California’s top education official helped an exclusive private boarding school in China aimed at getting the children of elite families into American universities

Steve Ma with the Pegasus California School emblem and school and California and China flags next to him on a pale yellow background
  • An Insider investigation has found that some of California’s highest-ranking education officials and leading public universities worked closely with a swaggering entrepreneur who launched a private boarding school for elite families in China.
  • Pegasus California School, in Qingdao, billed itself as part of the Val Verde Unified School District in Riverside County, California, and bestowed Val Verde diplomas on graduates to help them get into the University of California system.
  • Val Verde’s superintendent said at a school board meeting that the University of California at Riverside had guaranteed admission to every Pegasus graduate, a charge the school denies.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

An Insider investigation has found that some of California’s highest-ranking education officials and leading public universities worked closely with a businessman named Steven Ma to help set up an exclusive private boarding school in Qingdao, China, called Pegasus California School. The school, which cost roughly $34,ooo per year, purported to be a replica of a public high school in California, and was nominally a part of the Val Verde Unified School District in Riverside County, California.

California’s former top education official and a former state secretary of education were involved in the effort, as were senior Val Verde officials and a retired senior staffer within the University of California Office of the President, the headquarters of the UC system, who continued to work as as a contractor for the University of California at Irvine even as Pegasus was paying him to help its students gain admission.

The public servants, records show, gave Ma and his associates official state appointments and helped grease the skids to give Pegasus students a leg up in the increasingly cutthroat University of California admissions process. Not only did UC Irvine offer summer-school programs specially arranged for Pegasus students, it dispatched admissions staffers to the school’s China campus to talk to students and their parents, and specifically monitored Pegasus students’ progress through the admissions cycle. At UC Riverside, the ties were even closer: The university pledged to work with Pegasus students to help them become competitive applicants and offered them special permission to submit applications after the deadline had passed.

Val Verde’s superintendent publicly proclaimed that UC Riverside guaranteed admission to all Pegasus graduates, according to the minutes of a public-school board meeting. One former California education official described the arrangement, if it exists, as “appalling.”

In an interview, Ma said Pegasus students never received preferential treatment from California education officials, and said the notion that any Pegasus students were guaranteed admission to UC schools was “ridiculous and false.”

In a statement, a spokesperson for the University of California Office of the President said that UC admissions staffers do not “guarantee, nor would our campuses honor, any promise of admission. Applicants are evaluated based on a comprehensive review of their record…. It is concerning that an individual not affiliated with the UC system may have misrepresented those discussions without our knowledge or authorization.”

In response to Insider’s inquiries about Pegasus, a California Department of Education spokesman said the department has referred the matter to the state attorney general for investigation.

“State Superintendent [of Public Instruction Tony] Thurmond was not aware of these allegations before they surfaced in . . . Insider’s reporting, and asked the California Department of Education on May 6 to refer this matter to the state Attorney General’s office and the Fair Political Practices Commission for further review.

“It is imperative that these serious allegations of misuse of state funds and conflict of interest during or after the former Superintendent’s term, or whether the relationship between the school district and the Chinese school are legal, be reviewed by the appropriate outside agencies with authority to investigate this matter.”

READ OUR FULL STORY: Insider investigation reveals officials helped sell access to California public schools to Chinese elite

Read the original article on Business Insider

20 perfect gifts for people who love learning new things, from Anthony Bourdain’s travel book to a 3-month MasterClass subscription

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

Masterclass Gordon Ramsay teaches cooking
  • For some, experiential gifts that satisfy curiosity are more exciting than material items.
  • We rounded up some of the best gifts for the voracious readers and learners in your life.
  • They include books, online classes, and subscriptions such as MasterClass and Audible Plus.

Shopping for gifts is easy when you know someone has a penchant for puns or desperately needs a new suitcase. It’s a little more challenging when the recipient is generally less into material goods and seems more thrilled by educational gifts like books or experiential presents like classes.

Luckily, there are plenty of unique presents for the voracious learners and readers out there. From engaging history books to online drawing classes to subscriptions like MasterClass, there are plenty of gifts for people who are always looking to learn something new.

20 perfect gifts for people who love learning new things

Subscriptions

MasterClass

Ron Finley MasterClass

All-Access Pass (button)

For $15 a month (or $180 a year), MasterClass users can get unlimited access to over 100 celeb and expert-led courses, from writing with Margaret Atwood to cooking with Gordon Ramsay. Classes come with high-quality video lessons, PDF workbooks, and community forums. New courses are added each month.

Subscriptions are available for one month, three months, or a full year. There is also currently a 2-for-1 Father’s Day sale.

You can read a review of MasterClass here.

Book of the Month

Book of the Month subscription

Membership (button)

For anyone who gets excited by new releases (but has trouble deciding which book to commit to), a Book of the Month subscription helps narrow it down by letting them pick one out of five selections each month to be delivered to their door.

Audible Plus

Audible Annual Membership

Plus (Monthly Subscription) (button)

Offering subscriptions from 1-month ($15) to a full year ($150), Audible Plus gives listeners one credit a month to buy any audiobook they want, plus access to a library of thousands of audiobooks, podcasts, and more.

One Day University

One Day University 4x3

Membership (button)

An annual membership to One Day University gives subscribers access to multiple daily, live lectures on a broad range of topics, from the history of Stonewall from Harvard to a Yale course on how famous movie scenes were shot.

You can read a review of One Day University here.

Babbel

Babbel 4x3

Subscription (3 Months) (button)

With a Babbel subscription, gift recipients can use a code to choose one of 14 languages to learn, from Spanish to Norwegian, and learn real-life phrases and conversation topics in this bestselling language app.

Books

‘World Travel: An Irreverent Guide’ by Anthony Bourdain and Laurie Woolever

“World Travel  An Irreverent Guide” By Anthony Bourdain and Laurie Woolever

An Irreverent Guide (button)

Published in April, this travel guide of beloved chef Anthony Bourdain’s favorite places comes with his personal suggestions on what to eat, where to go, and what to avoid, all told with the wit and warmth his fans have always loved. The book also comes with essays from Bourdain’s friends and family offering their own reflections of the locations and their relationship with Bourdain.

‘Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants’ by Robin Wall Kimmerer

Braiding Sweetgrass: Indigenous Wisdom, Scientific Knowledge and the Teachings of Plants

Book (button)

An Indigenous scientist and member of the Citizen Potawatomi Nation, Robin Wall Kimmerer believes that plants are our oldest teachers. This beautiful book explores the interconnection between human joy and ecological consciousness, making it a perfect gift for anyone who strives to understand the environment better.

‘A Short History of Nearly Everything’ by Bill Bryson

'A Short History of Nearly Everything' by Bill Bryson

of Nearly Everything” (button)

This funny, enlightening book is Bill Bryson’s attempt to better understand the world as he interviews archaeologists, anthropologists, and mathematicians about everything from the Big Bang to the rise of human civilization.

‘Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat: Mastering the Elements of Good Cooking’ by Samin Nosrat

salt fat acid heat

Hardcover (button)

Turned into a Netflix show of the same name, this hit cookbook goes beyond other selections in the genre by breaking down the four major components of a great dish: salt, fat, acid, heat. With detailed explanations and drawings throughout, it’s a must-have for beginner and expert chefs alike.

‘Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen’ by Christopher McDougall

born to run

A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen” (button)

In this fascinating and inspiring book, award-winning journalist and runner Christopher McDougall travels to Mexico’s Copper Canyons to research the Tarahumara Indians, who can run hundreds of miles without rest or injury. The book eventually has the tribe race America’s top ultra-runners, the recounting of the events as exhilarating as the race itself.

‘Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know’ by Malcolm Gladwell

"Talking to Strangers: What we Should Know about the People we Don't Know" by Malcolm Gladwell

What We Should Know about the People We Don’t Know” (button)

Interviewing scientists, criminologists, and military psychologists — and looking at the famous cases of people like Amanda Knox, Bernie Madoff, and Sandra Bland — Malcolm Gladwell seeks answers to how we can better understand people we don’t know.

‘Meditations’ by Marcus Aurelius

"Meditations"

by Marcus Aurelius (button)

For fans of both history and philosophy, this classic book offers life lessons from Marcus Aurelius, a Roman emperor and important figure of the Stoicism movement. His commentary on human virtue, rationality, and leadership feels shockingly relevant today.

Kindle

Amazon Kindle

Kindle (button)

The only thing better than a physical book is a Kindle so they can buy and download all their favorite books whenever they want. This version works well both indoors and outdoors and can connect with Audible for audiobooks and podcasts. 

Online classes

The Ultimate Drawing Course: Beginner to Advanced Class

Online drawing classes 4x3

The Ultimate Drawing Course – Beginner to Advanced (button)

One of Udemy’s most popular classes, this course walks aspiring artists through the basics of composition all the way through drawing human faces and figures.

Note: Udemy has frequent huge sales, so it’s worth checking back to see if the price has gone down.

Fundamentals of Photography with John Greengo

Camera man in shadows

Fundamentals of Photography (button)

Taught by an award-winning photographer, this course shows students how to find the right gear and understand how shutter speed, lighting, aperture, and more can drastically change a photo.

iPhone Photography – Take Professional Photos On Your iPhone

Clearing iPhone cache

iPhone Photography (button)

For that person in your life who loves taking photos on their phone, this course can help them find the right light and compositions for their pics, as well as edit them in Lightroom, a free Adobe app. 

Note: Udemy has frequent huge sales, so it’s worth checking back to see if the price has gone down.

Sangria and Secrets with Drag Taste

Sangria and Secrets with Drag Taste

Sangria and Secrets with Drag Taste (button)

Great for groups, this live virtual course from Lisbon features drag queens sharing the recipe for Portuguese sangria — peppered with fun performances throughout. 

Wired for Story: How to Become a Story Genius

writing

Wired for Story (button)

Led by an experienced writing coach, this course teaches students how to tap into their natural creativity, cut down first drafts, and write more confidently. This can be a perfect gift for the National Novel Writing Month fan in your life.

Piano & Keyboard for Beginners: The Pianoforall Online Class

Person playing piano

Pianoforall (button)

Meant for full beginners, this bestselling course comprehensively teaches students how to play piano both by ear and via sheet music, so they can get to playing real songs as quickly as possible.

Note: Udemy has frequent huge sales, so it’s worth checking back to see if the price has gone down.

The Essential Crash Course for Guitar Beginners

Person playing guitar

Complete Guitar Lessons System (button)

Newbie guitar players rapidly learn scales, chords, strumming techniques, basic music theory, and more in this popular course.

Note: Udemy has frequent huge sales, so it’s worth checking back to see if the price has gone down.

Read the original article on Business Insider

MasterClass, one of our favorite e-learning platforms, is having a 2-for-1 Father’s Day sale right now. Here are 16 great classes to try.

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

Masterclass E Learning 4x3
MasterClass helps you learn new skills from experts in the field.

Who better to teach you writing than Margaret Atwood, a backhand than Serena Williams, or singing than Christina Aguilera?

Unfortunately, for most of us, taking a one-on-one cooking class with Thomas Keller or a photography lesson from Annie Leibovitz isn’t realistic. But MasterClass is bridging that gap by recruiting the best of the best to teach us the secrets to their crafts.

And for Father’s Day, you can purchase one subscription as a gift and get another for free through June 21.

All-Access Pass (medium)

Unlike most e-learning platforms focused on teaching hard skills like cloud computing or UX design, MasterClass targets a different audience: creatives who are looking to learn and gain some inspiration along the way.

The site has courses in categories like writing, cooking, sports, business, and politics, and each of them is taught by celebrities and masters of the field. For $180 a year ($15 a month), you get an all-access pass to all the courses on the site. Each class provides video lessons, a course workbook, and class feedback – which, on some occasions, comes from the stars themselves.

If you’re craving an online course to inspire you, help you hone a craft, or give you valuable advice from a respected expert, MasterClass is definitely worth a try. The videos are well-produced, which makes the courses more engaging, and the workbooks provide some extra insight to help reflect on what you’ve learned. You can even download the MasterClass app on your phone to squeeze in quick lessons whenever you have free time.

What you’ll find below:

  1. Some common FAQs
  2. A list of the 16 best MasterClass courses
  3. A personal review of MasterClass

All-Access Pass (medium)

MasterClass FAQs:

  1. How much does it cost? MasterClass costs $180 for its annual subscription ($15 a month), which gives you unlimited access to all its classes until you cancel. 
  2. Is it worth it? If you will use MasterClass more than a few times, yes, the yearly pass may be worth it. If you won’t, or you need something more intensive or traditionally academic, consider other online learning sites like Coursera or edX
  3. How does MasterClass work? MasterClass classes are about 2-5 hours on average, with individual lessons ranging from 2-5 minutes. Classes include pre-recorded video lessons by your instructor, a class workbook, interactive assignments, and sometimes community activities. MasterClass may have opportunities for students to submit work to instructors for feedback, but that’s not the norm. 

Some of the best MasterClass classes:

Questlove teaches DJing

Questlove

Learn music curation and DJing with Questlove

Questlove — iconic DJ, Grammy winner, and The Roots drummer — teaches collecting and mixing music. You’ll learn how to transition from genre to genre to curate the perfect playlist, whether just for yourself or to wow your friends.

Margaret Atwood teaches creative writing

margaret atwood

Learn the art of creative writing with Margaret Atwood

Writer’s block is a major challenge, but hopefully, some inspiration from Margaret Atwood can bring you out of your funk. The Man Booker Prize-winner’s lessons delve into character development, point of view, structuring a novel, and more. 

Samuel L. Jackson teaches acting

samuel jackson

Learn how to act with Samuel L. Jackson

It’s hard to believe now that Samuel L. Jackson had a stutter growing up, one that actually stopped him from talking for a year. You can learn about how he overcame this obstacle to become an Oscar nominee in this course on acting, which particularly focuses on how to develop a character. 

Annie Leibovitz teaches photography

annie leibovitz

Learn photography with Annie Leibovitz

Annie Leibovitz claims the title of first-ever female chief photographer at “Rolling Stone,” along with plenty of other accomplishments. Here, she sheds light on her photography philosophy and shows how a great photo comes to life. 

Ron Finley teaches gardening

Masterclass Ron Finley teaches gardening

Learn gardening with Ron Finley

Ron Finley has launched a movement around an unusual form of protest: gardening. In 2011, Finley was issued an arrest warrant for planting fruits and vegetables on the curbside strip outside his home in South Central LA — a food desert. Two years later, his story helped change LA laws and, a decade later, he’s helped plant dozens of community gardens. In his MasterClass, Finley teaches you how to grow your own food, avoid killing your plants, and the beauty and community you can find in healthy food.

Christina Aguilera teaches singing

christina aguilera

Learn how to sing with Christina Aguilera

Whether you want to fine-tune your vocal craft or have no musical experience beyond singing “happy birthday” to your friends and family, Christina Aguilera has the techniques to help you take it up a notch. The Grammy-award winning artist will give you practical tips on how to polish your sound as well as share some stories about her career trajectory. 

Serena Williams teaches tennis

serena williams

Learn how to play tennis with Serena Williams

If you want to be a pro, you have to practice like one. Get the chance to experience the same drills Serena runs every day, as well as some insight into the importance of mental strength in the game. 

Apollonia Poilâne teaches bread baking

Masterclass Apollonia Poilâne teaches bread baking

Learn bread baking with Apollonia Poilâne

Apollonia Poilâne, the third-generation baker and CEO of the famous Parisian bakery Poilâne, teaches you how to use all of your senses when baking an ideal loaf from scratch. Poilâne outlines best practices for a variety of French breads — rustic wheat, rye, brioche, and Poilâne’s beloved sourdough loaves — with warmth and clarity. You’ll be able to learn from Poilâne’s practiced movements, see ideal examples of each stage, and hear live troubleshooting. And though your environment will change daily, Poilâne gives you the working knowledge that allows you to adapt.

Thomas Keller teaches cooking techniques

thomas keller

Learn cooking techniques with Thomas Keller

Chef Thomas Keller’s restaurants, like The French Laundry, have been awarded quite a few Michelin stars and have people eagerly waiting months at a time for reservations. In his MasterClass, he breaks down the basics of some of the most essential cooking techniques, like braising meats and making stocks. 

Neil deGrasse Tyson teaches scientific thinking and communication

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Learn how to think like a scientist with Neil deGrasse Tyson

Ivy League degrees, bestselling books, and a Grammy award are just some of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s accolades. In this course, the renowned astrophysicist will help you see into the mind of a scientist, giving you plenty of skills to help you strengthen the way you think and communicate along the way. 

Carlos Santana teaches the art and soul of guitar

carlos

Learn how to play the guitar with Carlos Santana

If you’re looking for a classic, technical guitar lesson, this course probably isn’t for you. If, however, you’re looking to understand how one of the world’s most popular guitarists approaches the instrument, draws inspiration for his music, and found his unique sound, you’ll love this class with Carlos Santana. 

Bob Iger teaches business strategy and leadership

bob iger

Learn business strategies and leadership skills with Bob Iger

As the former CEO and current Executive Chairman of the Walt Disney Company, Bob Iger was responsible for some of the brand’s most important acquisitions, including Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm. With 45 years in media under his belt, he knows a thing or two about what it takes to be a successful businessperson.

His lesson dives into everything from business insights from the acquisition process to how to use your time effectively and productively.

Kelly Wearstler teaches interior design

kelly wearstler

Learn how to design your space with Kelly Wearstler

Ever wondered how to make your space look like it’s plucked off an “Architectural Digest” page while still feeling like it’s distinctly yours? It’s a tall order, but Kelly Wearstler has designed enough celebrity homes and boutique hotels to give you all the tips and tricks you need to know to redefine your own space. You’ll learn how to choose colors for any room, make a space feel larger, and even curate an art collection. 

Chris Voss teaches the art of negotiation

Chris Voss

Learn the art of negotiation with Chris Voss

During his time as an FBI hostage negotiator, Chris Voss mastered all of the facets of communication and compromise. While your everyday negotiations may not be as high-stake, Voss’s strategies can help you get the outcomes you want — whether it’s a promotion at your job or a big decision in your relationship. 

Dominique Ansel teaches French pastry fundamentals

dominique ansel

Learn French pastry fundamentals with Dominique Ansel

Dominque Ansel is revered for his creative takes on delicious pastries, like the Cronut, a croissant-donut hybrid that garners hours-long lines outside of his SoHo bakery in New York. In this course, you’ll learn the precise technique Ansel uses to bake his famous treats. Fruit tarts, chocolate cakes, and mini madeleines are just some of the desserts you’ll learn to bake. 

Daniel Negreanu teaches poker

daniel poker

Learn how to play poker with Daniel Negreanu

There’s no one better to help you perfect your poker face than Daniel Negreanu — he’s won the World Series of Poker six times. He’ll help you learn even the most complex poker concepts so you can increase your win rate the next time you sit around the felt. 

A review of MasterClass:

MasterClass is one of my favorite online learning platforms, and I’ve had personal experience with a fair share of them (Coursera, Skillshare, edX, Rosetta Stone, CreativeLive, and so on).

Compared to many online courses, MasterClass’s follow the format of a one-sided conversation more than an academic setting, which can make learning feel more engaging.

I love that I’m able to learn conventional and not-so-conventional tricks and tips from giants of any industry — some of whom are on my shortlist of favorite authors, actors, musicians, and chefs. Classes are pretty short (2-5 hours total), and the lessons are between 5-25 minutes each.

I also get access to notes, additional reading resources, and a community. And it’s nice that I can download lessons or use Audio Mode in the car as a de facto audiobook on days when my attention span is low. 

Plus, the diversity, quality, and flexibility of its online classes is hard to beat. If I’m going through a cooking phase, I can watch bite-sized clips that are interesting and useful. And if something isn’t my number one passion, the allure of a “master” helps me remain interested in the lessons. 

Personally, I enjoy having yearly access. If you’re a lifelong learner, it gives you the ability to jump around different subjects with tools like “topic playlists” that queue up stuff you might like. For me, it’s worth the $180 — it’s informative without feeling overly stringent or overwhelming. But if you’re interested in deep-diving into only one topic, I’d recommend auditing a class at Coursera or edX rather than dropping $180 just to access one MasterClass. — Mara Leighton, senior reporter

Read the original article on Business Insider

MasterClass is one of our favorite online learning platforms – here’s how it works, and 16 great classes to try

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

Masterclass E Learning 4x3
MasterClass helps you learn new skills from experts in the field.

  • MasterClass creates online video classes taught by celebrities and industry experts.
  • An annual subscription costs $180 ($15 a month) and gives access to all of MasterClass’s offerings.
  • Right now, you can purchase one subscription for Father’s Day and get one free.
  • Below, you’ll find a personal review, some common FAQs, and 16 of the best MasterClass courses.

Who better to teach you writing than Margaret Atwood, a backhand than Serena Williams, or singing than Christina Aguilera?

Unfortunately, for most of us, taking a one-on-one cooking class with Thomas Keller or a photography lesson from Annie Leibovitz isn’t realistic. But MasterClass is bridging that gap by recruiting the best of the best to teach us the secrets to their crafts. And in advance of Father’s Day, you can purchase one subscription as a gift and get another for free right now.

All-Access Pass (medium)

Unlike most e-learning platforms focused on teaching hard skills like cloud computing or UX design, MasterClass targets a different audience: creatives who are looking to learn and gain some inspiration along the way.

The site has courses in categories like writing, cooking, sports, business, and politics, and each of them is taught by celebrities and masters of the field. For $180 a year ($15 a month), you get an all-access pass to all the courses on the site. Each class provides video lessons, a course workbook, and class feedback – which, on some occasions, comes from the stars themselves.

If you’re craving an online course to inspire you, help you hone a craft, or give you valuable advice from a respected expert, MasterClass is definitely worth a try. The videos are well-produced, which makes the courses more engaging, and the workbooks provide some extra insight to help reflect on what you’ve learned. You can even download the MasterClass app on your phone to squeeze in quick lessons whenever you have free time.

What you’ll find below:

  1. Some common FAQs
  2. A list of the 16 best MasterClass courses
  3. A personal review of MasterClass

All-Access Pass (medium)

MasterClass FAQs:

  1. How much does it cost? MasterClass costs $180 for its annual subscription ($15 a month), which gives you unlimited access to all its classes until you cancel. 
  2. Is it worth it? If you will use MasterClass more than a few times, yes, the yearly pass may be worth it. If you won’t, or you need something more intensive or traditionally academic, consider other online learning sites like Coursera or edX
  3. How does MasterClass work? MasterClass classes are about 2-5 hours on average, with individual lessons ranging from 2-5 minutes. Classes include pre-recorded video lessons by your instructor, a class workbook, interactive assignments, and sometimes community activities. MasterClass may have opportunities for students to submit work to instructors for feedback, but that’s not the norm. 

Some of the best MasterClass classes:

Questlove teaches DJing

Questlove

Learn music curation and DJing with Questlove

Questlove — iconic DJ, Grammy winner, and The Roots drummer — teaches collecting and mixing music. You’ll learn how to transition from genre to genre to curate the perfect playlist, whether just for yourself or to wow your friends.

Margaret Atwood teaches creative writing

margaret atwood

Learn the art of creative writing with Margaret Atwood

Writer’s block is a major challenge, but hopefully, some inspiration from Margaret Atwood can bring you out of your funk. The Man Booker Prize-winner’s lessons delve into character development, point of view, structuring a novel, and more. 

Samuel L. Jackson teaches acting

samuel jackson

Learn how to act with Samuel L. Jackson

It’s hard to believe now that Samuel L. Jackson had a stutter growing up, one that actually stopped him from talking for a year. You can learn about how he overcame this obstacle to become an Oscar nominee in this course on acting, which particularly focuses on how to develop a character. 

Annie Leibovitz teaches photography

annie leibovitz

Learn photography with Annie Leibovitz

Annie Leibovitz claims the title of first-ever female chief photographer at “Rolling Stone,” along with plenty of other accomplishments. Here, she sheds light on her photography philosophy and shows how a great photo comes to life. 

Ron Finley teaches gardening

Masterclass Ron Finley teaches gardening

Learn gardening with Ron Finley

Ron Finley has launched a movement around an unusual form of protest: gardening. In 2011, Finley was issued an arrest warrant for planting fruits and vegetables on the curbside strip outside his home in South Central LA — a food desert. Two years later, his story helped change LA laws and, a decade later, he’s helped plant dozens of community gardens. In his MasterClass, Finley teaches you how to grow your own food, avoid killing your plants, and the beauty and community you can find in healthy food.

Christina Aguilera teaches singing

christina aguilera

Learn how to sing with Christina Aguilera

Whether you want to fine-tune your vocal craft or have no musical experience beyond singing “happy birthday” to your friends and family, Christina Aguilera has the techniques to help you take it up a notch. The Grammy-award winning artist will give you practical tips on how to polish your sound as well as share some stories about her career trajectory. 

Serena Williams teaches tennis

serena williams

Learn how to play tennis with Serena Williams

If you want to be a pro, you have to practice like one. Get the chance to experience the same drills Serena runs every day, as well as some insight into the importance of mental strength in the game. 

Apollonia Poilâne teaches bread baking

Masterclass Apollonia Poilâne teaches bread baking

Learn bread baking with Apollonia Poilâne

Apollonia Poilâne, the third-generation baker and CEO of the famous Parisian bakery Poilâne, teaches you how to use all of your senses when baking an ideal loaf from scratch. Poilâne outlines best practices for a variety of French breads — rustic wheat, rye, brioche, and Poilâne’s beloved sourdough loaves — with warmth and clarity. You’ll be able to learn from Poilâne’s practiced movements, see ideal examples of each stage, and hear live troubleshooting. And though your environment will change daily, Poilâne gives you the working knowledge that allows you to adapt.

Thomas Keller teaches cooking techniques

thomas keller

Learn cooking techniques with Thomas Keller

Chef Thomas Keller’s restaurants, like The French Laundry, have been awarded quite a few Michelin stars and have people eagerly waiting months at a time for reservations. In his MasterClass, he breaks down the basics of some of the most essential cooking techniques, like braising meats and making stocks. 

Neil deGrasse Tyson teaches scientific thinking and communication

Neil deGrasse Tyson

Learn how to think like a scientist with Neil deGrasse Tyson

Ivy League degrees, bestselling books, and a Grammy award are just some of Neil deGrasse Tyson’s accolades. In this course, the renowned astrophysicist will help you see into the mind of a scientist, giving you plenty of skills to help you strengthen the way you think and communicate along the way. 

Carlos Santana teaches the art and soul of guitar

carlos

Learn how to play the guitar with Carlos Santana

If you’re looking for a classic, technical guitar lesson, this course probably isn’t for you. If, however, you’re looking to understand how one of the world’s most popular guitarists approaches the instrument, draws inspiration for his music, and found his unique sound, you’ll love this class with Carlos Santana. 

Bob Iger teaches business strategy and leadership

bob iger

Learn business strategies and leadership skills with Bob Iger

As the former CEO and current Executive Chairman of the Walt Disney Company, Bob Iger was responsible for some of the brand’s most important acquisitions, including Pixar, Marvel, and Lucasfilm. With 45 years in media under his belt, he knows a thing or two about what it takes to be a successful businessperson.

His lesson dives into everything from business insights from the acquisition process to how to use your time effectively and productively.

Kelly Wearstler teaches interior design

kelly wearstler

Learn how to design your space with Kelly Wearstler

Ever wondered how to make your space look like it’s plucked off an “Architectural Digest” page while still feeling like it’s distinctly yours? It’s a tall order, but Kelly Wearstler has designed enough celebrity homes and boutique hotels to give you all the tips and tricks you need to know to redefine your own space. You’ll learn how to choose colors for any room, make a space feel larger, and even curate an art collection. 

Chris Voss teaches the art of negotiation

Chris Voss

Learn the art of negotiation with Chris Voss

During his time as an FBI hostage negotiator, Chris Voss mastered all of the facets of communication and compromise. While your everyday negotiations may not be as high-stake, Voss’s strategies can help you get the outcomes you want — whether it’s a promotion at your job or a big decision in your relationship. 

Dominique Ansel teaches French pastry fundamentals

dominique ansel

Learn French pastry fundamentals with Dominique Ansel

Dominque Ansel is revered for his creative takes on delicious pastries, like the Cronut, a croissant-donut hybrid that garners hours-long lines outside of his SoHo bakery in New York. In this course, you’ll learn the precise technique Ansel uses to bake his famous treats. Fruit tarts, chocolate cakes, and mini madeleines are just some of the desserts you’ll learn to bake. 

Daniel Negreanu teaches poker

daniel poker

Learn how to play poker with Daniel Negreanu

There’s no one better to help you perfect your poker face than Daniel Negreanu — he’s won the World Series of Poker six times. He’ll help you learn even the most complex poker concepts so you can increase your win rate the next time you sit around the felt. 

A review of MasterClass:

MasterClass is one of my favorite online learning platforms, and I’ve had personal experience with a fair share of them (Coursera, Skillshare, edX, Rosetta Stone, CreativeLive, and so on).

Compared to many online courses, MasterClass’s follow the format of a one-sided conversation more than an academic setting, which can make learning feel more engaging.

I love that I’m able to learn conventional and not-so-conventional tricks and tips from giants of any industry — some of whom are on my shortlist of favorite authors, actors, musicians, and chefs. Classes are pretty short (2-5 hours total), and the lessons are between 5-25 minutes each.

I also get access to notes, additional reading resources, and a community. And it’s nice that I can download lessons or use Audio Mode in the car as a de facto audiobook on days when my attention span is low. 

Plus, the diversity, quality, and flexibility of its online classes is hard to beat. If I’m going through a cooking phase, I can watch bite-sized clips that are interesting and useful. And if something isn’t my number one passion, the allure of a “master” helps me remain interested in the lessons. 

Personally, I enjoy having yearly access. If you’re a lifelong learner, it gives you the ability to jump around different subjects with tools like “topic playlists” that queue up stuff you might like. For me, it’s worth the $180 — it’s informative without feeling overly stringent or overwhelming. But if you’re interested in deep-diving into only one topic, I’d recommend auditing a class at Coursera or edX rather than dropping $180 just to access one MasterClass. — Mara Leighton, senior reporter

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11 free online courses you can take from the University of Washington, one of the top 10 schools in the world

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University of Washington free online courses

The University of Washington, ranked the 8th best school in the world according to US News, offers free courses online.

Like other top schools in the world – including Harvard, Princeton, Yale, the University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, and Cornell – UWash has made a handful of massive open online courses (MOOCs) available on e-learning platforms edX and Coursera. You can learn more about edX here and Coursera here.

Whether you’re interested in mastering machine learning or learning English for business, you can enroll in a course for free (or for a small fee if you want to earn a certificate of completion).

11 University of Washington courses you can take online for free

Machine Learning: Regression

11 free courses University of Washington by champc/GettyImages

Machine Learning: Regression (button)

Length:  6 weeks

Explore regularized linear regression models in prediction and feature selection — including predicting housing prices and implementing Python programming techniques.

This course is included in the Machine Learning Specialization, which is free with a seven-day trial, then $49 a month to keep learning. 

To audit this course for free, click “Enroll for Free” and then “Audit this course.”

Machine Learning: Classification

11 free courses University of Washington by Yuichiro Chino/Getty Images

Machine Learning: Classification (button)

Length: 7 weeks

Create classifiers that perform well on various tasks and become familiar with the most successful techniques — including logistic regression, decision trees, and boosting. You’ll also be able to design and implement the underlying algorithms to learn these models at scale. 

This course is included in the Machine Learning Specialization, which is free with a seven-day trial, then $49 a month to keep learning. 

To audit this course for free, click “Enroll for Free” and then “Audit this course.”

Machine Learning: Clustering & Retrieval

free courses University of Washington by Andriy Onufriyenko/Getty Images

Machine Learning: Clustering & Retrieval (button)

Length:  6 weeks

This course focuses on clustering and retrieval, answering questions such as how to group similar documents; notions of similarity; and how to discover new, emerging topics that a set of documents covers. You’ll be able to create a document retrieval system using k-nearest neighbors, cluster documents by topic using k-means, implement the techniques you learn in Python, and more.

This course is included in the Machine Learning Specialization, which is free with a seven-day trial, then $49 a month to keep learning. 

To audit this course for free, click “Enroll for Free” and then “Audit this course.”

Introduction to Cybersecurity

11 free courses University of Washington photo by Yuichiro Chino/Getty Images

Introduction to Cybersecurity (button)

Length: 6 weeks

This introduction to cybersecurity includes an overview of the cybersecurity landscape using key terms and concepts. It provides national (US) and international perspectives on the field, the legal environment, and predominant threats. 

This course is included in the Essentials of Cybersecurity professional certificate program ($716.40).

Finding Your Cybersecurity Career Path

11 free courses University of Washington Photo by Oscar Wong/Getty Images

Finding Your Cybersecurity Career Path (button)

Length: 6 weeks

Use this course and a self-assessment to determine your skills, talent, and long-term interests when considering 32 cybersecurity career pathways.

This course is included in the Essentials of Cybersecurity professional certificate program ($716.40).

Building a Cybersecurity Toolkit

11 free courses University of Washington photo by Andrew Brookes/Getty Images

Building a Cybersecurity Toolkit (button)

Length: 6 weeks

A good cybersecurity professional needs more than technical skills — especially when choosing how to respond to inevitable breaches — and this course offers insight into the problem-solving skills you’ll need for the field. You’ll also work towards a self-evaluation of talents and interests to map your career path. 

This course is included in the Essentials of Cybersecurity professional certificate program ($716.40).

Business English: Meetings

11 free courses University of Washington photo by Nitat Termmee/Getty Images

Business English: Meetings (button)

Length: 4 weeks

This English language course teaches you the vocabulary and skills useful to scheduling and participating in meetings as well as sending emails. 

This course is included in the Business English Communication Skills Specialization, which is free with a seven-day trial, then $49 a month to keep learning. 

To audit this course for free, click “Enroll for Free” and then “Audit this course.”

Business English: Planning & Negotiating

11 free courses University of Washington photo by Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

Business English: Planning & Negotiating (button)

Length: 4 weeks

This English language course prepares you to host an event and find the right venue for it — and includes language and strategies useful in a successful negotiation. You’ll learn how to evaluate and compare services, write an event announcement after selecting your venue, and more.

This course is included in the Business English Communication Skills Specialization, which is free with a seven-day trial, then $49 a month to keep learning. 

To audit this course for free, click “Enroll for Free” and then “Audit this course.”

Attending a Networking Event

11 free courses University of Washington photo by Thomas Barwick/Getty Images

Attending a Networking Event (button)

Length: 8 weeks

Learn the key parts of networking, from creating and delivering an “elevator pitch,” to successfully navigating networking events. The course also covers how to dress for, make “small talk”, and end a conversation at networking events. 

Introduction to Internationalization and Localization

11 free courses University of Washington - photo by Yuichiro Chino/Getty Images

Introduction to Internationalization and Localization (button)

Length: 6 weeks

Learn how to design a digital product that’s ready for worldwide usage and how to adapt it for its international target markets. You’ll cover basic concepts, methods, types of releases, the case for internationalization and localization, and more. 

This course is included in the Internationalization and Localization professional certificate program ($537.30).

Speaking to inform: Discussing complex ideas with clear explanations and dynamic slides

11 free courses from University of Washington photo by Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

Speaking to inform: Discussing complex ideas with clear explanations and dynamic slides (button)

Length: 5 weeks

Learn how to convey complex ideas in an engaging and accessible way to your audience, regardless of topic, by considering the elements: What does your audience need to hear to understand key ideas? How much do they already know? What’s most important to convey? And how do you factor in time restraints? 

As part of the class, you’ll record speeches and provide and receive peer feedback.

This course is included in the Dynamic Public Speaking Specialization, which is free with a 7-day trial, then $49 a month to keep learning. 

To audit this course for free, click “Enroll for Free” and then “Audit this course.”

Read the original article on Business Insider

I took 11 MasterClass cooking classes from celebrity chefs like Gordon Ramsay and Dominique Ansel – here’s why they’re worth a subscription

If you buy through our links, we may earn money from affiliate partners. Learn more.

masterclass cooking classes dominique ansel strawberry tart
  • MasterClass is an e-learning platform that provides classes taught by celebrities and experts.
  • It offers classes from famous chefs like Gordon Ramsay, Dominique Ansel, and Gabriella Camara.
  • I took 11 MasterClass cooking courses and made everything from Beef Wellington to huevos rancheros.

If you don’t have experience making complete meals day after day, it can feel overwhelming to search for a reliable recipe, complete multiple tasks at once, or roast everything long enough without burning or overcooking your dinner.

A MasterClass subscription gives you access to over 17 cooking courses from celebrity chefs, including Gordon Ramsay, Wolfgang Puck, and Alice Waters.

What is MasterClass?

For $180 a year, or $15 each month, MasterClass gives you unlimited access to online courses from celebrities and world-renowned experts. It can be a pricey investment, but each course includes multiple lessons via episodes – sometimes as many as 36 videos – as well as a full-color PDF workbook featuring recipes and tips.

Additionally, there’s a community forum for each class where you can post questions, get extra info, and potentially interact with the instructor.

Also included in your membership is access to classes in film & TV, music & entertainment, writing, business, design, sports, and more.

For a full rundown of MasterClass, read our review here.

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All of the courses we recommend produced mouthwatering meals in our tests and can be followed easily in your home without special equipment or ingredients.

Here are the 11 best culinary arts and cooking classes you can take at home with MasterClass:

“Modern Italian Cooking” with Massimo Bottura

Massimo Bottura

“Modern Italian Cooking” with Massimo Bottura packs a lot of information and skills into this 14-lesson course that takes basic ingredients and turns them into a gourmet dish.

The class is taught by the chef patron of Osteria Francescana, a three-Michelin-star establishment widely considered to be one of the best restaurants in the world. Most recently, Bottura has gained additional notoriety during the pandemic with his free Kitchen Quarantine series on Instagram.

In this four-hour course, Bottura covers his modern twist on classic Italian dishes, incorporating causes that are important to him such as reducing food waste. He also invites members of Il Tortellante, a fresh pasta workshop for disadvantaged kids, to help make tortellini.

So far, I’ve made two dishes from the course. First was the Sogliola al Cartoccio, or Mediterranean-style sole. Due to grocery shortages during the pandemic, I had to substitute some ingredients, but the finished product was beautiful, delicious, and healthy. Plus, it was relatively easy to make and didn’t take long.

masterclass cooking classes massimo bottura meditteranean sole

The other dish I made is less of a dish and more of a new habit. Bottura talks about a “Broth of Everything,” a vegetarian broth he makes using vegetable scraps. I started doing this using a gallon bag stored in my freezer. Once it was full, I dehydrated it overnight in the oven at 150 degrees Fahrenheit. The next morning, I put all of the dehydrated, aromatic scraps in a stockpot along with some herbs and simmered it for six hours. The resulting broth is like liquid gold, and yes the name suggests, I use it in everything.

‘French Pastry Fundamentals’ with Dominique Ansel

dominique ansel

If you’ve ever wondered how to make the mouth-watering treats available at your favorite pastry shops, “French Pastry Fundamentals” with Dominique Ansel is a good place to start.

In his 17-lesson class that runs about three-and-a-half hours, Ansel, the inventor of the cronut and winner of several James Beard Awards, walks you through the steps of how to make mini madeleines, fruit tarts, a chocolate cake, bonbons, and croissants. He also delves into how you can use your new skills to make your own inventions. The class is supported by a 59-page, full-color workbook and an active discussion forum, where you can get help. While I was testing the class, Ansel hosted a live lesson which was really fun and informative.

I chose to tackle the four-lesson recipe for Ansel’s strawberry tart. Though you can complete the whole process in a full day of baking, I decided to do it over the course of a weekend.

masterclass cooking classes dominique ansel strawberry tart

I’d never made anything like this strawberry tart before and was a bit intimidated, but Ansel did an excellent job of putting me at ease. The only ingredient I couldn’t find was NH pectin, and I didn’t like the prices online so I used apple pectin instead, even though he says not to. The glaze didn’t come out as beautiful as it could have been, but the resulting tart was still visually-appealing and absolutely delicious. When I shared a picture of it with my local foodie group, I got several requests for the recipe.

‘Cooking I’ with Gordon Ramsay

Gordon Ramsay Cooking Class

Even if you’re just starting to find your way around the kitchen, “Cooking I” with Gordon Ramsay has a lot to offer with a balanced collection of lessons ranging from kitchen layout to making his famous Beef Wellington.

masterclass cooking classes gordon ramsay red wine poached egg mushrooms asparagus

With Ramsay’s history of laying into chefs and restauranteurs who don’t live up to his standards on his various TV shows, I expected brusque advice and harsh instructions going into Cooking I, the first of his two MasterClass courses. However, this ended up being far from the truth – Ramsay exhibits the gentleness you see on the cooking competition for children, “MasterChef Junior.”

In the 20-lesson class, Ramsay gives a little history of how he got to where he is today. He covers the basics, including kitchen layout, knife skills, making pasta, and scrambling eggs before delving into fancier dishes.

masterclass cooking classes gordon ramsay beef wellington

I decided to take a crack at the Wellington, which took me about four hours. My favorite part of the process was learning how to make crêpes. The first couple I made were horrible, but by the fourth and fifth, I felt like an old pro. The Wellington looked amazing and tasted darn good – definitely restaurant-quality. In fact, I’d previously ordered a beef Wellington at an English restaurant and it didn’t compare to the flavor and quality of my effort. I plan on making this for special occasions in the future.

‘Mexican Cooking’ with Gabriela Camara

Gabriella Camara MasterClass

I absolutely loved the flavors of the huevos rancheros recipe Gabriella Camara shares in her Mexican Cooking MasterClass. It also encouraged me to make salsa verde for the first time, which was easy and delicious.

masterclass cooking classes gabriella camara huevos rancheros

Her course is rather short compared to others – only 13 lessons and less than three-and-a-half hours of content. Also, the skills you learn don’t really translate to other cuisines.

Still, if you’re interested in learning how to make authentic Mexican dishes, including tortillas, this course is worth your time and money.

‘Cooking Techniques I: Vegetables, Pasta, and Eggs’ with Thomas Keller

Thomas Keller MasterClass

There’s a lot to like about the first of Thomas Keller’s three MasterClass courses. First of all, it provides more material than any other culinary class: 36 lessons, nearly 7 hours of video, a 119-page full-color workbook, and an active discussion forum.

masterclass cooking classes thomas keller omelette

Keller’s emphasis on “tools of refinement” can be a bit much for beginning cooks, though I now find myself regularly putting in the extra effort to make his omelet recipe.

‘Cooking Techniques II: Meats, Stocks, and Sauces’ with Thomas Keller

thomas keller

“Cooking Techniques II: Meats, Stocks, and Sauces” with Thomas Keller is designed for the hardcore carnivore, with all you need to know to make inspired dishes using beef, poultry, lamb, and other meats.

Keller is best known for The French Laundry, a three-Michelin-star restaurant in Yountville, California (and arguably the best in the world). This is the second of Keller’s three MasterClass courses, and it offers an overwhelming amount of content.

He explains different cuts of beef, pork, poultry, and lamb and what they are used for as well as how to wet- and dry- age. He touches on the different ways of cooking meat, including pan-roasting, frying, oven-roasting, braising, and grilling. In the process, he offers recipes that are accessible yet refined.

masterclass cooking classes thomas keller chicken arugula salad

My favorite recipe was the Chicken Paillard with Arugula Salad and Sauce Vierge. I had an easy time making it, and everyone in the family enjoyed it. I was struck by how well the chicken and Vierge complemented each other. My teenager said it was his new favorite chicken dish and my wife was impressed by the presentation, so it’s now in our regular rotation.

‘Mixology’ with Lynnette Marrero & Ryan Chetiyawardana

MasterClass

This mixology course focuses on making top-notch alcoholic beverages using readily available ingredients and equipment. There’s four and a half hours of content and a beautiful 53-page PDF giving recipes and more details about the drinks.

As a teetotaler, I was bummed that Marrero and Chetiyawardana didn’t provide many alcohol-free substitutes. Still, if you want to up your cocktail skills, this class is for you.

‘Texas-Style BBQ’ with Aaron Franklin

Aaron Franklin MasterClass

This is another course that will only appeal to a limited audience: those who have smokers and want to up their game.

From picking the right wood and maintaining the fire to choosing the right smoker design, Franklin dives into the details of what you need for a good smoke. He also shows you how to trim and season your meat.

masterclass cooking classes aaron franklin smoked pork

I don’t have a smoker, but I tried the pork butt recipe in my oven following all of the same steps and the results were outstanding nonetheless. This class would be ideal for anyone who is just getting into smoking meat.

‘Cooking’ with Wolfgang Puck

Wolfgang Puck MasterClass

In his cooking class, the celebrity chef walks you through his philosophy on cooking and business, how to train your palate, kitchen essentials, and even cocktails in addition to several inspired recipes. I liked that the skills you learn in the course can be used in a variety of contexts.

However, I relied heavily on the closed captioning due to Puck’s heavy Austrian accent. Also, I made his Béchamel sauce, an easy enough recipe, but found it lacked much depth of flavor.

‘The Art of Home Cooking’ with Alice Waters

Alice Waters Cooking Class

“The Art of Home Cooking” with Alice Waters of Chez Panisse in Berkeley, California offers outstanding tips for making restaurant-quality dishes using ingredients and equipment most home cooks should already have.

Rather than go through countless recipes, Waters provides 17 lessons and nearly four hours of instruction on how to stock your pantry, outfit your kitchen, and get creative with the ingredients you have.

She also explores a few of her favorite home recipes, including tips on how to sub ingredients in and out. You can easily revisit the highlights in the 77-page full-color PDF workbook you receive with the class.

masterclass cooking classes alice waters oat pancaktes

I made her oat pancakes, which were easy and healthy. As recommended by Waters, I topped the creation with a strawberry and pear compote. If I say so myself, the results were worthy of a restaurant in California. I enjoyed the depth of flavor (though it did not play too well with my kindergartener).

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What to know before taking a cooking course on MasterClass

In my hours of watching and testing the cooking courses, I picked up a few tips that might enhance your experience.

1. Watch the whole lesson before attempting to make a dish.

You don’t necessarily have to watch the previous lessons (though it often helps). However, you do need a good idea of the whole process before getting started on a recipe. I found it helped to bring my laptop to the kitchen with me, and I’d reference the workbook and the video – making frequent use of the pause button – while preparing meals.

2. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t get it right the first time.

All of the chefs are encouraging, but several stress the importance of practice. If anyone could quickly and easily produce restaurant-quality meals, these chefs would be out of a job. They break down the steps so you can easily learn them, but it may take a few tries before you can master Beef Wellington or perfect a fruit tart.

3. Feel free to use substitutions.

Fresh ingredients are also a must. Yet, the instructors understand that substitutions often need to be made based on where you live and make recommendations accordingly.

Some chefs suggest you turn to local sources for your ingredients when possible, such as a nearby farmers’ market. Or, you might consider signing up for a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program, which is a subscription-based service that provides you with weekly boxes of fresh local farm products. In addition to the environmental and economic benefits, CSAs can help you minimize your time in grocery stores.

How we evaluated the culinary arts courses

woman cooking at home

The $180 price is very expensive for online courses, even if they are taught by award-winning chefs around the world. That’s why we tested and reviewed MasterClass with a more critical eye.

I spent hours and hours in front of the screen watching and following all of the culinary arts courses offered on MasterClass. I spent even more time in the kitchen trying my hand at following the tips and skills taught in the classes.

Here are the main attributes we look for and how we evaluate them:

Generalizability: Will what you learn in the course be helpful when you make other cuisines? Will it help you create your own dishes? For instance, learning precise knife skills is helpful when prepping any meal. However, learning to debone one specific species of fish that isn’t even available in your area might not be that useful.

Accessibility: Due to the current pandemic, I had a hard time procuring various ingredients – the stores in my area can be hit or miss. A good MasterClass course or chef will teach you how to cook with easy-to-find ingredients or offer suitable substitutes. Also, you shouldn’t need specialized equipment. If a class required devices that have limited applications, such as a grain mill or a tortilla press, it lost points in our evaluation.

Meal Quality: If you’re taking the time to learn how to cook from the best chefs in the world, you’d expect the resulting meals to be restaurant-quality. Based on the assessments from my wife, two sons, and myself, I used four criteria to assess dish quality: taste, appearance, likelihood to make again, and if the dish was good enough to serve in a nice restaurant.

Enjoyability: Does the instructor make it fun to make the dishes? Does it take a long time to prep and cook the meals? I looked at both of these questions when assessing how enjoyable a course was.

Quantity: How many lessons are there? How many minutes of video are there? How much info is in the PDF workbook that comes with the course? Are the discussion forums active? These factors all played a role in determining whether a course provided enough bang for your buck.

Read more cooking and food-related stories

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Here’s everything Biden has done so far to address the $1.7 trillion student debt crisis

College student graduation
  • Since President Joe Biden took office, he has taken a number of actions to address the $1.7 trillion student debt crisis.
  • They include cancelling debt for borrowers with disabilities and extending the payment pause on loans.
  • Democrats are pushing for Biden to cancel $50,000 in student debt, which he says he is reviewing.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Forty-five million Americans have a $1.7 trillion student debt burden in the country. And many of them, alongside Democrats and advocates, want President Joe Biden to forgive $50,000 of their debt.

He hasn’t done that yet, but the president has taken steps to lessen the burden and provide relief during the pandemic.

As one of his first actions in office, Biden extended the pause on student loan payments through September, coupled with zero growth in interest, to ensure borrowers suffering financially would not have to worry about paying off their loans. And since then, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona has cancelled student debt for borrowers with disabilities and borrowers defrauded by for-profit schools. He’s also started conducting reviews of student loan forgiveness programs that don’t work as they should.

But Democrats want Biden to do more.

They have been keeping the pressure on the president to cancel $50,000 in student debt per person using his executive authority. And while Biden has expressed hesitancy to do so, Democrats remain adamant that he can, and should, cancel student debt immediately with the flick of a pen.

“Student loan cancellation could occur today,” Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren told Insider. “The president just needs to sign a piece of paper canceling that debt. It doesn’t take any act of Congress or any amendment to the budget.”

Detailed below is everything Biden has done to date to confront the student debt crisis:

Extended the pause on student loan payments through September

Joe Biden

On his first day in office, Biden asked the Education Department to extend the pause on federal student loan payments through September 30, following Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ extension on the pause on loan payments through the end of January. 

This was accompanied by a 0% interest rate during that time period.

Director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese said at the time that the extension on loans would to alleviate some of the burdens many households were facing to pay basic expenses, and student debt is often a barrier to putting food on the table.

“In this moment of economic hardship, we want to reduce the burden of these financial trade-offs,” Deese said.

This extension, however did not apply to the more than seven million borrowers with loans held by private companies. 

Asked the Justice Department to review his authority to cancel student debt

department of justice building

In February, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters that Biden will ask the Justice Department to review his legal authority to cancel $50,000 in student debt. 

At a CNN town hall in February, Biden said he doesn’t have the executive authority to cancel up to $50,000 in student debt per person, but said he is prepared to cancel $10,000 — something he campaigned on.

However, Insider reported that he has yet to deliver on that campaign promise, and while Biden said he would support legislation brought to him to cancel $10,000 in student debt, Democrats argue that legislation takes too long, and the president can cancel debt immediately using his executive authority.

“We have a lot on our plate, including moving to infrastructure and all kinds of other things,” Warren said in a February press call. “I have legislation to do it, but to me, that’s just not a reason to hold off. The president can do this, and I very much hope that he will.”

Biden’s administration has not yet commented on the status of Justice Department’s review.

Cancelled student debt for defrauded borrowers

student loans college graduates

In his first major move as Education Secretary, Cardona on March 18 reversed a Trump-era policy that gave only partial relief to defrauded students.

For-profit institutions that shut down years ago, like Corinthian Colleges and ITT Technical Institutes, were accused of violating federal law by persuading their students to take out loans, and Cardona’s new policy helped approximately 72,000 of those students receive $1 billion in loan cancellation.

“Borrowers deserve a simplified and fair path to relief when they have been harmed by their institution’s misconduct,” Cardona said in a statement. “A close review of these claims and the associated evidence showed these borrowers have been harmed and we will grant them a fresh start from their debt.”

The debt-cancellation methodology, known as the “borrower defense to repayment” — approved by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos — compared the median earnings of graduates with debt-relief claims to the median earnings of graduates in comparable programs. The bigger the difference, the more relief the applicant would receive.

But compared to a 99.2% approval rate for defrauded claims filed under President Barack Obama, DeVos had a 99.4% denial rate for borrowers and ran up a huge backlog of claims from eligible defrauded borrowers seeking student debt forgiveness.

Cardona said that process did not result in appropriate relief determination and needed to be reversed, and a judge recently ruled that DeVos must testify over why so few borrowers were approved for loan forgiveness.

Cancelled student debt for borrowers with disabilities

College Graduates Tossing Caps

Two weeks after cancelling some debt for defrauded borrowers, Cardona on March 29 cancelled $1.3 billion of student debt for about 41,000 borrowers with disabilities.

He also waived an Obama-era requirement for those borrowers to submit documentation during a three-year monitoring period to verify that their incomes did not exceed the poverty line.

A 2016 report from the Government Accountability Office found that 98% of reinstated disability discharges occurred because borrowers did not submit the required documentation — not because their incomes were too high.

“Borrowers with total and permanent disabilities should focus on their well-being, not put their health on the line to submit earnings information during the COVID-19 emergency,” Cardona said in a statement. “Waiving these requirements will ensure no borrower who is totally and permanently disabled risks having to repay their loans simply because they could not submit paperwork.”

But experts said this action did not make up for the significant number of borrowers who never received loan forgiveness simply due to paperwork.

“Today’s announcement is not cause for celebration but rather for outrage,” Persis Yu, the director of the Student Loan Borrower Assistance Project at the National Consumer Law Center, said in a statement at the time. “It is scandalous that the Department revoked the loan discharges for 41,000 borrowers with total and permanent disabilities due to paperwork issues during a pandemic.”

 

Expanded the scope of the student loan payment pause

student loans debt

Biden’s payments pause on student loans initially only applied to borrowers with federal loans, meaning those with privately-held loans had to continue making payments during the pandemic.

But on March 29, Cardona expanded the scope of that pause to apply to loans under the Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program, which are privately-held. This helped 1.14 million additional borrowers. 

The FFEL Program ended in 2010, but according to Education Department data, 11.2 million borrowers still have outstanding FFEL loans totaling over $248 billion. And while the department acquired some of the outstanding FFEL loans, many are still privately owned and were not affected by the earlier pause on federally owned student loan payments.

According to a press release, any FFEL borrower who made a payment in the past year will have the option to request a refund. 

Asked the Education Department to review his authority to cancel student debt

joe biden

White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain told Politico in April that Biden had asked Cardona to create a memo on the president’s legal authority to forgive $50,000 in student loans per person.

Biden will “look at that legal authority,” Klain said. “He’ll look at the policy issues around that, and he’ll make a decision. He hasn’t made a decision on that either way, and, in fact, he hasn’t yet gotten the memos that he needs to start to focus on that decision.”

The review appears to be ongoing, and the administration has not announced a timeline for when it will be completed. 

 

Started a review of student loan forgiveness programs

student debt graduation

On May 24, the Education Department announced it is beginning the process of issuing new higher education regulations, mainly concerning student debt-forgiveness programs. 

The first step of the process will be through holding hearings in June to receive feedback on “regulations that would address gaps in postsecondary outcomes, such as retention, completion, student loan repayment, and loan default,” according to a press release.

The department will also seek comments on rules regarding student loan forgiveness for borrowers in public service and borrowers with disabilities, among other things.

The main topics the department plans to address concern the methods for forgiving debt for defrauded borrowers and borrowers with disabilities, along with looking into the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, which has rejected 98% of eligible borrowers. 

Forbes reported that the process to implement new rules could be lengthy, though. After the hearings in June, there will be “negotiated rulemaking,” during which stakeholders meet with the department to review proposed regulations, and it could take a year or longer until changes are implemented. 

Read the original article on Business Insider

Children as young as 5 years old are being handcuffed and removed from New York’s schools by the police

police officer in school
A Portland police officer talks to students in the Portland High School hallway in November 2019.

  • The number of students removed from New York City schools has increased, a new report finds.
  • The report also uncovered that Black, Latinx, and disabled students are disproportionally affected.
  • Black and Latinx students accounted for 92% of all interventions between 2016 and 2020.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

The number of police interventions in New York City public schools has risen with Black students and students with severe disabilities disproportionally removed from classrooms, a new report has uncovered.

The report, which was published this week by Advocates for Children of New York (AFC), an education nonprofit organization, analyzed 12,000 incidents described by the NYPD as “child in crisis interventions” where a student is removed from a classroom or school to be transported to a hospital for a psychological evaluation between 2016 and 2020.

According to the data, the number of interventions increased by 24% in the first three quarters of the 2019-2020 school year.

Around 10 percent of these students in crisis were handcuffed, including numerous instances where children under the age of 13, including five, six, and seven-year-olds, were handcuffed before they were forcibly removed from a classroom for evaluation.

“Five-, six-, seven-year-olds getting handcuffed in school. Very, very troubling,” Dawn Yuster, director of the School Justice Project at Advocates for Children, told Spectrum News NY1. “I, personally, professionally have represented clients as young as eight years old, who has been handcuffed in school – and I will never forget the day that I got a call from a parent when his child was transported to the hospital.”

She added: “It only exacerbates the problems that already exist. It does absolutely nothing to change the behavior, improve the behavior, and it further alienates the family from the school.”

The data also revealed that Black students – particularly young Black boys – and students with disabilities attending District 75 school, which provides specialized support for students with disabilities, are over-represented in the population of students who police officers removed.

Between July 2018 and March 2020, 26.7% of all interventions involved Black boys, who were just 13% of the public school population. Similarly, Black girls comprised 20% of all interventions despite accounting for only 12% of enrollment.

In total, Black and Latinx students – who make up two-thirds of the student population-accounted for 92% of all interventions. And all 33 children between the ages of five and seven who were handcuffed were students of color, according to the report.

Campaigners are now calling on the city to implement a new strategy that can reduce school interventions. The AFC recommends that schools no longer call the police or emergency medical services to take students to the hospital when it is not medically necessary. The organization also called for the introduction of a new bill that would significantly limit the NYPD’s ability to handcuff students.

“Students in emotional crisis need emotional support; they don’t need to be criminalized and handcuffed,” Kim Sweet, AFC’s Executive Director, said. “As a city, we need to start treating all students as we want our own children to be treated.”

In response, a Department of Education spokesperson said: “Creating schools that are safe and welcoming for all students is at the core of this Administration’s work, and we have made important changes to drive record decreases in police interventions, arrests, suspensions, and the system-wide adoption of restorative justice practices.

“All students must return to healing-centered schools this fall, and we are hiring over 500 new social workers and adding over 100 more community schools to ensure every student has a caring adult to go to when in crisis.”

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A former school nurse explains why the recommended single nurse per 750 students isn’t nearly enough to provide safe care

Temperature check on playground during COVID-19
School nurses are leaders who “address the physical, mental, and emotional health needs of students.”

  • Professor Beth Jameson believes COVID-19 has exposed the flaw in havingone school nurse for every 750 kids.
  • School nurses have a lot of responsibilities and the pandemic has raised them exponentially.
  • More manageable workloads for nurses will mean better student health and academic outcomes.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

When many people think of a school nurse, they imagine a person who hands out Band-Aids for boo-boos.

But school nurses do so much more. They are school leaders who address the physical, mental, and emotional health needs of students.

As the COVID-19 pandemic played out, many school nurses took on even greater responsibilities. These include monitoring and evaluating staff and students for COVID-19 exposure and symptoms, contact tracing, and educating students, staff and community partners on vaccine and prevention measures. School nurses are also developing initiatives to deal with the anticipated increase in mental health services that students, families and staff will need in the post-pandemic world.

And yet, the US Department of Health and Human Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommend that public elementary, middle, and high schools aim to have one school nurse for every 750 students.

As a former school nurse and current nurse scientist and professor of nursing, I know that this one-size-fits-all model does not consider the full role and responsibilities of the school nurse.

What’s more, as far as I can tell, no published research or evidence supports this ratio. It’s been traced at least as far back as the early 1970s and the Education for All Handicapped Children Act of 1975, now known as the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.

Safety net for vulnerable kids

School nursing is a specialized practice that operates in environments very different from an acute care hospital setting. School nurses work alone, practice independently and are typically the sole health care provider in the building.

As part of our public health system, they play a critical role in disease surveillance, disaster preparedness, wellness and chronic disease prevention interventions, immunizations, mental health screening and asthma education.

And they are a safety net for society’s most vulnerable children. For example, if a student is experiencing food insecurity, the school nurse might coordinate with a community partner or school social worker to help the student and their family not go hungry.

Most school nurses will tell you they are unable to carry out many of these functions, often due to huge workloads or poor staffing.

I know from personal experience. From 2009 to 2014, I was the sole school nurse responsible for the health and safety of over 900 public elementary school children. This included special education classrooms for preschoolers and students with nonverbal autism. I now research how school health policies and practices effect the work environment of school nurses, and the challenges and barriers they face.

Research shows how a positive work environment for school nurses increases job satisfaction, reduces turnover and improves academic outcomes for students. A study of school nurses in Massachusetts schools demonstrated that for every dollar invested in school nursing, society would gain US$2.20 as a result of kids’ better health and disease prevention.

No one-size-fits-all ratio

A school nurse’s workload depends on a number of significant variables. For example, how many students in the school have chronic illnesses and need medication administered? How many students attend the school? What ages are they? What is the average number of student visits to the health office each school day? Are students spread across multiple buildings? What level of experience and specialized skills does the school nurse have?

The number of students in a school who are dealing with poverty or other health equity issues – including access to quality education, safe housing and health care – also impacts and increases the workload for school nurses.

These evidence-based variables can be used to guide school administrators and school nurses on what constitutes safe staffing. Making sure school nurses have a safe, appropriate workload is critical to ensuring that students have their health needs met at school.

Parents who are concerned about their child’s health at school may want to find out how many students their child’s school nurse cares for. How many students does the school nurse see on a typical day? Is a school nurse in the building every day? Does the school nurse cover more than one building? What happens when there is an emergency, such as a child with a life-threatening allergic reaction? Where are the emergency care plans kept? Is there stock medication available such as epinephrine and albuterol for students with severe allergies or asthma?

I believe school nurses need more manageable workloads in order to provide the safe care needed for better student health and academic outcomes. This leads to better health not just in individuals but in communities that need it most.

Beth Jameson, assistant professor of Nursing, Seton Hall University

The Conversation
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A 5th-grade student gave a first-person speech dressed as Hitler. The teacher and school’s principal are now on administrative leave.

Adolf Hitler, left. Maugham Elementary School, right.
A student at Maugham Elementary School dressed as Adolf Hitler for a school project.

  • A fifth-grade student dressed as Adolf Hitler and gave a speech titled, “Accomplishments.”
  • The speech was part of a “Character Development project” organized by his teacher, Fox News said.
  • The school’s principal and the student’s teacher have been placed on administrative leave.
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Two staff members have been placed on administrative leave after a fifth-grade student at a New Jersey elementary school gave a first-person speech as Adolf Hitler to his class, according to a statement by Tenafly Public Schools Superintendent Shauna C. DeMarco.

The student at Maugham Elementary School dressed as the Nazi dictator while reading out his handwritten report that was titled, “Accomplishments,” Fox News reported.”My greatest accomplishment was uniting a great mass of German and Austrian people behind me,” the student wrote, according to the media outlet.

“I was pretty great, wasn’t I?” the report continued. “I was very popular, and many people followed me until I died. My belif [sic] in antisemitism drove me to kill more than 6 million Jews.”

The speech, part of a “Character Development project” organized by their teacher, who is Jewish, was displayed in the school’s hallways. It was later shared on Facebook by Lori Birk, an Englewood resident, but has since been deleted.

Read more: How ‘Tiger Mom’ Amy Chua became the pariah of Yale Law. A complicated story of booze, misbehaving men, and the Supreme Court.

DeMarco confirmed in a statement on Thursday that an investigation is underway as the project violated the district’s curriculum and that the teacher and principal of the school have been placed on administrative leave.

“They will remain on leave pending the conclusion of my investigation, recommendations to the Board, and the Board’s further action,” DeMarco said. “I also have recommended that the Board appoint an acting principal and replacement teacher at Maugham immediately.”

The superintendent added that the incident has been stressful for many people. “This has had a devastating impact on the student involved and their family, who have been thrown into turmoil through no fault of their own. It has also been incredibly painful for our Jewish community members in the face of increasing instances of antisemitism around the country.”

DeMarco referred to the incident as a “failure” in the statement. “The events that have unfolded represent a failure in both providing the safe learning environment that all our kids need to learn and grow, as well as a failure in the school’s initial handling,’ she said.

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