This weekend, while most people were on their way to the beach, the Isla Vista Community Free Skool was in session. A group of ten students who live in Isla Vista organized the Free Skool to facilitate exchange of knowledge within the local community, rather than an institution.
Free Skool’s are a natural manifestation of a sense of community, which is what makes them unique. There are a number of free skools around the countryâ€”including one in Santa Cruz that is especially activeâ€”they are committed to cooperative learning. In a Free Skool, there is no distinction between the teacher and the student, which a hierarchical structureâ€”represented in virtually all traditional schoolsâ€”creates. The only qualification that a teacher needs at the Free Skool is knowledge and the desire to share it. The only prerequisite that a student needs is the desire to learn. Teachers determine the content and structure of classes themselves; the structure of the school serves only to connect potential teachers and students. The school is open to everyone, not just college students.
The kick-off luncheon, held at Acorn Park, was a picnic with a purpose. For the first two hours, people reclined on the grass or in the shade. A brief agenda provided an outline, but the people who attended made it happen. No one person was in charge, but the afternoon was still productive; people signed up for the email lists of the classes that interested them. Everyone seemed to be receptive and enthusiastic about the opportunity to experience education from a different perspective.
However, many of the people who I spoke with, including some of the school’s organizers, were unsure to what extent other Isla Vistans shared their enthusiasm for community. Advance publicity for the event had not been extensive, so some recruitment happened spontaneously. The organizers used free (and delicious) food to attract pedestrians, but very few took up the offer. The kick-off was a success because a small group of people came together communally to gain knowledge, but it is still uncertain whether the Free Skool will help to build a widespread co-operative community in Isla Vista.
Anyone interested in the Isla Vista Community Free Skool should go to its Facebook or Yahoo group, or visit its website: www.freewebs.com/ivcfreeskool/.