An Education

Smile class!

There’s a lot going down now with Florida public schools, cuts to higher learning, and tons of people with expensive degrees without decent job prospects to pay off that student debt. 

My friend and fellow Tampan Mary McKenzie, affectionately known as Mary Mac, told me recently, “It’s incredibly exploitative to the students who buy, literally, into it.”

It would seem that education in America is not very cost effective, with the only reward being, you know, getting to learn stuff and use it for the betterment of society. 

Mary, 28, is a smart & highly educated cookie. She earned a B.S. from UF in natural resource conservation. (Her idea of a fun internship was writing entries for 300 plant species in the Tampa Bay Watershed.) But she’s “not a fan of the system we have in place.”
Excited by Skool

So last summer when she heard about the St. Pete Free Skool, which offers free classes led by volunteer teachers, she decided Tampa needed one too. Tampa Free Skool and its busy class calendar was off and running.

“I place a lot of value on sharing knowledge. I’ll teach this ethnobotany class then maybe the 18 students will want to teach a class. And I’ll learn.” Anyone can take or teach a class

Another class Mary leads is the monthly hula hoop jam. Other upcoming offerings are Bread Making 101, Geocaching, a Sci-Fi literature class (From Frankenstein to The Hunger Games) and more. 
Art Skool
“In some classes three people will show up. Others, upwards of 30.” The Tampa Free Skool founders, about 18-ish people, are still trying to figure out what attracts a large turnout. The subject matter? The day of the week? But there's no doubt it's growing. 

Philip, 35, is a part of that original core group. He said he values the idea behind the free skool concept because it has a lot to do with building community. 

“Skill sharing is fun. I like acquiring new points of view and adding that binds me closer to the community.” 

“It’s really exciting to see friends so excited about their knowledge,” said Mary. “Cool to see your friends stepping up and being that source of knowledge you weren’t aware of.” 

Tampa Free Skool can also be found on Facebook and Twitter

Other free courses: 

The Tampa Bay Association of Black Journalists is offering a multimedia training session at the Tampa Bay Times building in St. Pete on Saturday, March 10th at 11 a.m. 

Stanford and MIT offer some their classes free online. 

And as always, your public library is an excellent source for introductory computer classes, book discussions, foreign language lessons, etc. (You could say it's the original Free Skool.)

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