• May 29, 2020
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High schools and colleges across America teach teenagers and young adults about writing, science and math. However, these students lack one important skill: how to be an adult. They lack basic “adulting” skills such as managing a checkbook, cooking and doing laundry. While many feel schools should not be required to teach students these skills, families are not stepping up to aid kids either. (Photo used with permission of Flickr).

Many college campuses have implemented “adulting” classes to try and alleviate stress for incoming students as well as soon to graduate students. UC Berkeley is one of those schools, offering over a dozen life skills classes from Criminal Psychology to Intro to Baking.

The classes, taught by other students, sometimes featuring guests who can give insight into how to file taxes, time management and job searches.

Other schools such as the University of South Carolina offer traditional life skills classes as well, such as how to do laundry, how to cook, and how to decide between using cash or card. The programs proved to aid students in their jump from college to their first job.

High schools rarely offer some of these skills anymore, choosing to focus on core curriculum. Fox Business reported that in 2012 roughly 3.5 million high school students took a home economics or family consumer science class. According to the National Center for Education Statistics about 19.4 million kids in America are in public high school, meaning only about 18% have taken a life skills class. 

Students attribute their inability to take life skills classes due to the pressure by colleges and parents into taking AP classes to increase their GPA. High schooler’s priorities revolve mainly around getting into a good college or university. With the increased competitive nature of colleges, one less AP class can make a difference when comparing one student to another. Many universities value course rigor and encourages students to take higher level classes even if you do not perform your best.

Instead, students rely on learning life skills from Civics and Economics, a class which is mandatory for all Leesville seniors. The class offers few units revolving around money management, not giving ample time to educate students on the real world.

Alyssa Bateman, a senior is one of those students. She plans to graduate and go to college next year. “I do not feel prepared for college due to the fact [that] I am more focused on how to solve math equations instead of how to do taxes. [One of] the only class[es] that really teaches us anything close to that is civics and it’s only one semester and it is not a main focus in the class,” said Bateman. While there is a personal finance class specifically taught at Leesville, many schools across the country lack these life skills classes or do not consider them to be mandatory or important. 

While core curriculum is important, many key functional skills are overlooked, causing turmoil once young adults enter the workforce. In a poll done on instagram, 88% of high school students reported that they did not know how to file their taxes, 55% do not understand what a credit score is, and 35% felt they are underprepared for college. 

Bailie Cook, a senior, also expressed frustration over many students knowledge of life skills, “I think that public schools prepare us socially for the real-world as we learn to interact with others. But, we lack a lot of financial knowledge which leaves us unprepared for the real world.”

Adulting classes received criticism from older generations, confused as to why Millennials and Gen-Z kids fail on knowing the basic life skills older generations learned. One major role in this is family dynamics: over time the nuclear household idea shifted to fit multiple different family types. Many single parent households cannot find time to teach kids the basic life skills, while some grow up with no parental figure at all. It may seem ridiculous to expect schools to handle all the “traditional teaching” families would give, but young adults are suffering drawbacks because of their lack of knowledge. 

More kids are moving out of the house later than ever before, according to the US Census Bureau, 34% of Americans aged 18-34 still live at home with a parent. The parents who are around for their children are not teaching the life skills fast enough or are not motivating the child enough to learn these life skills early on, so later in life they eliminate stress. “I feel I am not ready for the real world because we [students] are still being treated like children in high school even though we are about to be all alone in college,” said Bateman. These parents continue to latch onto their children and as a result “coddle them” by doing their laundry and cooking for them. 

While many Millenials jumped onto the trend of “adulting” classes in their mid 20’s, some high schools adapted their own courses for students and offered them for seniors on days where the other grades would standardize test. One in particular out of Kentucky, saw remarkable success, hearing only positive things from the students, providing them a well rounded insight into life skills. By starting kids in these programs early, it allows students more freedom in their schedules as they get older and less frustration on daily tasks.

While many schools cut life skills classes out of the budget it is important to remember the key lessons these classes teach. “These [“adulting”] classes help us understand things school is not always able to teach us, but the things I have learned are so valuable and important, and it makes me feel better knowing I am set up for the future,” said Cook. 

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