The mentality of “I’ll never use this,” and the idea that general education or liberal arts studies are not useful are both wrong. They have intrinsic value, and people should know at least something about them. Aside from that, they also offer practice of honing soft skills, such as creative problem solving, analysis, and critical thinking, all of which can be applied to everything.
However, they have their place and so do hard skills. There is a wealth of general life skills that students may walk away without after their high school graduations.
“If you’re one of the lucky ones, you might get to go to college. Believe it or not, more people do not have a bachelor’s degree. But if you do, you might have had a public speaking class. And maybe, just maybe, an interpersonal communication class. But that’s usually where it ends,” stated communications professor Dr. Carol Morgan in the Huffington Post.
Morgan reported that employers highly value communication skills as a top priority and that she believes that most people do not have strong enough communications skills to listen effectively or to handle conflicts properly.
Aside from communication, she also believes that students are lacking in great learning experiences otherwise. “And what about cooking? Or sewing? Or building things? Or changing a tire? I know we used to have home economics classes and shop in schools, but I think that has been dwindling over the years. I know my kids have never taken any of those classes,” said Morgan.
The school system does require some life skills courses. Some high schools require their students to take American government and economics, both of which are real-life subjects that teach about rights, governmental structure, and how to handle finances. Classes such as these also teach how to manage college expenses and strike out on one’s own. Health and physical education, which illustrate critical aspects of taking care of oneself, are also required in some schools.
Another practical course, driver’s education, is increasingly not offered at some high schools. While this may not be a major problem for many students, one cannot be sure that all students’ families are willing or able to pay for driving lessons or give them the hands-on driving experience to practice at home while they have a permit.
Not having access to hands on experience could be problematic for students who do not have the public resources to learn such a useful and serious skill as driving. “Statewide, behind-the-wheel lessons are rare in public schools, with just nine entities offering them in 2012-13. Most were charter schools,” stated Sarah Tully in the Orange County Register.
“Years ago, most districts canceled driver’s ed classes, a victim of budget cuts or because of an increased emphasis on college-entrance requirements. A few now offer online classes,” said Tully.
With such an emphasis on academic readiness for college, there is not enough preparation for actually applying to or life after college. Career skills, such as building a resume, writing a cover letter, and how to interview would be helpful when it is time to apply to colleges and jobs.
One of the best courses that teaches how to write a resume and cover letter offered at Saint Leo is actually an elective, Essential Business Skills. The course helps students realize how important it is to practice their skills before beginning a job search.
Perhaps a general senior-seminar course, covering the job search, college considerations, and application processes would be a beneficial resource for soon-to-be high school graduates as they embark on these things for the first time.
While college is the time to hone specific and focused skills and education tailored to careers, high school students should have the resources and basic knowledge to begin navigating college and adulthood before graduation. While important, there is more to education and preparation than just academic success. Perhaps students would benefit from courses in building skills to prepare them for life in general, not only for further academic education.