng. July 2013 - April 2022 §  The stories in the magazine portion of the site are written by English language learners. Stories are corrected by a native English speaker.  § Photos are staff photos or used with permission.  §  To contact us: