Twisted Thursdays: The Business of Learnin’ – Banned Books, Corporate Education, & MOOC

It’s Banned Book Week and you may be honoring it by reading a banned book (if you reside in Colorado I suggest starting with Orwell’s 1984). Colorado is busy protesting  the Jefferson County School Board’s conservative censorship of how they expect history to be taught, which essentially boils down to suppressing the inclusion of any material that would acknowledge or discuss any aspect of the United States doing anything wrong in its past. Instead, they want history taught that  “promote[s] citizenship, patriotism, benefits of the free-market system, respect for authority and for individual rights.”  My assumption here is that by individual rights they mean it in a corporations-are-people kind of way that supports corporate rights and ensures the well being of ruling class/upper class abled bodied heterosexual cisgendered caucasian males at the expense of everyone else (poor, queer, trans, disabled, POC people of color, your huddled masses yearning to be free). Given that they specifically state they want to avoid anything that may lead to dissent, it’s pretty obvious that this educational system is not interested in developing people capable of independent thinking, but rather is focused on producing good little worker bees for a conservative capitalist economy.

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In case you think this battle is limited to Colorado, you need only conduct a search on Texas textbooks to discover it’s a problem endemic to the United States. Previously, Texas history books have been criticized for insinuating that  biblical Moses & Solomon were founding fathers of the  United States Democracy, and now Texas is getting heat for their misinformation campaign on global climate change.  Furthermore, while the textbooks may be written in Texas, a significant issue is that once they become standarized they become the textbooks used in the majority of the other states as well.  This means this misinformation is not only coming to a town near  you, but you’re immersed in this sh*t and boy does it stink! Bless their hearts. 

As one reaches adulthood, there is the oft given advice that receiving a college degree is the means to a financially comfortable life with an opportunity for better employment options. But in a system where costs to attend University are skyrocketing, forcing huge student loan debts onto anyone who seeks to take that path is it really the guarantee that it was once envisioned to manifest? People who have student loans are more likely to have bad debt & lower credit scores and less likely to be able to afford homes, despite a slightly lower unemployment rate than folks without a college degree. Yet, rather than helping out students, the U.S. government has decided to not mete out consequences for colleges that bailed on their loans  while continuing to hold students accountable for their individually cumulative debt.  In other words, once again the U.S. government is helping out the corporations at the human expense of the peoples. So if Universities are not institutions for learning, but rather a capitalist tool resulting in a lifetime enslavement as one makes valiant efforts to pay back their eternal debt, what’s someone who  enjoys actual learnin’ to do? Especially a broke someone?

Enter the wonderful world of MOOC (Massive Open Online Coursework).  One can take classes for free, so if learning not debt is your goal it is a really good option to consider. It’s also a growing way of receiving an education, and while some universities do participate in this method offering their courses online for free they do so without offering full on degrees. However, this is slowly starting to change. I believe this will become a valid method of obtaining low cost degrees and certificates, in part because the costs of education are not as high in other countries. Which means folks pursuing knowledge may not get that Harvard or Stanford degree, but they may get a degree from a respected University overseas. It’s not quite here yet, but it’s coming.

One key part to how successful this may become will be convincing corporations to hire folks, who obtained their knowledge in this manner. But keep in mind they too are growing up in this student loan chokehold of learning, and may be quite sympathetic to the plight a future mired in debt results in.  So I may not yet, be able to receive an actual degree via MOOC, but that doesn’t mean that the learning in and of itself doesn’t have the value of enriching my life in ways that I’m curious to begin exploring.  Now the question is do I want to learn some Computer Programming, take a beginner’s course in Italian, Unlock the Secrets to Medieval Spain or focus on a course such as Revolutionary Ideas in Political Philosophy?

While I may do a future blog just on MOOCs you don’t have to wait for that blog to get started on your own path to a free online education. Google MOOC towards your own path of learnin’ 

Monday Munchies – Pantry Raid – Cheesy Spiced Rice & Beans w/ microgreens

So I was house & kitty sitting last weekend for 2 adorable cats (friends contact me if you need a pet sitter – life is better with doggy snuggles and kitty cuddles), when a girlfriend I hadn’t seen in a while came visitin’. Now I’d only brought over a few items from my own home pantry, and it not being my house we ordered a pizza that Piedmont Cybelle’s failed to deliver (tsk-tsk Cybelle). It being inhospitable to allow a guest to go hungry, I needed to resolve this situation stat.

Finished Dish

Finished Dish

The results were yummy, took under 20 minutes, and as a bonus it was affordable to most (about $11 worth of ingredients for 2 folks – which is about $5 -$10 more than most schools get to feed 2 folks lunch – say no to war and yes to kid’s nourishment). Also, if you live in the San Francisco, Bay Area, California or Portland, Oregon it is useful to be able to make a quick ‘n easy vegetarian, gluten free meal (with an optional vegan method). If you live in Terrell, Texas not so much (and move to Austin stat). 

Me unknowingly being naughty

Me unknowingly being naughty

You will need a TJ’s Shopping Trip (or your own alternative twist). Note do NOT take photos in Trader Joe’s – it’s a naughty no-no there. In recreating this dish I went to purchase ingredients, and snapped a cell pic only to be chided. I solemnly swore to behave and snap no more, but still suffered a green shirted shadow the remainder of the trip. 

Purchase the following:

  • Microgreens (1 package, organic)
  • Baby Swiss Cheese (or your cheese alternative choice here)
  • Can of Cuban Style Black Beans
  • Chimichurri Rice (frozen section)
  • Handmade corn tortillas

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Now, it’s time I divulged something. I am not a recipe follower cook, I’m a little of this, a little of that, whatever works, yum lets eat!  I ignored the steps on the Chimichurri rice package and didn’t measure. However, it worked because the liquid from the beans replaced the suggested addition of water to the rice.

Cooking & Preparing Steps:

  • Wash hands (pussy hair is not a desired ingredient and lets not forget I was kitty sitting)
  • Pour some oil or spoon some butter into a deep frying pan (for recipe followers lets go with 1-2TBL)
  • Add the frozen rice and allow it to begin to heat up – (lets go with medium temperature)
  • Open the can of black beans and dump them in (do not drain first), 
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  • Stir with your spatula until they are mixed well
  • Stir on occasion to prevent burning
  • Grate some cheese while it cooks
  • Turn off the burner when the majority of the liquid is absorbed (if it’s too liquidy the rice will be mushy –  yech)
  • Heat up some tortillas 
  • Spoon into 2 bowls
  • Add the grated cheese and stir it in to melt
  • Add the washed microgreens on top (it provides a nice crunch and something fresh)
  • Place on table
  • Say something lovely to your guest (I went with: I hope this food is as scrumptious as you always are)
  • Eat & end by rubbing your beautiful bountiful full belly in appreciation

SESSpool factors:

O.K. Let’s be real here. If you are expecting authentic flavors you’ll need to cook from scratch. While there is such a thing as cultural appreciation rather than appropriation (a topic for another time) most prepackaged ethnic foods have a level of cultural exploitation through the use of the latest trendy buzz foods. For example the rice was labeled chimichurri Peruvian style rice. The first ingredient was basmati rice. Now last time I checked Chimichurri originated in Argentina, not Peru, and basmati is a type of rice grown in India. I’m sure there is at least one person out there cringing at the thought of my ruining the authenticity of Cuban Style Black Beans by dumping them in the rice, but don’t worry they weren’t all that authentic to begin with.

So, basically I took a bunch of prepackaged ingredients that used trendy buzz words and reasonably tasty flavorings and quickly combined them into my own thing. It’s only a matter of time until Chopped calls me. The T.J. chimichurri rice is quite picante (spicy hot) and the cheesy goodness and black beans tempered that, as well as adding creaminess. As a vegetarian I often focus on pairing up proteins, and this dish has a complete protein (beans, rice, & corn) even if you prepare it vegan style without the cheese. This dish may be too tangy or too spicy-hot for some folks. Once it’s all mixed together I found it mild and delicious, but I grew up on chile & limón.  If your gluten free friend comes over – no changes are necessary. If you’re an omnivore use this as a side dish and add some grilled chicken to your plate. If this feels like diet food to you add more cheese and end the meal with a cookie. I made this and ate this, because I enjoy the flavors, the different textures, and the sustenance.And had limited ingredients on hand. But if you desire to eat completely different things for completely different reasons – I give you a high five from a tea-totaller (it is Monday Munchies after all) for choosing the foodie path that is right for you. 

BTW here is a picture of one of the cats I kitty sat. Adorable – amirite? 

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Come back next week for Monday Munchies Streat Food Adventures of a Fat Vegetarian