The Village Voice’s Winter Education Supplement



More Bucks, Same Bang by Neil deMause

Most students won’t earn more with a pricier diploma. Is high tuition worth it?

Too Unschooled for School by Elizabeth Walters

Why are so many incoming college students getting stuck in remedial courses?

Saving Private Tongues by Michael Rymer

Two CUNY linguists set out to find endangered languages lurking within the five boroughs.


Compiled by Alexis Soloski


It used to be you couldn’t step aboard a subway train or cross a downtown intersection without encountering graffiti sprayed and scratched on any available surface. New York presents a cleaner face now, but it’s still home to vibrant and clever street art. Graff Tours leads spray paint enthusiasts around Soho, Williamsburg, and Bushwick. At tour’s end, instructors will demonstrate safe paint-handling techniques and help you to produce graffiti of your own.

Sure, you could paint ships, sunsets, sunflower arrangements, or platters of fruit. But if your creative spirit can’t be contained by the merely figurative, try “Abstract Painting” at Gowanus’s Brooklyn Arts Space. Come with a blank canvas and leave with a swirly, spattery acrylic chef d’oeuvre. Other painting classes at the Space include “Encaustic,” “Watercolor,” “Color Theory,” and “Old Masters Oil Painting.”


“Computers are useless,” said Pablo Picasso. “They can only give you answers.” With all due respect to genius, many of us find computers quite useful. If you’d like to start making yours work better for you, consider the introductory classes at the School of Visual Arts. Offerings for beginners include “Alternatives to Adobe” and “Macintosh Basics,” after which you can progress on to imaging, web development, and computer animation.


There’s nothing like a local election to remind us just how skilled some people are at embroidering the truth. But if you’d like to adorn something just a bit more tactile, enroll in “Embroidery” at the Textile Arts Center in Greenwich Village or “Redwork Embroidery” at Chelsea’s City Quilter (don’t let the name fool you; you can work in any color of thread you like).,

America boasts a long tradition of silversmithing, harkening all the way back to the days of Paul Revere (among his more unusual efforts: a chain for a pet squirrel and an ostrich egg snuffbox). But even if the British aren’t coming, you can continue the proud practice with “Introductory Silversmithing” at Williamsburg’s Fitzgerald Jewelry, a six-session course that combines hands-on work with jewelry district tours and culminates in one or two finished pieces.


Sure, you could buy a fittingly sardonic T-shirt. But to achieve full indie cred, you should make your own. At the Gowanus Print Lab, take “Intro to Screen Printing” and emerge with your self-designed garment. And if that hooks you on wearable squeegees and solvents, return for “Print Your Own Converse” or the hops-infused “Pints ‘n’ Prints.”


Time was, it took considerable money, heroic effort, and many enormous film canisters to make even a short feature. With the advent of digital video and ever easier editing software, it now seems like you need little more than a smartphone and a spare afternoon. Still, if you think you could use a little more, “Indie Film Production” at Murray Hill’s Independent Film School offers a weekend intensive outlining financing, marketing and distribution, and physical production.

Food and Drink

It takes a certain kind of bravado to label your signature confection “crack pie,” but if you’ve sampled Momofuku Milk Bar‘s famed dessert, you’ll know that it’s just as addictive as promised. If you’d like to feed the habit in your own kitchen, the Williamsburg location is offering “Bake the Book,” a series of Saturday classes that guide you through Milk Bar’s recipes and let you take home the results. Next up: “Cakes,” which concerns birthday cake and cake truffles.

Yes, you would prefer to spend the fall hunting for truffles in Umbria or sampling Tuscany’s wine varietals. But if you’re stuck in New York and looking for a taste of Italy that’s more sophisticated than the corner slice joint, sign up for a cooking class at Casa Belvedere, a Staten Island manse that houses the Italian Cultural Foundation. The casa offers classes for both adults and children, such as “Italian Regional Favorites,” “Cheese Making,” and “Game and Fowl.”

For Children and Teens

Have you been reading about teenagers selling their apps and web platforms for millions? Why not help your own darling start paying for your retirement? Give your budding genius a taste for multimedia creativity at the Sony Wonder Technology Lab. This midtown “technology and entertainment museum” offers numerous workshops, some geared toward arts and others (like building solar-powered toys or creating LED-lit holiday décor) toward science.

Most kids will rest content on a cheerfully bland diet of pasta, chicken fingers, and the occasional applesauce. If you want your preteen to develop a more sophisticated (and expensive) palate, enroll him or her in “Urban Foodies” at Taste Buds Kitchen. At some sessions, kids will tour local restaurants and then return to the Chelsea Studio space to cook some of what they’ve nibbled. During others, kids will cook alongside chefs in actual restaurant kitchens. Other child-friendly classes—for toddlers through teens—include “Chocolate Lovers Camp,” “Cupcake Wars Camp,” and “Holiday Cookie Camp.”


New York is not synonymous with tranquility, especially not the midtown blocks just north of Times Square. But Reflections Yoga aims to create serenity amid the neon with “Rooftop Slow Flow Vinyasa” classes held at sunset atop the Ritz Plaza. Other om-centric offerings (these are held indoors) include “Yin Yoga,” “Movement Release,” and “Afro Flow Yoga,” which combines asanas with African drums and dance.

You’ve breathed, you’ve chanted, you’re filled with a sense of oneness with the world. But you’re hungry. If meditation has left you spiritually fulfilled but calorically empty, the Three Jewels center in the East Village has a class for you: “Qigong with Asian Snack Time After.” You’ll use Qigong techniques to channel your energy flow and then celebrate those clear chakras and flowing meridians with delicious nibbles.


Russia has been receiving some very bad press lately, and even if its status as Winter Olympics host doesn’t seem to be in jeopardy, its claims of respecting civil rights certainly are. If you’d like to understand the issues better—and protest more precisely—school yourself at ABC Languages, which offers beginner and intermediate Russian classes as well as a free evaluation.

As you may have already guessed from the proliferation of bagels, beards, and Yiddishisms, New York is home to the largest Jewish population outside Israel. And while even the most orthodox speak English, it’s a wonder Hebrew isn’t taught as often as Spanish or French. If you’d like to learn it, Machon Avi, with locations in Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens, offers a variety of courses, from basic language instruction to “Singing in Hebrew” and “Israeli Film.”


“Give me such shows,” sang Walt Whitman. “Give me the streets of Manhattan!” The Fashion Institute of Technology is happy to oblige. As part of its continuing education program, it offers “Cool New York Talks and Tours,” designed to acquaint students with Manhattan’s (and Brooklyn’s) more fabulous aspects. Upcoming tutorials include “DUMBO Trend Tracker: Brooklyn’s Latest Hipster Haven” and “The Lower East Side: Mecca for Fashion,” which includes lunch at the pastrami mecca, Katz’s Deli.


Opinions about Mayor Bloomberg’s tenure differ widely, but if New York’s arboreal residents could vote, they’d likely demand a fourth term. Under his watch nearly 1 million trees have been planted. Pay tribute to these new residents and old favorites with classes at the New York Botanical Garden. Autumnal offerings include “Fall Leaves in Watercolor” and and “Pruning: How, When, and Where.”

With the exception of that strange maple syrup scent a few years ago, New York isn’t known for its odorous qualities. (Usually if you notice a smell, something has gone terribly wrong with our sanitation system.) But the Brooklyn Botanic Garden attempts to make us more sweet scented with a course in “Natural Perfume Blending.” Students will explore “the science, history, and art of perfumery” and leave with two bottles of their own concoctions.


If this city never sleeps, why should you? Several photo schools offer classes designed to capture Gotham at night. Remember Forever Photography offers classes at Brooklyn Bridge Park (“Bridge and Water”) and Times Square (“Big City Night Lights Photography”), while New York City Photo Safari in midtown west provides its own excursions into photogenic New York. For each, bring your digital camera, a tripod, and enough caffeine to keep you wide-eyed as you frame your shots.,

Remember film? You know, that tricky stuff you used to have to load into a camera, fearing the violence of the sun, the sear of the X-ray machine? Well, it still exists, and the Bushwick Community Darkroom would like to teach you how to develop it. In “B&W Crash Course,” offered every Saturday, students will learn how to turn their negatives into positive prints. “Color Crash Course” provides a more vibrant version of the same.


Environments don’t come much more urban than New York’s, but that hasn’t stopped sports giant REI from offering its “Outdoor School” in the tri-state area. This season you could take field trips for hiking, camping, mountain biking, and rock climbing instruction. If you’d rather stay closer to home, study “Map and Compass Navigation” in Prospect Park or “Wilderness First Aid” in the debatable wilderness of Soho.

Ladies who lunch don’t want to look like it. To maintain their figures, many of them turn to barre routines, like that originated by Physique 57. Now, you might think a routine based on ballet wouldn’t build strength, but have you seen dancers’ thighs? And for a new take on old leg lifts, you could get into gear with Flybarre, a bicycle-free routine at the celebrated spinning studio Flywheel Sports.,

Theater and Performing Arts

Despite global warming, city temperatures still drop every fall. To raise yours back up, take a sweat-inducing dance classe at Stepping Out Studios in Chelsea. Choose among tango, salsa, international Latin, zouk, and several levels of the hustle, including “styling.” (There’s country western, too, but that doesn’t set anyone’s pulse racing.) They also offer OUTdancing, for those who prefer to tango with a same-sex partner.

In his advice to the players, Hamlet advises, “Speak the speech, I pray you, as I pronounc’d it to you, trippingly on the tongue.” That’s fine for the Danish prince, but many of us have a hard time getting our mouths around iambic pentameter. Happily, Union Square’s Shakespeare Society wants to help you get your Elizabethan on. After completing introductory and intermediate courses, practice your plosives and fricatives in the “Advanced Play Reading Circle.”


You only have to read through so many Rough Guides or Lonely Planets to think that guidebook writers have it made: tour exotic locales, stay in boutique hotels, eat at all manner of restaurants, and get paid for the privilege. If you’d enjoy such a globetrotting career, consider New York University‘s weekend intensive, “From Traveler to Travel Writer.” And if your writing skills could use some frequent flyer miles, you might also register for “Getting Into the Writing Habit” and “Writing Basics.”

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