Around 75 people turned out last night at 2640 for the first public discussion about the new Baltimore Free School. Energy was high, and by the end of the night a wall was covered with brightly colored paper listing ideas for classes on topics ranging from Semiotics to Solar Cell Building to Arabic to Apartment Gardening (Guess who volunteered to teach that last one~)
Wikipedia (the ultimate free school!) has a pretty great description of the history and socio-political structure of this idea: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Free_school Of course, we did talk about how great it will be to be in a classroom with other fun folks instead of learning alone from screens or books, which many of us are already doing.
There was a strong mix of participants at the meeting, from old skool adults to us younger peeps. There was of course a strong Red Emma's contingent, as they were the seed for this idea and are always totally on it as far as logistical planning like getting building space and figuring out how to pay the rent.
Many teachers from both the university and public school level were there, as well as college students of various levels, excited about the alternative structure of the school. Many of us working-type folks were also excited about the prospect of breaking free of the rat race to explore and experiment.
We are all looking forward to spreading the love of learning for the sake of learning rather than receiving a number on a piece of paper. Not having to pay tuition is a plus too! Rather than complain about what other people need to fix, let's just form our own systems and fix society from the inside out.
The teacher-student relationship will be horizontal, rather than the typical top down structure where a teacher stands in front of the room and dispenses information to the silent people in desks. This of course is based on our belief that open collaboration leads to better ideas and a more positive, collective, stronger environment. Just as forests are strong because of their biological diversity, so is the classroom & the mind!
The financial arrangement will be horizontal as well. This of course is crucial to the DIY ethic. Rather than rely on grants or other large organizations, this project will be funded by many small donations from a wide range of people. This prevents us from having to worry when our one source of funding from a grant or similar source dries up.
I've already signed up to donate $25 per month to the space- that works out to less than a dollar a day. It's totally worth it. If you're interested, check out the Free School website (a more developed version will be coming soon.)
To top it all off, this whole idea came together in the space of a few months. Just like the insane City from Below conference, which went down in late March. Folks from all over the country and even Canada came to Baltimore to workshop & talk about restructuring society in a more positive way. Plus with Baltimore Foodmakers and the @nodespring hackerspace blossoming, it seems like great collectives have been sprouting up all over in the past year or so. I couldn't be happier to be in such an organized, motivated city!