Anarchistic free school

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 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 which permit children's individual initiatives and learning endeavors within the context of a school democracy, and from free education where 'traditional' schooling is made available to pupils without charge. The open structure of free schools is intended to encourage self-reliance, critical consciousness, and personal development. Free schools often operate outside the market economy in favor of a gift economy. 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.

Free schools have their roots in the anarchist Escuela Moderna of Spain 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 level by a group of individuals acting collectively and autonomously to create educational opportunities and promote skill-sharing within their communities. For example, the Anarchist Free School in Toronto was described as "a volunteer-run, autonomous collective offering free courses, workshops, and lectures."[1]


While the philosophy and intention of anarchist free school projects vary, they share a desire to offer free ongoing education without hierarchy and outside 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, self-reliance, and mutual support, and feature informal, non-authoritarian learning outside 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 of everything, including learning and the way we relate to each other."[2]


Spanish anarchist Francisco Ferrer (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.[3] Murray Bookchin writes: "This period [1890s] was the heyday of libertarian 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), a project which exercised a considerable influence on Catalan education and on experimental techniques of teaching generally."[4]

Currently active free schools/skools


  • Free School Cadiz – Cadiz, Spain (2013–14)

Aotearoa New Zealand


  • Halifax FreeSkool – Halifax, NS[5]
  • Hamilton FreeSkool – Hamilton, ON[6]
  • KW FreeSkool – Kitchener-Waterloo, ON[7]
  • Niagara FreeSkool – St.Catharines, ON[8]
  • Toronto Free School – Toronto, ON[9]
  • Anarchist U in Toronto – Toronto, ON[10]
  • Camas FreeSkool – Victoria, BC[11]
  • Falls Brook Free School – Knowlesville, NB[12]
  • Calgary School of Informal Education - Calgary, Alberta[13]

United Kingdom

United States

  • Atlanta Free School – Atlanta, GA[16]
  • Corvid College-Boston, Massachusetts[17]
  • Corvid College-San Francisco, California[18]
  • LA Free Skool-Los Angeles, California[19]
  • Albany Free School – Albany, NY[20]
  • Prescott Freeskool – Prescott, AZ[21]
  • Austin Free Skool – Austin, TX[22]
  • Davis People's Free School – Davis, CA[23]
  • Newberg Free Skool – Newberg, OR
  • West Marin – Inverness, CA[24]
  • East Bay Free Skool – Oakland, CA
  • San Francisco Free School- San Francisco, CA[25]
  • Free Skool Santa Cruz – Santa Cruz, CA[2]
  • Colorado Free University – Denver, CO[26]
  • Free School Denver – Denver, CO[27]
  • Fort Collins Free School – Fort Collins, CO[28]
  • Bridgeport Free Skool – Bridgeport, CT[29]
  • New Haven Free Skool – New Haven, CT[30]
  • Bloomington Free Skool – Bloomington, IN[31]
  • Baltimore Free School – Baltimore, MD[32]
  • Little Lake Learning Community – Ann Arbor, MI[33]
  • Mount Pleasant Free School – Mount Pleasant, MI[34]
  • Ypsilanti Free Skool – Ypsilanti, MI[35]
  • Experimental College of the Twin Cities – Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN[36]
  • Freeskool Asheville – Asheville, NC[37]
  • Mercer Free School – Mercer County, NJ[38]
  • Ithaca Free Skool – Ithaca, NY[39]
  • Eugene Free School – Eugene, OR[40]
  • Orlando Free Skool – Orlando, FL[41]
  • Portland Freeskool – Portland, OR[42]
  • Pgh Free Skool – Pittsburgh, PA[43]
  • Vermillion Free Skool – Vermillion, SD[44]
  • Free Skool Olympia – Olympia, WA[45]
  • Seattle Free School – Seattle, WA[46]
  • Free University of Gainesville – Gainesville, Fl[47]
  • FSU Center for Participant Education – Tallahassee, FL[48]
  • St. Pete Free Skool – St. Petersburg, FL[49]
  • Tampa Free Skool – Tampa, FL[50]
  • Madison Free Skool – Madison, WI[51]
  • Common Action Free School – Bloomington/Normal, IL[52]
  • Philly Free Skool – Philadelphia, PA[53]
  • New Orleans Free School Network – New Orleans, LA[54]
  • Klamath Free School – Klamath Falls, OR[55]
  • The Brooklyn Free School – Brooklyn, NY[56]
  • South Florida Free Skool – South Florida Tri-County Area, FL[57]
  • Always Learning Salt Lake City – Salt Lake Valley, UT[58]

See also


  1. Antliff, Alan Breaking Free: Anarchist Pedagogy. In Cote et. al, Utopian Pedagogy: Radical Experiments Against Neo-Liberal Globalization. University of Toronto Press, 2007, p.248. ISBN 978-0-8020-8923-6.
  2. 1 2 "Free Skool Santa Cruz - Santa Cruz, CA, USA". Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  3. Francisco Ferrer's Modern School Archived 2010-08-07 at the Wayback Machine.
  4. Chapter 7, Anarchosyndicalism, The New Ferment. In Murray Bookchin, The Spanish anarchists: the heroic years, 1868-1936. AK Press, 1998, p.115. ISBN 1-873176-04-X
  5. "Halifax FreeSkool – Halifax, NS, Canada". 2008-07-09. Archived from the original on 2008-10-05. Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  6. Hamilton FreeSkool; – Hamilton, ON, Canada Archived July 14, 2011, at the Wayback Machine.
  7. "KW FreeSkool". Waterloo PIRG. 2011-09-23. Retrieved 2011-10-01.
  8. "FreeSkool Niagara – Saint Catharines, ON, Canada". 2011-09-13. Archived from the original on 2011-08-23. Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  9. practicalsolidarity. "Toronto Free School – Toronto, ON, Canada". Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  10. "Anarchist U in Toronto – Toronto, ON, Canada". 2011-08-21. Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  11. "Camas FreeSkool – Victoria, BC, Canada". 2012-03-30. Retrieved 2012-03-30.
  12. "Falls Brook Free School – Knowlesville, NB, Canada". 2013-04-18. Retrieved 2013-04-18.
  13. "Calgary School of Informal Education – Calgary, AB, Canada". 2016-11-07. Retrieved 2016-07-15.
  14. "London Free School – London, , UK". Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  15. "London, , UK". Really Free School. Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  16. "The Atlanta Free School". Retrieved 2013-09-13.
  17. "Corvid College, Ma, Usa". Corvid College. 2012-01-07. Retrieved 2012-01-07.
  18. "Corvid College, Ca, Usa". Corvid College. 2012-01-07. Retrieved 2012-01-07.
  19. "La, Ca, Usa". LA Free Skool. 2011-08-14. Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  20. "Albany, NY, USA". Albany Free School. Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  21. "Prescott Freeskool – Prescott, AZ, USA". Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  22. "Austin Free Skool – Austin, TX, USA". Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  23. "Davis People's Free School – Davis, CA, USA". 1999-02-22. Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  24. "West Marin – Inverness, CA, USA". Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  25. San Francisco Free School- San Francisco, CA, USA
  26. "Colorado Free University". Colorado Free University. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  27. "Denver, CO, USA". Free School Denver. 2011-09-01. Archived from the original on 2011-12-01. Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  28. "Fort Collins Free School". Retrieved 2012-04-08.
  29. "Bridgeport Free Skool". Archived from the original on 2013-11-09. Retrieved 2013-11-09.
  30. "New Haven Free Skool". Retrieved 2013-11-09.
  31. "Bloomington Free Skool – Bloomington , IN, USA". 2011-04-01. Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  32. "Baltimore Free School – Baltimore, MD, USA". Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  33. "Little Lake Learning Community – Ann Arbor, MI, USA". Retrieved 2011-11-13.
  34. "Mount Pleasant Free School – Mount Pleasant, MI, USA". Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  35. "Ypsilanti Free Skool". Ypsilanti Free Skool. Retrieved 29 March 2018.
  36. "Experimental College of the Twin Cities – Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN, USA". Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  37. "Freeskool Asheville – Asheville, NC, USA". Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  38. "Mercer Free School – Mercer County, NJ, USA". 2011-07-29. Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  39. "Ithaca Free Skool – Ithaca, NY, USA". Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  40. "Eugene, OR, USA". Eugene Free School. Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  41. "Orlando Free Skool – Orlando, FL". Retrieved 2012-01-20.
  42. Portland Freeskool – Portland, OR, USA Archived November 24, 2005, at the Wayback Machine.
  43. "Pgh Free Skool – Pittsburgh, PA, USA". Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  44. "Vermillion Free Skool – Vermillion, SD, USA". Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  45. "Olympia, WA, USA". Free Skool Olympia. Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  46. "Seattle, WA, USA". Seattle Free School. Archived from the original on 2011-09-24. Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  47. "Free University of Gainesville". Facebook. Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  48. "FSU Center for Participant Education – Tallahassee, FL, USA". Archived from the original on 2011-08-20. Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  49. "St. Petersburg, FL, USA". St. Pete Free Skool. Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  50. "Tampa Free Skool – Tampa, FL, USA". 2011-09-09. Archived from the original on 2012-02-14. Retrieved 2012-03-08.
  51. "Madison Free Skool – Madison, WI, USA". Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  52. "Bloomington/Normal, IL, USA". Common Action Free School. Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  53. "Philadelphia, PA, USA". Philly Free Skool. Archived from the original on 2012-04-02. Retrieved 2011-09-20.
  54. "NO, LA, Usa". NOLA Free School. Retrieved 2012-01-19.
  55. "Klamath Falls, OR, USA". Klamath Free School. Retrieved 2012-06-18.
  56. "The Brooklyn Free School, Brooklyn, NY". Brookyln Free School. Archived from the original on 2012-07-18. Retrieved 2012-10-01.
  57. "South Florida Free Skool, South Florida Tri-County Area, FL". South Florida Free Skool. Retrieved 2013-05-25.
  58. "Always Learning Salt Lake City, Salt Lake Valley, UT". Always Learning Salt Lake City. Retrieved 2014-10-01.
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