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Grassroots: The Free Skool for Humans Breaks Educational Boundaries

Lauren Sega Lauren Sega Grassroots: The Free Skool for Humans Breaks Educational Boundaries
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Anyone who’s gone to school likely shares a similar notion of how things are supposed to go: one instructor stands in front of a group of students and tries to teach them something — physics, graphic design, Women and Gender Studies 101, how to sing or play an instrument — the list can go on for a while. From there the pupils move on, exploring their topics of interest in more depth, usually attending a university or trade school.

It’s all aimed at finding each person’s purpose, but, when a purpose is found, most people push the learning process to the back of their minds.

“They’re just done with college after that. They have their career, or they have kids, or they have their partner, and they can’t really imagine how to learn again,” said Bobby T Luck, founder of the community-run Free Skool for Humans. “I just want to make ideas available to the community and make us all work together to make them available to each other.”

The idea of the The Free Skool for Humans came to Luck after the election, and he’s been working within a network of interested teachers and enrollees since. The concept is simple: a free school where anyone can teach, and anyone can learn. Luck said one of the main aspects of educational engagement that they wanted to change was the nature of the teacher-student relationship.

“There’s this hierarchy between those who have learned and those who are still learning,” he said. “But, we’re all always still learning.”

Keeping that in mind, the classes are loosely structured. Students attending their first Introduction to Biology class at the Free Skool for Humans won’t receive a carefully formatted curriculum for the first semester. Instead, the typical “Syllabus Day” many college graduates or drop-outs are familiar with will consist of conversations between teachers and students. They’ll cover what scheduling works best, what topics are already well known, and which ones need to be addressed.

The course list, created based on mass appeal, touches on a variety of subject areas; it includes introductory classes on the Adobe Creative Suite (Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign), drawing and illustration, computer science, politics, biology and philosophy, as well as workshops in “Independent Publishing in the Printernet Age,” “Theory and Praxis: Reproductive Justice,” “Whiteness and the Working Class,” and “Music Theory for Humans.” Luck said there really was no limit to the type of class someone could teach.

“Say you don’t have a completed college education, but you have the ability to teach a screen-printing class,” he said. “Everybody has information that we should be sharing with each other. I think there’s a way you can learn without having that culture of education that has been put on us.”

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Being a community-run effort, with volunteers for teachers and an unknown number of true enrollees, this first semester is bound to be full of trials and errors. One of the hurdles is finding a good mode of communication between “professors” and pupils. The school does most of its communicating through its Facebook page, but Luck said they don’t want everyone’s names, numbers or emails floating around for just anyone to see. For now, those interested in enrolling are encouraged to email [email protected] with a list of desired courses. From there, students will be contacted and informed on when to show up and where (ranging from free spaces at peoples’ houses, public libraries and art collectives) for the first semester, running from January 18 through March 10.

After that is when the school gets “official” — as official as it can get without charging enrollment fees and granting accreditation, that is. They’ll launch a Kickstarter and start working on publicity. Graduates who complete the Adobe Creative Suite and illustration introductory courses will work together to create promotional posters, and new computer science whizzes will construct the Free Skool for Humans website. Until then, Luck has spread the word by putting up his course selection guides around coffee shops, libraries and grocery stores — “places where all kinds of people can see it.”

It seems to have worked. Luck said school enrollees are diverse in their backgrounds and interests. While it’s possible to become versed in these subjects through a series of internet searches and library visits, the Free Skool for Humans creates an interactive community, a “backup, where we know how to teach each other things and how to give each other information and be there for each other.”

“I thought I knew everybody I wanted to know in Columbus,” Luck said. “I was dead wrong.”

For more information on the Free Skool for Humans, join their Facebook group.

To make a donation, contact Bobby T Luck at [email protected].

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