Oakland Free University (OFU) has no rules about what a course should look like or how it should be run.  That said, we do have some suggestions on what a course should feel like.  They are below.  If you feel like we’re missing something, we’re always open to suggestions.

Rigorous, but fun. The aim of Oakland Free University is to offer courses that are intellectually rewarding, but which also promote community.  By engaging ourselves mentally, we are better prepared to confront the problems facing our communities and country.  In remembering that these learning groups are meant to help us get to know one another, we acknowledge the important role our social connections play, and avoid the academic pitfalls of there needing to be a “smartest” voice in the room.

Community forms when you don’t expect it.  Oakland Free University was formed with the completion of a study group.  We finished reading the materials we’d planned to cover, looked at each other, and decided we didn’t want that to be the end of things.  As you explore the courses offered by this site, be cognizant of the bonds that form between your group and the friendships that blossom as a result. Use the strength of these ties as a springboard for your next course.  Having input from respected peers can help make your idea a reality.  It worked for us.

Be creative!  Taking risks and absorbing failures are important skills in life.  Think your idea for reading Rousseau to the cadence of Lithuanian punk rock is too stupid to propose?  Why?  If your proposal resonates with the type of learning you’re looking to achieve, you should go for it.  Creating new approaches to education is one of the things we’re trying to achieve with Oakland Free University.  Your creativity can help.

There are stupid questions.  Please ask them! We would like to avoid our groups becoming a competition on who is gifted with the greatest mental prowess.  Learning a new language or tackling a new subject can be very intimidating.  If some view their education as nothing but a competition to get the best grade or sound the smartest, others become unnecessarily marginalized.  We’re looking for courses at Oakland Free University to be a positive social learning experience, and to offer the type of environment where those who are new to a topic will feel respected and comfortable enough to ask questions and engage with their peers.  We’ve all been in the room too afraid to ask the “dumb” question.  Let’s work to cultivate an environment where that happens as little as possible.

Emphasize empathy and consolation.  It has become increasingly apparent that the scientific approach to social problems offers an obtuse perspective, and the time to move away from this mechanistic view of the world is now.  By investing in humanities and revitalizing their importance in our lives, we can re-learn crucial skills for empathy, understanding and coping.

Humanities are for humanity. In recent years, higher education has shifted more and more towards a privilege for the gilded classes.  We do not think this is appropriate.  All extended learning plays an important role in our lives, but for humanities to be marginalized as a study and considered a “waste of money” is not acceptable.  So we’re not accepting it.  By working together and pooling our shared knowledge, we can gain the benefits these subjects have offered to generations before us, and avoid the fiscal woes associated with the current system.