One hundred and fortyeighth åsic- Freedom is a gift to cherish!

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Freedom is not to be taken for granted. It is a gift to cherish! Freedom of what? one may ask. To me it is definitely important to have a chance to change things in my own life and thus there are many aspects of life where I think the individual needs freedom to make decisions. Freedom is one of the most difficult expressions to describe, along with a few others, such as democracy, equality or justice. In my opinion freedom is essential, freedom of thought, of religion, of press or maybe the freedom to choose a way of living, whom to marry and even IF to marry? In my profession I meet many students who have not had the chance to make decisions of their own although they are adult students. Many of them have come to Sweden from countries with weaker Governments or with no Governments at all, OR they have come from countries where the Government decides almost everything and leaves very little for the individual to decide.

When I get to know young adults from other countries I notice first of all, that they have struggled a lot with many things in life in their past. Some of them started to work as ten-year-old to finance their schooling. Others didn’t have an opportunity to go to school at all, since they were girls. In many countries girls don’t have the freedom to go to school. Instead they are married off early to a future as mothers of many children. Some other countries seem to have the tradition of first educating girls and then as they become mothers they are supposed to stop working and be housewives from then on… If I had been one of those young women, I would have missed my work for the rest of my life! I am happy to have a chance to stay at home with my children when they are newborn and then get back to work again. To me, being at work if I like to, means freedom. Freedom of choice is to me the most important of all aspects of freedom as a basic condition for life. Choice is however individual and we may come to different conclusions when given similar options, simply because our conditions for life are completely different if compared between cultures or countries or socio-economical groups.

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Some of the adult students from other countries I have met in my profession, shared with me that they could not do otherwise but to follow their parents’ decisions without questioning them. They haven’t had the opportunity to decide whom to marry, what to become, if they like to be a parent or not and in that case, how many children they would like to have. Some of them come from countries where genital mutilation is reality. Giving birth to a child is matter of life and death in such a country. The freedom to use contraceptives or the possibility to have an abortion, along with a chance to go through IVF are taken for granted in my country, but it is prohibited in many countries worldwide. Despite bad health conditions or poverty along with a lack of general education for all children young students in some countries achieve their goals. I think they may need to be more determined than many Swedish students. I admire them for not giving up!

Taking things for granted may be contraproductive for achievements or grades in school. Almost all young adults in Sweden pass through twelve years of schooling without needing to think of their safety, or whether they will have enough food for the day or not. Many of them (but not all!) are supported by their parents and earn extra money after school in parttime jobs, where they save almost all the salary for luxurious consumtion, lazy holidays or other things that wouldn’t be possible in many other countries. Then some of them plan, too, for a profession where a long education in a university is necessary. It is possible through a national loaning system open for all citizens, to finance studies although your parents are not wealthy. Not all choose to go on to university, but the point is that there is a built in opportunity for everyone who likes to try.

If I take a look around, I notice that many people around the globe has a limited access to the freedom I cherish in my everyday life. I realize that being born in an industrialized country means being privileged. As I get older, I want to share some of the good opportunities with others. Yesterday a volunteer from Amnesty International called and asked for a contribution. It was in fact very easy to become a member. Easy both in mind and thought and moneywise. Right now I haven’t got a lot of time to be an activist, but with my membership I will recieve updates from the valuable work worldwide and I look forward to knowing more. Maybe I will be able to find a suitable way to a more active contribution in the future? I hope so!

One hundred and thirtieth åsic- Winter break or Christmas Holiday?

I wonder what words we use now, compared to what we used to? Being a member of a Christian Society would mean that we remember Christmas as the Day when Jesus was born. But being a member of a secularised society means being careful with religious connections of any kind, at least when being a teacher. So… we might say Winter Break instead of Christmas Holiday… In Sweden I’d say most of us still say Christmas Holiday, ”jullov”, although not all of us would cherish the memory of Jesus. I suppose some children grow up innocently thinking that we celebrate Christmas because Santa comes…?

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Easter… we celebrate Easter because we need an excuse to eat eggs and have fun searching for candy in an egg hunt? I noticed last spring that instead of calling our typical Easter flowers ”Easter lilies” they had a new more neutral name; ”Spring lilies” and I suspect the reason why was that they wanted to be able to sell those flowers to ANYONE, not just the people who celebrate Easter… How clever!!!

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Whatever we DO believe  in, we risk to forget the reason. If we don’t communicate with our kids and remind them of reasons for our traditions or holidays, then they will grow up not knowing. But, having said that, I still think respect is a beautiful word in our vocabulary. If I teach a group of students, I’m not supposed to promote any religion in particular. So how would I then share the Swedish way of celebrating Christmas, without hurting people who have another belief? How can I possibly not at all show my own belief? Do I need to be a non believing person in order to be trustworthy? I don’t think so. I think I need to communicate the official Swedish viewpoint at the same time as I can be true to myself by not negotiating with my own belief. SO… If I meet people of different beliefs at work, I tend to be the ”cushion” in between different viewpoints. I try very hard to tell my students that whatever you believe you are free to do so, since Sweden is a society where there is no longer a state religion. You can choose for yourself to believe or not and if you believe, it’s up to you whether you’re a Buddhist or a Moslem or if your God is Jahve. And when you neighbout has another belief than you do, then just leave your neighbour in peace. You, yourself, have the same opportunity to choose, don’t you? I think the very choice to decide for oneself, is one of the best laws here in Sweden.

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