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Thursday, Aug. 25, 2016

A good education includes life skills

Wednesday, November 2, 2005

I know I've addressed this topic before but I might as well wade through the minefield once again. The topic is education and the question is "Do we prepare students today for the life skills they will need to survive?" Now let me explain. By life skills I mean the ability to balance a checkbook or prepare a simple meal. That's my definition and I'm stickin' to it!

Here's what prompted this topic. A new report shows that many more men than in the past are taking college-level "home ec," though the subject and title have changed through the years. Now called Family and Consumer Science, these new courses provide some truly practical information on family, food and finance. Granted, it's not for everyone. But neither is algebra, in my math-challenged opinion.

I can't help but wonder what service we do when we send a student into the world with the knowledge of algebraic formulas but no concept of finances or home-buying or how to cook a simple meal. I don't mean to diminish the role of algebra - to name one subject - but in the real world our need for some fundamental life skills seems much more important.

Since I long ago left the educational environment, not once have I had a discussion on the Magna Carta. But believe me, I have struggled with a checkbook and have burned many a meal. Yes, indeed, we need to understand the importance of the Magna Carta. But we have to understand also that there is a real world outside of the classroom. And sometimes that real world is tough.

I was pleased to see that the new state requirements on high school graduation will soon include a mandate on a personal finance course. That is long overdue.

If we expect these life skills to come from the home, we're going to often be disappointed. Too many parents lack the same basic skills and it's impossible for them to pass on values to their children. Unfortunately once again, we look to the schools for help.

My point is this - all students need a background of information that will allow them to succeed in today's world. That background includes the history of this nation, the math and science skills to understand our world, the English skills to compete in a demanding society AND the basic life skills to make common sense decisions.

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Michael Jensen
Michael Jensen