What is the purpose of school? An article today from NPR on the fading away of “Home Ec” classes, combined with another article about LA Unified establishing the goal of preparing every grad for CSU or UC, got me thinking: Should we be preparing students for college, or for life? I think both, m’self.
When I was back in Junior High (and yes, we called it that), there were still shop classes for boys — wood, metalworking, electrical, drafting — and home ec — sewing, cooking — for girls. By the time I was in high school, the classes were still there but mixed sexes, plus there was auto shop and photography. We also had courses available in Driver Education and what was called “Health”, but it was really Sex Ed and teaching you what drugs were on the street.
Today that has changed, and there appear to be courses called life skills, but based on the NPR article, I’m not sure they are teaching the right stuff, however. I believe, that by the time you get out of high school, you should know the following life skills:
- Basic cooking
- Basic clothing repairs and sewing
- Basic electrical and plumbing
- Basic wall repair and painting
- Basic car repair
- Basic financial skills: balancing a checkbook, what a loan is, how interest works, what impacts your credit score, what insurance is and how it works
- Basic legal skills: how to read a loan contract, how to read a rental contract
- Basic driver education
In general, you should come out of high school with sufficient skills to “adult” on your own. But that’s not enough.
I agree that schools should prepare you for college. That doesn’t mean you should go, but they should not preclude the option beforehand. This goes well beyond the academic course prerequisites that UC or CSU require. It also includes “collegeing” skills — which are appropriate even for those going the vocational route. These include:
- How to manage your time
- How to write papers with convincing arguments
- How to get up and speak and present findings
- How to think critically, examine issues critically, and argue issues.
- How to navigate the academic process: not only financial, but exploring the wide variety of post-high school education options
We’re just now seeing the impact of a generation that cannot critically think. It occupies an office that is neither rectilinear nor circular, but something that has two focii.