20 great educational opportunities in 2014
CAREERS AND ED Often called the first feminist, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz could well be your guiding spirit heading into this bright new year. Born in 1651 in colonial Mexico, Sor Juana defied societal expectations about women at the time to study herself into becoming one of the smartest people in New Spain. She became a nun rather than marry, and eventually amassed one of the largest libraries in the Americas.
One of Sor Juana's enduring catch phrases was "I don't study to know more, but to ignore less," a prettily humble bon mot from a woman who constantly had to defend her right to learn. Sadly, threats of censure by the church slowed her educational roll — but nonetheless, her unlikely influence on the fight for women's rights is still honored today.
Will you ignore less in the new year? Surely there are fewer obstacles in your way than Sor Juana's. Here are some excellent ways to engage with the world around you in 2014.
So you say you're a boor? For all the menfolk — or anyone, really — boggled by feminism, this monthly book club may be the ticket. Held at Noisebridge, the Mission's tech learning center (check its calendar for amazing, mainly free classes and meetups), the club will start with bell hooks' Feminism is for Everybody and feature conversations about how to be the best ally possible. All gender identities welcome.
Second Wednesdays starting Wed/8, 7pm, free. Noisebridge, 2169 Mission, SF. www.noisebridge.net 
The stand-up school with the most working comedians on staff of any similar institution in the country wants to get you in front of an exposed brick wall talking about your boyfriend's crazy roommate.
Wednesdays Jan. 8-Feb. 12, 6pm, $239-279. SF Comedy College, 442 Post, Fifth Fl., SF. www.sfcomedycollege.com 
Instructor Tika Morgan explores the hip-hop, dancehall, Cuban salsa, and other influences that create the pounding rhythms of reggaeton.
Wednesdays, 8-9:30pm, $13. Dance Mission Theater, 3316 24th St., SF. www.dancemission.com 
Two-step, skiffle, country swing, and waltz your way through these inclusive country-western lessons and dance parties run by community advocates Sundance Association.
Thursdays 5:30pm, Sundays 7pm, $5. Sundance Saloon, 550 Barneveld, SF. www.sundancesaloon.org 
Learn about qigong, the Chinese chi-balancing practice that involves breathing, other physical movements, and mental exercises. This free class is taught by Effie Chow, a qigong grandmaster who founded her East West Academy of Healing Arts here in 1973, and has served on White House advisory boards concerning alternative medicine.
Fri/10, 7-9pm, free. Polish Club, 3040 22nd St., SF. tinyurl.com/qigongsf
Support your local community college through its battle to retain its accreditation by enrolling in one of its class offerings — there's no charge for non-credit courses (though you may have to buy books and materials). This class examines the hidden and explicit messages sent out through mass media, and helps students pinpoint how these cues affect the decisions that they and other members of society make.
Fridays Fri/10-May 23, 8am-12:50pm, free. City College of San Francisco, 1125 Valencia, SF. www.ccsf.edu 
Start at the Aquatic Center next to Fisherman's Wharf where you'll learn safety and equipment basics, then head down with this SF Rec and Park class to Lake Merced's scenic bird estuary to get down on some core-strengthening, stand-up paddle boarding action. Bring your own wetsuit, kiddies — it gets cold on those waters!
Sat/11, 1-4pm, free. Aquatic Park, Beach and Hyde, SF. www.sfrecpark.org 
To do anything these days, you need a website. To have a website, you need a web designer. So basically, you may need to sign up for one of the Bay Area Video Coalition's intro courses on dynamic layouts and client interfaces so that you can continue living your life as a functional citizen in 2014.
Sat/11-Sun/12, 10am-6pm, $595. Bay Area Video Coalition, 2727 Mariposa, SF. www.bavc.org 
With 51 species of this lovely, placid bloom sprinkling the premises, the San Francisco Botanical Garden is the perfect place to learn about the majesty of the magnolia. The garden offers daytime walks if you're scared of the dark, but we think the nocturnal stroll sounds divine.
Jan. 16, 6-8pm, $20. Register in advance. SF Botanical Garden, Ninth Ave. and Lincoln, Golden Gate Park, SF. www.sfbotanicalgardensociety.org 
Sure the price tag is steep for this class on raising buds in bright indoor light, but you'll be supporting your green thumb and your local pot movement institution, which has surfed the tsunami of federal persecution and will live to blow clouds right through legalization (we reckon).
Thursdays Jan. 16-March 20, 10:30am-1pm, $1,195. Oaksterdam University, 1734 Telegraph, Oakl. www.oaksterdamuniversity.com 
Accessing the subconscious's potential for healing is the name of the game in this extremely mellow yoga class, during which you'll be put into a trance-like state through a hybrid method developed by a Reiki, yoga, and hypnotherapy professional. The dream state is said to be highly beneficial for psychic health -– and sounds hella fun.
Jan. 18, 2:30-5:45, $40-50. Yoga Tree Telegraph, 2807 Telegraph, Berk. www.yogatreesf.com 
Each month La Urbana, the chic new taqueria on Divisadero, hosts fancy mezcal tastings. But you're not just getting your drink on: A different producer of the agave-based spirit comes in each time to present a signature mezcal alongside tales of its production. Educated boozery, this is it.
5-6pm, $10-15. La Urbana, 661 Divisadero, SF. mezcalmasterclasses.eventbrite.com
Valentine's Day (sorry for any unwanted reminders) is on its effusive, heart-shaped way, giving you the perfect excuse for you to drop in on this class with Sin Sisters Burlesque co-founder Balla Fire to learn how to swish, conceal, and reveal with the best of them for your sweetheart.
Jan. 21, 7-9pm, $30. Center for Sex and Culture, 1349 Mission, SF. www.sexandculture.org 
Does paying $40 to learn how to parse affordable wines make sense? Depends on how many bottles of Cab Sauv you're consuming — and one would think that after partaking in this one-off seminar with Bar Tartine's old wine director Vinny Eng, that tally will increase.
Jan. 22, 7-9pm, $40. 18 Reasons, 3674 18th St. SF. www.18reasons.org 
A full weekend of learning about ways to cook fish from around the globe will go on at this friendly North Beach cooking school (which tends to book up its workshops early, so book now). On the menu: black cod poached in five-spice broth, brodo di pesce, and much more.
Feb. 1-2, 10am-3pm, $385. Tante Marie's Cooking School, 271 Francisco, SF. www.tantemaria.com 
Do you have a staring problem? Fix your gaze on this 10-session course including anatomy tips, representational tricks, and a focus on the art of portraiture.
Thursdays, Feb. 6-April 10, 6:30-9:30pm, $360. California College of the Arts, 1111 Eighth St., SF. www.cca.edu 
If the only thing you can depend on in this wacky 2014 is yourself, it's time to hone those financial security skills. This free class is held once a month at the LGBT Community Center, and should give you a couple things to think about when it comes to money management.
Feb. 11, 6:30-8:30pm, free. LGBT Community Center, 1800 Market, SF. www.sfcenter.org 
In addition to a more long-running courses and a by-donation, student-staffed herbal health clinic that is open to the public, Berkeley's Ohlone Herbal Center offers practical classes in Western herbalism for regular folks. Your loved ones will thank you for brushing up with this one — it teaches preventative anti-cold and flu measures, and home remedies for when you inevitably catch something. Yes, tea is provided during classtime.
If you are looking for educational opportunites as to changing the face of culture, look no further than this public lecture hosted by the California Institute of Integral Studies. For two hours, Orange is the New Black breakout star Laverne Cox will discuss her journey to becoming the most visible black transwoman on television (not to mention the first ever to produce and star in her own program with VH1's "TRANSForm Me"). The talk won't be lacking in looks-ahead to the important activism that still remains for Cox and her allies.
March 19, 7-9pm, $25-75. Nourse Theater, 275 Hayes, SF. www.ciis.edu 
You will finally be able to get that organic farmstand delivery service to sponsor your yearly watermelon seed-spitting contest (or whatever) after you take this crash course on getting money to hold events. The secrets to obtaining event sponsorships are divulged during this one-day class: how to pitch potential partners, going market rates, and more, all in a group discussion-centric format.
April 26, 9am-5pm, $300. San Francisco State University Downtown Campus, 835 Market, SF. www.sfsu.edu