Over time, many schools have shifted their focus from a healthy blend of academia and life skills to curriculums that are almost entirely academia focused. And while it’s true that the world is changing and that kids should be learning STEM subjects and discussing high minded ideas, it is also true that failing to teach them some basic life skills does them a disservice when they leave the classroom and enter “the real world.”
Growing up, one of the most important classes I had was called Personal Finance. I hated it at the time. I really did. But this was a class that taught us how to track our spending, how to build a budget, how to compare prices, how to invest wisely and even how to do our own taxes, no matter how complicated they might be. We learned how to figure out the real value of a service–that it wasn’t always necessarily reflected in a rate or price point.
For example, living in a deregulated energy market we were told the importance of understanding how energy is produced and trafficked from source to outlet. As the experts at Ambit Energy say: “…it is important that you learn about the deregulation of the energy market. The industry has many complexities that customers should know about prior to purchasing an electricity plan.”
It’s easy for everybody to agree on the importance of a class like Personal Finance. Here are some other life-skills related subjects that we think deserve some space in the curriculum.
This is a class that is based on basic government stuff but expands outward from there. Students not only learn about the constitution and how the government was built and continues to function, they learn how to get involved in and how to understand how communities actually function. This class does not (or at least it shouldn’t) advocate any one political party or philosophy over another. It simply teaches students about the structural bones of their neighborhoods, towns, states and country. These lessons come in surprisingly handy when figuring out for whom to vote or how to develop plans and ideas for community improvements, etc.
When people think of communication classes, they think about public speaking and basic essay writing. What we’re talking about here are lessons in active listening and how to communicate effectively both face to face and via the written word. Learning how to talk to people in varying stations is incredibly helpful. It will help students be successful in job interviews, communicating needs to a partner, hiring a contractor for a service, etc.
Communication is where students will learn how to build and navigate successful relationships, how to go after what they want, etc. Being able to practice these skills will make their lives much easier once they’re living independently.
Basic CPR and First Aid certification should be a part of this class. Nutrition is another important thing to learn. And finally, learning how the reproductive system actually works is incredibly important. A teacher need not delve into talking about sexual relationships but the science of how reproduction occurs is definitely something young people should know and understand before they go out into the world. Nobody should have to learn about their own anatomy on the fly.
Basic Survival Skills
Everybody should know how to survive at least a basic blackout. Moreover, students should also learn some basic survival skills: how to read an analog watch, how to use a compass, how to build a fire, how to make a makeshift shelter, which vegetation is safe to eat and which isn’t, how to find and make potable water, etc.
To this end, students should also learn how to make basic repairs. Knowing how to change a tire, fix a shelf, change a spark plug, fix/change a fuse, etc. Knowing their way around a toolbox and the basics of car mechanics will serve them well when they head out into the world on their own.
The day the schools eliminated home ec was a sad day indeed. No adult should head out into the world not knowing how to cook. And no, fixing a bowl of cereal or boiling water for ramen doesn’t count. Basic cooking skills will help kids make healthier choices when they are living on their own. They won’t have to rely so much on delivery and takeout for their meals when they know their way around a kitchen.
These are just some of the life skills that we wish were still taught in school. They are by far the only skills that should be taught. We didn’t get around to penmanship, credit, time management, or manners!