An anarchisticfree 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 anarchistEscuela 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."
While the philosophy and intention of anarchist free school projects vary, they share a desire to offer free ongoing education without hierarchy 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, self-reliance, 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 of everything, including learning and the way we relate to each other."
Spanish anarchistFrancisco 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.Murray Bookchin wrote: "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."
^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.