Around the world the demand for education is growing exponentially because of the projected need to have a good job within the first world service economy, but the money that is being appropriated by any government supporting education is not matching the need. Dwindling tax money is funding the global war machine and is sucking itself into bureaucracy. In California, state supported institutions of higher education like UC Berkeley, SF State, and Laney Community College are being hit by budget cuts. Students are protesting fee hikes, workers are raising their voices about layoffs, and faculty are uniting against pay cuts; the budget crisis is heavily affecting education. There is a call to action on March 4 across the nation for schools to Walk Out in opposition to cutting school budgets.
However, as this issue of Slingshot is being created, the East Bay Free School is already tirelessly producing an alternative to state and business controlled education. Instead of fighting the system to profit from the system in the form of free education, a group of people can assume control for their own desires and needs for information. Comrades all across the East Bay have signed up to teach classes about their favorite topics including and not limited to: permaculture, Spanish, homebrew, knitting, and astrology/astronomy. Education is a human entitlement that we all ought to have access to, but in attempting to create viable alternatives to capitalism we can create our own paradigm in which to learn useful skills and information.
The East Bay Free School (EBFS) is similar to other free schools around the country in that people sign up to teach classes, then the classes are listed on a calendar, which is widely distributed for people to attend. A lot of organization goes into setting up the infrastructure for the EBFS, like finding free class space and course offerings. Free School classes are all ages and, of course, all free!
I went to a Free School class about Solar PV Installation. The class was being offered every Saturday for four weeks; it allowed for the ‘teacher’ and the ‘students’ to go into as much or as little depth as they wished; together they decided their curriculum. Thus Free School is a definite way one could obtain comprehensive knowledge for free, and in a friendly, autonomous setting.
It does take a lot of effort and cooperation to put together a formal Free School calendar, and sometimes resources are scarce, so the first stages to creating an alternative educational structure might be to spontaneously get together with your friends and simply share your skills. This form of information exchange usually involves practical usage and experimentation. Most of the time institutionalized learning is heavily lacking in practice and does not end up equipping folks with useful skills but rather rhetoric information. The red tape of institutionalized school can stand in the way of someone who wants simply to learn and to pursue passions. Students must often spend extra time and money in a required class having no genuine interest. Through learning about the topics we want to learn about and exchanging information with our friends, we create a new world outside of the capitalist institutional structure for people to exist strongly together without the pressure of needing a degree for a better job because we find our needs fulfilled. In ensuring our own human rights to education we also empower ourselves to do what we love and to be really engaged in our lives as they are lived.
To contact the EBFS: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.eastbayfreeskool.wikia.com. there are also meetings at the Long Haul on Mondays at 7:30 pm.