What if we started learning food prep and cooking in elementary school? And I’m not thinking about food prep as an elective course or two. No, my vision is much bolder:
Learning to cook needs to be mandatory. Food prep needs to be integrated into every class you take in school. You must demonstrate ongoing cooking competence to pass classes and graduate.
Think about it. What might change if food preparation was used as the foundation for every STEM course you take in school? How might it change society and the economy?
For example, imagine if the only STEM education we received in school was food preparation. As you learn to cook, you more deeply learn every STEM subject.
Science. Nutrition, health, chemistry, experimental design, and anatomy.
Technology. Knives, ovens, stoves, sous vide machines, freezers, and refrigerators.
Engineering. Spacial relations, temperature, land use, processing, and packaging.
Math. Calculating and charting: temperature and time and portions and servings.
Gee whiz. A student can learn almost every topic by learning through food and cooking. It’s a solid STEM education, and then some.
Food is social and cultural. It’s finance and budgeting. It’s art and history and drama and presentation and…
…well, food is actually integrated into everything. It is literally fundamental for human survival. It’s the basis for a wide range of metaphors.
So why isn’t cooking used as a foundation for teaching every STEM subject we learn in school? How is it that you can graduate high school without demonstrating you know how to prepare, serve, and fund a month’s worth of nutritional, well-balanced meals?
Honestly? I suspect one reason food prep isn’t considered worthy for a complete STEM curriculum is because cooking is traditionally viewed as “women’s work” and thus “not science-y or math-y or tech-y or manly enough”.
Maybe someone is thinking, “No, wait, how dare you? I need my STEM to be wrapped up in more important concepts than lowly food prep. My boy has an interest in computers and wants to work in the auto industry, so STEM means computer labs and an auto shop. He can pick up nutritional knowledge in the streets or at home.”
But why can’t a boy take what he learned about food prep and apply it to whatever field he wishes to pursue? Isn’t taking knowledge from one field and applying it to another a key creative and critical thinking skill?
Critical thinking. Creative thinking. You need both of these skills to write decent code.
And before you code one single line? You need to learn to think. And you need to eat.
Computer programmer, car mechanic, art historian, athlete, teacher, writer — whatever. Every field involves food and nutrition. Because everybody’s gotta eat. It’s timeless.
While students pursue their career fields, they need the wherewithal to keep themselves healthy and financially solvent. Instead of touching a computer screen all day, they can learn to navigate the real world with the tactile sensation of handling food.
Teach people to cook, and you’re teaching them to think. You’re giving them a useful skill and a shared language. You’re giving them metaphors along with nutrition. You’re also exposing students to a broad range of educational and cultural topics.
Who’s with me? Let’s all get fired up about learning to cook!
Stock photos pretty much suck. Perhaps they had their time and place, but their moment has passed.
After a few years of looking at your friend’s photos on Instagram and Facebook, your eyes have been accustomed to seeing real people doing real activities. In contrast, stock photos of people faking their emotions doesn’t quite resonate with you anymore.
We know cheese when we see it, and we don’t like it.
Naturally. I seriously prefer real people to stock photos, too. No question.
However I also decline to routinely sign photo releases. I recommend that others decline, as well. Nursing homes and day care facilities will often try to slip in a photo release in the stacks of papers you must sign for a parent or child to enter their programs or receive needed services. If you don’t sign, they will often try to pressure you to do so.
Don’t do it.
The stock photo models make money for their work. Why don’t your parents and grandparents? Why don’t your children?
Many facilities are learning that stock photos aren’t cutting it anymore. They want to use your child’s image. They want an image of elderly parents and grandparents.
And they want to use them for free.
Is exploitation of free labor really the way to go? How is exploiting the image of your loved ones demonstrating client care? And if it’s all so innocent, why slip in a photo release in the middle of umpteen other forms that need to be signed strictly for the care of the client?
I suspect nursing homes and other facilities rely on our naivety about paid creative work. This is becoming an all-too common abusive practice, worthy of education and discussion.
Recently, I noticed this absurd trend of gallantly and heroically doing nothing.
About 19 months ago, I accidentally left my cell phone home and traveled out of town on business. When I arrived at the hotel, I needed to find the conference organizer. I used my laptop to call her via Skype & explained that I forgot my cell phone.
I found not-carrying a phone to be extremely advantageous that week. No one changed plans with me at the last minute, since they had no way of reaching me. And I received no interruptions, so I got tons of stuff done.
When I got home, I didn’t want to return to my life as a cell phone carrying goofball. So I didn’t. I just stopped carrying a phone. No big deal, right?
Oh, no. Some folks made a huge deal out of it. I got four main questions:
Was I making some kind of social statement? (Not really. I forgot my phone one day, found out I really didn’t need it and that was that.)
How do I communicate effectively with clients and friends? (I make plans and stick to them. Every productivity expert on the planet tells you to only check messages at a few planned times a day, so not carrying a phone is probably a best practice.)
What’s it like to not carry a smart phone? (I don’t know. I’ve never carried a smart phone, only a cell phone. I have nothing to compare it to, so I honestly don’t know. The smart phone seems like a way for marketers and others to have unrestricted access to me, so I’m not all that keen on the idea of owning one.)
What if you have an emergency? (At first, I was stubborn. Everyone else has a phone, so I can borrow one in an emergency. That was my argument, and it lasted about 7 months. However, my partner insisted that I carry a cell for emergencies, so I got a burner mostly to comfort him and foster family harmony.)
So, there I was, not-doing anything, and it got me all kinds of attention. It was like I was actually doing something! One conference organizer suggested I prepare a talk about what it was like to not-carry a phone.
That seemed crazy to me. But I was wrong.
Not-doing something is the new doing something. People are fascinated by people who don’t-do things.
There’s a long list of popular things to not-do. Eat meat/gluten/sugar. Drink alcohol or coffee. Do drugs. Have children. Watch TV. Consume the news. Drive a car. Go to church. Use social media. Carry a gun or credit card. Honestly, the list of things to not-do is infinite.
However, what do people do while they’re not doing the thing they’re not doing?
Here’s the odd part: they talk or write incessantly about the thing they are not doing! If you decide not to use a fork, for example, you set up a Tumblr account to journal about the experience. If you’re not going to use the internet for a bit, you issue a press release and try to get media coverage or a book deal. If you plan to not-work and not-drive a car, you set up a blog and make money from the idea of not needing much money.
Frankly, I’m a bit jealous. There’s a zillion things that I don’t do. It simply never occurred to me that not-doing something was worthy of a book deal, blog, TV show, press release, or humanitarian award.
Since not-doing anything is a pretty hot trend, I thought I might cash in on this gravy train. Pick a thing that I don’t do, and then write about not doing it. What I normally do is not even think about the things I’m not doing.
Why feed the poor, care for the sick, pick up trash, or plant trees — for example — when you can do nothing and make the world a better place?
Clearly, I’ve been doing it wrong. I’m going to start not-doing it right!
What are you not-doing lately? Where’s your humanitarian award?
“Waah! Some people just sit back + criticize when we try to do good for our community,” pout legions of wannabe activists.
Many passive-aggressive dimwits have gotten it into their puny brains that thoughtful, articulate criticism is the equivalent of “do-nothing”. That critics “sit back” while criticizing. That criticism is a nobler, fancier word for “bitching”. Or that a critic is slothful at best and damaging at worst.
Here’s a five-step self-help program designed for those who whine about the perceived ease or “negativity” of thoughtful criticism:
1. Build or co-opt a good-sized public following of readers, viewers, friends, clients, and/or colleagues.
2. Publish a witty or thoughtful speech, article, video or blog post. Sharply criticize a sacred cow or popular vice/trend of the majority of followers.
3. Make sure the audience — including both saints + pyschopaths — has a public feedback mechanism. Respond to or categorize every rant, rave, and threat.
4. Participate in public discussions. Learn how to deal with personal threats, hate mail, irrational fanaticism, reasonable arguments, and irate phone calls.
For the fifth and final step, post but one ironic and grossly iniquitous tweet:
“Some people have nothing better to do but sit back and criticize.”
Alternatively, try this ostensibly easier exercise: learn to listen to and respect thoughtful criticism. Far from bitchy, good critics make you think. They inspire conversation. They foster relationships. They make ideas better. They make the community better.
Heck. They make YOU better.
Without criticism, there can be no activism. And honestly: when was the last time you learned anything from a great review of your work?
Ding ding ding! We have a winner for THE MOST passive-aggressive phrase used in Facebook and Twitter posts.
Coming in at number one: “some people…”.
As in posting “Some people tear down everything positive we try to do for our community” instead of “Cindy habitually encourages people to think critically before jumping on dubious social media bandwagons with wild enthusiasm!”
Or “Some people overreact to everything!” instead of “Greg seems empathetic & usually writes passionately when he believes that oppressed people are being harmed.”
For the legions of “some people” and “everything” posters out there, please note: there is but one letter of difference between “posting” and “pouting”. You can make a stronger case if you write with specificity as well as passion. Engaging directly with folks who think differently can help you adjust or strengthen your point of view.
Keeping your sense of humor can help, too.
What are your runner-ups for the most counterproductive phrases you’ve seen in Twitterville and Facebookland lately?