Theoretical framework on liberty in the teaching profession
To sketch the qualities of liberty that Vietnamese teachers held, I refer to encyclopaedias to organise general definitions of teachers’ freedom in schools. Thoughts on freedom began in ancient times and have not yet arrived at universal conclusions (Feinberg, 2005; Kramer, 2011). Even the basic distinction between negative (being free from curb/containmcnt) and positive conceptions (being able to do/achieve something) of liberty in modern political science varies among philosophers in situation, function, condition, and so forth (Berlin, 1969; Feinberg, 2005; Kramer, 2011; “Liberty,” 2017). My discussion of teachers’ liberty would be novel and challenging, which requires a careful examination to avoid arbitrary assertions. The basic premises for discussion and those it references may determine our direction on teachers’ liberty. For instance, liberty in schools has often been explored as academic freedoms that emphasise autonomy against intervention as to what to research and educate by authorities (Macintyre, 2010). The concept of liberty in classic politics (e.g. Locke, Kant, Hegel) concerns metaphysical or moral human beings who become or achieve freedom. Modern political thoughts have targeted citizens to analyse their freedom, not only a specific profession. Under multiple streams of research, I first focus on the negative liberty that is antithetical to a robust socialist bureaucratic control. Our initial question is what sorts of liberty could Vietnamese teachers obtain and enjoy in their profession against micromanagement by the authorities. In this section, I compose a theoretical basis to discuss this. Regarding liberty and freedom, I do not differentiate between the terms in this study.
To seek a decent starting point for discussing liberty, I refer to relevant articles from encyclopaedias (Britannica Academic, 2017; International Encyclopedia of Education, 2005; International Encyclopedia of Political Science, 2001; The Shorter Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2005) and draw simplified relationships among the focal concepts of liberty (Figure 7.1).
The figure is developed based on negative concepts consisting of two conditions for both two states of‘being free’ and ‘being unfree’ (Kramer, 2011). The symbol
denotes any act (verb) of a person (X). Being free is the state of an absence of both constraint/impediment and the inability to tp. In other words, the state of being unprevented from p-ing AND having the ability to
Figure 7.1 The classification of political liberties based on negative conception; developed by the author based on Kramer (2011) a negative concept of liberty requires people to obtain abilities, which emphasises the role of education (Feinberg, 2005; Girvetz, Minogue, Ball, & Dagger, 2017). Reflecting the case of teachers, teacher education needs to nurture abilities AND arrange something for teachers so that they break away from unnecessary conventions in teachers’ work.
Here, the positive concept focuses on equipping the abilities to
or quality of achieving the act
In the field of education, teachers’ positive liberty is a central issue because the teaching profession has, in nature, ethical and moral responsibilities to secure better development of students (Kelchtermans, 2009). The issue can be expressed in a question of whether the absence of constraint and impediment in teaching secures their better practices, that is, their students’ better learning. To make students’ learning more fruitful, teachers might need to eliminate unnecessary constraint or impediment; yet such lack of prevention is not enough. The negative concept needs to be extended to the freedom of achieving betterness.
Proponents of republican liberty have also sought negative liberty while they emphasise people’s political literacy in democracy to eliminate the unreasonable exertion of power. They aim to remove the arbitrary domination by power and their unconscious dependence on such power. Republican programmes for protecting freedom involve three goals: establishing the norm of public reasoning for guiding arbitrary authorities; opportunities for democratic discussion must be inclusively open for all individuals and groups; an arena where people can raise objections to the authorities must be secured (Lovett, 2018; Pettit, 1997). The republican concept has an affinity with communitarianism that tries to secure freedom by building mutual agreements among people on common goods and public virtues (Sandel, 1998; Taylor, 1992; Tomano, 2014). It can also converge on the politics of difference that assert one’s participation in decision making in the community that he or she belongs to as a critical condition ofher/his liberty (Sakiyama, 2014; Young, 1990).
If this concept is placed in the teachers’ workplace, it will be achieved through nurturing their power against bureaucracy (c.g. mandates from district education office) and agents (e.g. school principals and teacher evaluators) and encouraging inclusion among them.
When the act of f>-ing is authorised by legal mandates, moral principles, and institutions rule that a person is deontically free to
(Kramer, 2011). Deontic liberty has a different aspect from the three concepts above (negative, positive and republican) in terms of its permissibility of someone’s action. The first three matter whether a person does/does not or can/cannot perform an act, whereas the latter concerns whether one is or is not permitted to do so. While negative liberty is construed by the trivalcnt states of (1) with constraint, (2) with inability and (3) with noninference AND ability (Figure 7.1), it only has the bivalent states of with or without the permission for some action. The concept seems to reflect the relative freedom of the teachers in bureaucracy optimally. Vietnamese teachers are bound in bureaucratic duties and socialist mandates that have politically and customarily loaded them with explicit, implicit, and unconscious subordination to the authorities.