Take Two #118: 3 Mandatory Classes High Schools Need


By Kyra-lin Hom

I've never been shy with my opinions regarding our current education situation. So it should be no surprise to any of you that, though I treasure my undergraduate education, I fully acknowledge its failure to prepare me for the working world.

The liberal arts structure is designed to churn out inquisitive scholars not competent workers. And as much as we may romanticize the mystery-solving scholar, how many impassioned undergraduate students actually pursue fields of scholarly research post-graduation? I don't have any statistics available, but I'm sure we can all agree the numbers aren't high. Yet our love affair with the liberal arts has still trickled down into our high schools as well.

More so than college, high school should be a training ground. It's the last step of the required public school education. You should be able to graduate after your 12 years and move into the world – if not the upper echelons – as a fully functional member of modern society. That was hardly the case for myself or my peers. And with the continuing loss of basic home-ec (and etc.) classes from many of our schools, it's only getting worse.

In an evening of frustrated wishful thinking and retrospection, my friends and I put together a list of skills and know-hows we wish we would've learned in high school. It turns out they can all be reduced to three classes: 1) Economics and Business, 2) Daily Life Skills, and 3) Computers and Electronics.

It's truly surprising that economics isn't required as part of our mandatory high school education. Money is one of if not the biggest weight any adult has to carry, and yet no part of our education requires that we learn how to manage it. We don't learn where money comes from, what inflation really means, how the stock market works, the decision processes behind the flow of money, or even how to manage our own savings and expenditures.

Futhermore, we aren't required to learn basic business skills either such as how to bargain a sale or negotiate a contract. The US is one of the few countries where haggling isn't a regular affair, and we're worse off for it. For us, bargaining a compromise is a big, nerve-wracking confrontation. Most everywhere else, it's routine. And don't think that trained behavior is limited to small monetary transactions.

Moving on, our hypothetical Daily Life Skills class for the modern age, includes units such as navigating and map reading without a gps or smartphone, basic first aid and emergency skills (i.e. generating static electricity to make an emergency call on a dead cell phone battery), as well as the classics like cooking, sewing, woodshop, and autoshop. A human being who doesn't know how to use a hammer or a screwdriver is a truly pathetic sight. Rudimentary plumbing and eletrical lessons wouldn't go amiss either.

Last but dear god not least is Computers and Electronics. You know how in sci-fi movies the characters always seem to know how to build or reprogram anything remotely computer-like? Well, it's time we caught up. Nowadays, basic computer skills are necessary and 'basic' in this case has a whole new meaning. I'm not just talking word processing, though no one should graduate high school without advanced knowledge of programs like Word or Excel. It's time we dug deeper and turned rudimentary programming and privacy and security protection into common knowledge. If there's time after that, getting physical with the actual building of computers would be a nice touch as well.

These are all necessary life skills that should be mandatory. It's time we asked ourselves what we're supposed to learn in school and why. The arts and sciences are all good, but Aristotle can't change your tire and Hildegard can't pay your rent.

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