KW FreeSkool was created with the understanding that people learn in different ways, and that traditional classroom learning isn’t for everyone. We aim to create an inclusive, safe space where people can share their skills and learn from each other with an open mind. At KW FreeSkool, we learn and share for the sake of learning and sharing – informally and without accreditation – in a venue that strives to be accessible to everyone regardless of difference. Everyone participates as a teacher and as a student with the collective aspiration of empowering each other and building community as we learn and grow together.
We are proud to be an action group of the Waterloo Public Interest Research Group, based out of the University of Waterloo.
Anti-oppression and radical inclusivity
KW FreeSkool is committed to, and actively strives to ensure that our spaces are diverse, and safe for the expression of all identities. We believe that this is crucial to a healthy learning process. Exposing and challenging unjust race, class, gender, age, ability, sexual orientation and other dynamics helps us to work towards a culture that values a wider range of truths and experiences. In terms of radical inclusivity, we acknowledge that there are very real social and structural barriers to many people’s ability to engage in education initiatives, and seek to challenge and remove these barriers to the greatest extent possible.
It is, and will continue to be a work progress. We strive to embrace discomfort and challenge our own assumptions, privileges and identities.
Every class and workshop runs autonomously, meaning that they create their own structures, learning models and facilitation processes. The KW FreeSkool Collective is at the service of each class, responding to space and material needs, but does not dictate content or structure. The Collective aims to unite classes through promotion, the sharing of information, and the hosting of broad events that bring together the Free School Community, allowing folks to get to know each other, and share learning experiences.
We think that people are at their best and most creative not when they are trying to compete with each other, and/or defer to a higher authority, but rather when they work together and have their input valued equally. As such, KW FreeSkool values consensus and strives to incorporate the input of all parties affected by the decisions that we make. Unlike other ‘democratic’ systems of decision-making, consensus works to ensure decisions result in neither winners, nor losers, neither presidents, nor minions. On the contrary, consensus strives to equally distribute power amongst those participating in the decision-making process, and to come to decisions that all involved parties are satisfied with.
We use a consensus model because it fosters cooperation, and as a result produces stronger, more creative groups and movements. By agreeing not to move forward with a decision that any one member finds objectionable, we respect differing viewpoints, and are forced to find more imaginative solutions to addressing an issue. By refusing to compete amongst ourselves, we prevent needless factionalizing and enable more voices to be heard. By sharing responsibilities and roles, we empower each one of us to learn diverse skills, and guard against the formation of informal hierarchies.
The dominant culture of our society encourages individualistic competition, prejudice, hierarchy, and exclusion to divide us from each other. Free School seeks to build radical relationships that challenge such ideals, practices and authoritarian structures. It aims to connect people as equals, and create an environment rooted in mutual aid, solidarity and communal learning. Traditional learning models are based upon a carrot and stick motivation system- the promise of good grades and the corresponding potential for upward social mobility, and the threat of bad grades and the corresponding negative social stigma, act to control and limit students.
Contrary to this model, KW FreeSkool aims to create an intrinsically motivated and mutually rewarding education environment that fosters the development of radical communities based upon respect, cooperation, and a commitment to social justice. Working to encourage self-organization and voluntary association, Free School experiments with models of learning and interaction that prefigure the world we are all fighting to create.