The academic classes that our students take in school are very important, but there’s a different kind of education that they also need — and which they aren’t getting: practical skills. Practical skills such as communication and financial literacy help young people make a smooth transition into adulthood after graduation, preparing them to become contributing members of society.
Communication skills are vital for dealing with managers, supervisors, fellow employees, and new acquaintances. Adults need to know how to connect with others and how to engage in dialogue that will help them achieve goals (ex: job interviews, making business connections, etc.). Effective communication goes beyond just talking; it requires developing the ability to listen and empathize with other people. Students can’t learn this by texting, email, or by posting on Facebook.
In nearly every school curriculum, health classes are required — after all, part of being a functional adult is knowing how to take care of one’s body. However, knowing how to take care of one’s brain is just as important. Our world is becoming more complex, and students need to know how to deal with anxiety, depression, stress, and managing their emotions when confronted with new challenges.
Cooking & Nutrition
Most schools have some kind of optional Home Economics-type class that covers the basics of skills like cooking, sewing, etc. But let’s be honest, these classes have strong reputation for being “lame” and “girly,” and not all kids learn these lessons at home, resulting in thousands of college students who have no idea how to feed themselves. Requiring students to take a course in basic cooking and nutrition before graduation can make sure that they know how to keep their bodies and minds healthy.
By the time some students reach high school they may already be making a limited number of money decisions. They might have part-time jobs, be saving up for school activities, or paying for their own cell phone. But kids need to have information on long-term financial planning, how to establish and maintain good credit, budgeting, comparing prices, and how to file their taxes. Simulations on starting a business, saving up to reach a desired goal, or avoiding debt are particularly effective.
Upon entering the job market, finding an apartment is usually the next step. Students need to know that they need to have documentation on hand to show the rental office. This includes photo ID (like a driver’s license), social security card, personal contact information, and pay stubs and/or a recent bank statement. They also need to know the details of a basic lease agreement so that they’ll know what their responsibilities are as renters
Part of being an adult is also knowing how to save up for and eventually buy a house. This includes finding out their credit score and getting a copy of their credit report for lenders. It is also helpful to teach students about mortgages and how to find a good realtor.
Ideally, children would learn practical life skills from involved parents willing to continue their child’s education in the home. Unfortunately, that’s our current system, and programs like The Adulting School prove that it’s not working. By implementing practical learning into schools, we can armed the next generation of adults with vital skills like communication, mental health, nutrition, money management, and house hunting know-how.