Freedom to Choose

From the Farm


Published in the Casper Journal March 9, 2011

I have a new favorite definition of freedom:  Freedom is the opportunity to choose.  Freedom is not a free-for-all.  It does not mean, “Do whatever you want to.”  Freedom is simply a choice between at least two options.
As a parent, this definition is worth a lot.  As long as I give my children two, viable options, they are free to choose and act.  Those choices can be, “Do your homework and then you can play,” or “Don’t do your homework and miss out on free time.”  Even then, my kids are free.  They still have choices.
In America, we love choices.  We love choosing our occupation, taking time off when we want to, traveling to places we want to see, eating what we want to, and living where we want to.  We love electing our officials.  We love expressing ourselves when we are displeased.  We love choosing our religion.  We love voting on the laws of the land.  We are drunk on freedom.  But we must not get so intoxicated with choices that we forget one fact:  Freedom isn’t free.  Freedom requires moral leaders who will continue to provide choices, just as my children’s agency depends upon me to give them options.
Wyoming is especially good at providing freedom, at offering choices.  And Natrona County Schools are a perfect example.  Parents and students had until January 28th to make their educational choices for the following school year.  During January, every school in Natrona County held an open house, where parents and prospective students could visit with staff, tour the facility, and ask questions.
With five Natrona County students, we attended a few open houses.  The best part was that they were all impressive!  Natrona County is filled with great, educational choices.  Every school was unique, with different educational approaches, styles of teaching, and building layouts. 
The buzz among decision-making mothers was heavy.  “I like Summit Elementary because of the ‘Leader in Me’ program.”  “I prefer Fort Casper and the intense curriculum.”  “I like Woods and the friendly atmosphere.”  “I was impressed with Verda James and the staff.”   “Dean Morgan has a convenient location.”  “Casper Classical Academy has a small student body.”  “Natrona County High School offers a lot of extra options.”  “Kelly Walsh seemed very organized.” 
The phone calls, emails, and chatter buzzed throughout the month.  My friends called, shared opinions, discussed decisions, and gathered input from past attendees.
“Everywhere I go, I’m impressed!” one friend wailed.  “I don’t know which school to choose.”  Isn’t that great!?!  There are so many wonderful options.  In Natrona County we truly understand freedom.  We have choices…and good ones!
Well, the deadline is here, the online request forms have been submitted, and now parents and students will wait for their choices to become official when notification letters arrive in the mail.  Nothing is set in stone, and students and parents can always apply to other schools, even when decisions have been made.  But for now, the discussion flurry is over for a bit. 
No matter what the outcome, it will be good.  I have five Natrona County School Students.  Everywhere we have toured, attended or observed in the past two years has been impressive.  Every place has pros and cons, with every school heavy on the pros.
I’m glad for freedom.  I’m glad for choice.  I’m glad for options, which put the decisions into the hands of parents.  I’m an American, and I love freedom.  I drink it deeply, especially when it involves decisions regarding my children.  Thank you, moral educators of Natrona County who provide choices.  You meet my definition of “free.”
Nettie Francis is Editor of The Wyoming Woman Magazine

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