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Flying the Black Flag: Anarchist Philosophy on Education

Idealism runs wild at the anarchist Free Skool.

small but earnest cadre of Salt Lake City anarchists call the Boing House home.  Near 600 South and 500 East, the door is usually open—anarchists are a friendly come-and-go sort. In spite of what you might have heard, they don’t live in chaos: Scratched into the front door is a warning that “racism, sexism, homophobia, capitalism, fascism, bullying and other bullshit” are banned. A sign above the kitchen sink welcomes all—but you have to clean up after yourself. Freedom has its limits.

Anarchist philosophy promotes communities based on self-government without hierarchies, putting trust in humans to manage their own affairs through cooperation and respect. Out of this free-wheeling environment comes  the Free Skool—a space where anyone can learn new skills, take part in thought-provoking discussions or teach classes on things they’re passionate about. Group discussions cover privilege and gender.  The “PolyAmory Pocket” is a workshop on alternative sexual relationships. Other nights, Free Skoolers go on group bike rides, line up in a driveway for Punk Cutz (as described: punk haircuts), go on tree-identifying walks or learn bicycle maintenance.

It’s an open curriculum, says Mel Martinez, a Free Skool organizer, but “it would be really surprising if someone taught a class on How to be a Corporate CEO. But at the same time I’m not sure anyone would say ‘No, that can’t go on the Free Skool calendar.’”

Haeree Kim, a University of Utah social work grad student, uses the Free Skool as a community-relations lab. “There’s only so much you can learn reading from books and blogs. It really makes a difference to come and meet with like-minded people.”

Anarchy writ large probably wouldn’t keep trains running on time or potholes filled,  but a monthly potluck to plan future classes is doable and it’s socially cohesive. The menu is something you could imagine at a pre-school: watermelon slices, roast vegetables, gluten-free chocolate-chip cookies. Everyone brings something to the table and everyone is welcome.

While the Free Skool crowd is overwhelmingly millennial, tattooed and marked with the idealism of youth,  64-year-old Sa-Eda Sadeghi is welcomed.

Sadeghi says the anarchist community is authentic because his Free Skool compatriots teach and learn for the right reasons. “They’re not looking for financial reward or anything like that,” Sadeghi says. “They just do it because they feel it’s important to pass on what they’ve learned.”

written by: Eric Peterson

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