The ‘problem’ of freedom

At Oxford, Newman witnessed at first hand the consequences of that intoxicating mix of freedom and virtually no responsibility, and realised that formative living depended on the previous acquisition of good habits and on wise oversight by the authorities.

Throughout his life Newman was preoccupied with the ‘problem’ of human freedom, and in particular how it played out in a person’s formative years. In all his educational ventures he grappled with how best to negotiate that delicate and gradual process of launching the young person into the world, how to pitch demands and expectations with just that right mixture of freedom and restraint. He was acutely aware of the need to avoid excessive regulation and oversight on the one hand, and neglect on the other.

In Newman’s age as in our own, well-meaning but counterproductive over-protectiveness at the various stages of education was as common as gross neglect; and then, as now, this was particularly evident at that crucial moment of transition from school to university.

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