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An anarchistic free school (also anarchist free school and free skool) is a decentralized network in which skills, information, and knowledge are shared without hierarchy
A hierarchy is an arrangement of items in which the items are represented as being "above," "below," or "at the same level as" one another...

 or the institutional environment of formal schooling. Free school students may be adults, children, or both. This organisational structure is distinct from ones used by democratic free schools
Democratic education
Democratic education is a theory of learning and school governance in which students and staff participate freely and equally in a school democracy...

 which permit children's individual initiatives and learning endeavors within the context of a school democracy, and from free education
Free education
Free education refers to education that is funded through taxation, or charitable organizations rather than tuition fees. Although primary school and other comprehensive or compulsory education is free in many countries, for example, all education is mostly free including...

 where 'traditional' schooling is made available to pupils without charge.


The open structure of this type of free school is intended to encourage self-reliance, critical consciousness, and personal development. These free schools have their roots in the anarchist
Anarchism is generally defined as the political philosophy which holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful, or alternatively as opposing authority in the conduct of human relations...

 Escuela Moderna
Escuela Moderna
La Escuela Moderna was a progressive school that existed briefly at the start of the 20th century in Catalonia ....

 of Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

 in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. They are, at heart, non-institutional, non-authoritarian, and counter-cultural. Generally, these are formed at a grassroots
A grassroots movement is one driven by the politics of a community. The term implies that the creation of the movement and the group supporting it are natural and spontaneous, highlighting the differences between this and a movement that is orchestrated by traditional power structures...

 level by a group of individuals acting collectively and autonomously to create educational opportunities and promote skill-sharing
Sharing the joint use of a resource or space. In its narrow sense, it refers to joint or alternating use of an inherently finite good, such as a common pasture or a shared residence. It is also the process of dividing and distributing. Apart from obvious instances, which we can observe in human...

 within their communities. Fore example, the Anarchist Free School in Toronto was described as such, "The anarchist free school is a volunteer-run, autonomous collective offering free courses, workshops, and lectures."

These free schools often operate outside the market economy
Market economy
A market economy is an economy in which the prices of goods and services are determined in a free price system. This is often contrasted with a state-directed or planned economy. Market economies can range from hypothetically pure laissez-faire variants to an assortment of real-world mixed...

 in favor of a gift economy
Gift economy
In the social sciences, a gift economy is a society where valuable goods and services are regularly given without any explicit agreement for immediate or future rewards . Ideally, simultaneous or recurring giving serves to circulate and redistribute valuables within the community...

. Nevertheless, the meaning of the "free" of free schools is not restricted to monetary cost, and can refer to an emphasis on free speech and student-centred education.

Philosophy of Anarchist Free schools

While the philosophy and intention of anarchist free school projects vary, they share a desire to offer free ongoing education without hierarchy
A hierarchy is an arrangement of items in which the items are represented as being "above," "below," or "at the same level as" one another...

 and outside of institutional control.

Free Skool Santa Cruz in California is perhaps typical of the current batch of free schools that are explicitly rooted in an anarchist tradition of collectivism
Collectivism is any philosophic, political, economic, mystical or social outlook that emphasizes the interdependence of every human in some collective group and the priority of group goals over individual goals. Collectivists usually focus on community, society, or nation...

, self-reliance
Self-Reliance is an essay written by American Transcendentalist philosopher and essayist, Ralph Waldo Emerson. It contains the most thorough statement of one of Emerson's repeating themes, the need for each individual to avoid conformity and false consistency, and follow his or her own instincts...

, and mutual support, and feature informal, non-authoritarian learning outside of the monetary economy. From the Free Skool Santa Cruz website: "More than just an opportunity to learn, we see Free Skool as a direct challenge to dominant institutions and hierarchical relationships. Part of creating a new world is resistance to the old one, to the relentless commodification
Commodification is the transformation of goods, ideas, or other entities that may not normally be regarded as goods into a commodity....

 of everything, including learning and the way we relate to each other."

These are on-going, informal learning networks, that focus on skill-sharing among adults as well as children. The boundaries between students, teachers, and organizers are consciously blurred, with some free skools claiming, "we are all teachers, and we are all students." Free skool "classes" are often autonomous workshops held in informal settings in homes, cafes, and community centers. Free skools typically offer a monthly or quarterly-produced free skool calendar.

History of Anarchist Free schools

Spanish anarchist Francisco Ferrer
Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia
Francesc Ferrer i Guàrdia was a Spanish Catalan free-thinker and anarchist....

 (1859–1909) established "modern" or progressive schools in Spain in defiance of an educational system controlled by the church. Fiercely anti-clerical, he believed in "freedom in education," education free from the authority of church and state. Murray Bookchin
Murray Bookchin
Murray Bookchin was an American libertarian socialist author, orator, and philosopher. A pioneer in the ecology movement, Bookchin was the founder of the social ecology movement within anarchist, libertarian socialist and ecological thought. He was the author of two dozen books on politics,...

 wrote: "This period [1890s] was the heyday of libertarian
Libertarianism, in the strictest sense, is the political philosophy that holds individual liberty as the basic moral principle of society. In the broadest sense, it is any political philosophy which approximates this view...

 schools and pedagogical projects in all areas of the country where Anarchists exercised some degree of influence. Perhaps the best-known effort in this field was Francisco Ferrer's Modern School (Escuela Moderna
Escuela Moderna
La Escuela Moderna was a progressive school that existed briefly at the start of the 20th century in Catalonia ....

), a project which exercised a considerable influence on Catalan
Catalonia is an autonomous community in northeastern Spain, with the official status of a "nationality" of Spain. Catalonia comprises four provinces: Barcelona, Girona, Lleida, and Tarragona. Its capital and largest city is Barcelona. Catalonia covers an area of 32,114 km² and has an...

 education and on experimental techniques of teaching generally."

Radical experiments in non-hierarchical
A hierarchy is an arrangement of items in which the items are represented as being "above," "below," or "at the same level as" one another...

 education with anarchist roots have given rise to temporal and permanent free schools. They are often termed "free skools" to distinguish them from what supporters view as an oppressive and institutional educational industry. Temporal free skools offering skill-shares and training have become a regular part of large radical gatherings and actions. More permanent skools in cities large and small have popped up across North America offering a wide range of workshops, classes, and skill-shares.

Funding difficulties often result in Free Schools having only a short life. For instance, Liverpool's Scotland Road Free School
Scotland Road Free School
The Scotland Road Free School was an example of democratic education started in Liverpool, UK, in 1970 by two local teachers, John Ord and Bill Murphy. According to the school's prospectus, Ord and Murphy wanted to establish "a school run by children, parents and teachers together, without a...

 managed to last only a few years in the early 1970s.


  • Halifax FreeSkool - Halifax, NS
  • Hamilton FreeSkool - Hamilton, ON
  • KW FreeSkool - Kitchener-Waterloo, ON, Canada
  • Niagara FreeSkool - St.Catharines, ON
  • Toronto Free School - Toronto, ON
  • Anarchist U in Toronto - Toronto, ON

United States

  • LA Free Skool-Los Angeles, California
  • The Free School - Albany, NY
  • Prescott Freeskool - Prescott, AZ
  • Austin Free Skool - Austin, TX
  • Davis People's Free School - Davis, CA
  • West Marin
    West Marin
    West Marin is the largest rural region of Marin County, California.The West Marin Chamber of Commerce includes seven unincorporated communities in its definition of West Marin: Point Reyes Station, Olema, Stinson Beach, Bolinas, Tomales, Dillon Beach, and Inverness...

     - Inverness, CA
  • East Bay Free Skool - Oakland, CA
  • San Francisco Free School- San Francisco, CA
  • Free Skool Santa Cruz - Santa Cruz, CA
  • Free School Denver - Denver, CO
  • Bloomington Free Skool - Bloomington , IN
  • Baltimore Free School - Baltimore, MD
  • Little Lake Learning Community - Ann Arbor, MI
  • Mount Pleasant Free School - Mount Pleasant, MI
  • Experimental Community Education of the Twin Cities - Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN
  • Freeskool Asheville  - Asheville, NC
  • Mercer Free School - Mercer County, NJ
  • Ithaca Free Skool - Ithaca, NY
  • Eugene Free School - Eugene, OR
  • Portland Freeskool - Portland, OR
  • Pgh Free Skool - Pittsburgh, PA
  • Vermillion Free Skool - Vermillion, SD
  • Free Skool Olympia - Olympia, WA
  • Seattle Free School - Seattle, WA
  • Free University of Gainesville - Gainesville, Fl
  • FSU Center for Participant Education - Tallahassee, FL
  • St. Pete Free Skool - St. Petersburg, FL
  • Tampa Free Skool - Tampa, FL
  • Madison Free Skool - Madison, WI
  • Common Action Free School - Bloomington/Normal, IL
  • Philly Free Skool - Philadelphia, PA

See also

  • Alternative education
    Alternative education
    Alternative education, also known as non-traditional education or educational alternative, includes a number of approaches to teaching and learning other than mainstream or traditional education. Educational alternatives are often rooted in various philosophies that are fundamentally different...

  • Alternative school
    Alternative school
    Alternative school is the name used in some parts of the world to describe an institution which provides part of alternative education. It is an educational establishment with a curriculum and methods that are nontraditional...

  • DIY ethic
    DIY ethic
    The DIY ethic refers to the ethic of self-sufficiency through completing tasks oneself as opposed to having others who are more experienced or able complete them for one's behalf. It promotes the idea that an ordinary person can learn to do more than he or she thought was possible...

  • Direct action
    Direct action
    Direct action is activity undertaken by individuals, groups, or governments to achieve political, economic, or social goals outside of normal social/political channels. This can include nonviolent and violent activities which target persons, groups, or property deemed offensive to the direct action...

  • Democratic education
    Democratic education
    Democratic education is a theory of learning and school governance in which students and staff participate freely and equally in a school democracy...

  • Grassroots democracy
    Grassroots democracy
    Grassroots democracy is a tendency towards designing political processes where as much decision-making authority as practical is shifted to the organization's lowest geographic level of organization: principle of subsidiarity....

  • Sudbury School
    Sudbury school
    A Sudbury school is a school that practices a form of democratic education in which students individually decide what to do with their time, and learn as a by-product of ordinary experience rather than adopting a descriptive educational syllabus or standardized instruction by classes following a...

  • Unschooling
    Unschooling is a range of educational philosophies and practices centered on allowing children to learn through their natural life experiences, including play, game play, household responsibilities, work experience, and social interaction, rather than through a more traditional school curriculum....

External links