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Is the Olympia Free Skool too free?

There are lots of Free Skools around the country offering classes like ‘Yoga 4 the people”, “Crazy Quilts”, “Capoeira Basic Aerobics”, “feminism is for Everybody,” and “Community Cinema”. The Free Skool movement offers free classes to all people. Anyone can address their needs affordably and find solutions to their everyday problems from members of their community.

There are Free Skools in Ithica, Tampa, Portland, Santa Cruz, Ann Arbor, and more! And there have also been several incarnation of a Free Skool in Olympia.
As people migrate in and out of Olympia, our Free Skool has held several forms, evolving like many things do. The current Free Skool operates under the radical assertion that information should be regulated by people, not money. Even this mission statement may evolve as there becomes a need for it.

Who does Free Skool answer to? Does Free Skool answer to money? No, it doesn’t.  However, does free skool assert the impossible? Is it too difficult to spare four hours of time in a culture that runs strictly off of economic exchange? The concept of Free Skool is widely supported, left and right, up and down the board, however the successful installation of this idea into our communities seems to be met with all sorts of extraordinary obstacles.
Our friends are really busy investing in their livelihoods, and trying to pay off their hospital bills or court fees. Seems like we’re too busy working our underpaid positions, or remembering to mail out 7.6% of our earning to the IRS. We are trying to raise children in healthy environments and provide enough food for the winter, and make sure that they’re not being exposed to the wrong political views in the classroom. Is there a Free Skool class for paying your taxes on time? Is there a Free Skool class for winterizing your windows? Is there a Free Skool class for planting your fall crops, or covering your tomatoes on the first frost? These could all be classes! Though the truth most of us experience is we already have our hands full. How do people manage to step away from their industrial livelihoods and remember to watch the sunset, much less teach a Free Skool class like Fertility Awareness and Contraceptive Concerns? This is being done in Ann Arbor and it seems a worthy cause.
So how are we to do this? Like any organization there needs to be a foundation, something that supports the weight it intends to carry. Something reliable. Reviews of other Free Skools, report the unpredictablitiy of the organization is one of the more undesirable factors. No one wants to show up to a class that doesn’t exist, doesn’t have a facilitator, or has been scheduled improperly. Most of us have calculated our time to some earned revenue, which equates every lost hour to lost money. Now free skool is no longer free, but is costing us our precious time at the exchange of unstable promises of knowledge. This is risky business.

Is it possible to have a system, reliable within our community, that is not held at gun point by our economic system? Or do we truly need the dollars to back our words? It’s not something to be taken lightly that we truly are propped upon this system of economic exchange. Currently we use paper money as a representative of resources and time. We have utilized money with the intentions of delivering these promises of resources and time.
But monetary promises are just one form of promise we invest in. Seeds are also promises, compost is a promise, soil is a promise, and Free Skool is a promise. These are things that don’t do very much for us out of context. They are things that can provide greatly but need to be cultivated, incubated, remembered, and checked upon. On one end of the spectrum ideas are merely fantastical blue prints, and on the other end of the spectrum extraordinary fantasies are at the core of all great inventions. What is it that gives promises weight? That makes money talk? That makes forecasts reliable, and almanacs a future telling resource? Is it trust?

If we work, we are rewarded with prophetic pieces of paper, endowed with promises of resources and time. We sell our time, to accumulate time. We trust the dollar, but are we now reliant upon the dollar to tell us what we can trust? We are finding that value is becoming harder and harder to identify if it is not backed by currency, and infact our policy makers make their decisions based upon what can be backed by these numerals, and what can be shown and measured to have quantitative benefits for our rapidly changing society. It might be wise to remember that these are merely representatives, and they speak for what cannot speak for itself, and that the system was enacted to serve the value of our very precious world, not replace it.

This has everything to do with Free Skool, and the distribution of education, and knowledge as we know it. This is the middle man of our current  society, standing between us and everything beautiful, telling us what is worthy of doing, eating or enjoying. Free Skool asserts that we can share these things under our own conditions and exchange knowledge as we see fit, rather than through economic filtration. This cannot be an easy task as we have been operating off of the economic structure for many years, though it appears a worthwhile endeavor.

Free Skool may not immediately solve all of these cyclical and systematic issues we’re living amongst, however it addresses the issue, relentlessly. Free Skool would only be a lesser evil to take the glory of the throne, or throw itself infront of patriarchy as the ideal solution to our problems, merely replacing one dictator with some other power-loving mistress. The solution is not in the name of the structures we adhere but will be found within our ability to create structure that can serve us, without replacing our love for society with a need to control society, or replacing our love for each other with a need to conquer each other for profit.

If you would like to talk more about what Free Skool could do for us, what classes you’d like to go to, or what kind of mission statement you’d like to see, we’re going to have a larger conversation about Free Skools, and Free Skool Olympia this month at Media Island. We’ll be preparing hors d’oeuvres and snacks to sustain us through this from 5-6  pm and followed by conversation on Saturday November 17.
Media Island is a local non-profit in Olympia that has been around since 1984 and its goals are focused around social justice, economic democracy, ecological sustainability, and peace. Media Island seeks to address these things through their radical approach to media by gathering evaluating, and distributing underpublished information on critical issues at strategic times. They’re located accross from the library at 816 Adams St. SE, and they also have a radio station!

Feel free to email the current Free Skool with your hopes for classes and fresh ideas, they’d love to hear from you Free Skool Olympia also has a website that you can check out and will link you to the current calendar at
Ava Arvest is a resident of Olympia.

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Peter Bohmer Ed. note: The following is a speech given…