Is it up to schools to teach students basic life skills?
- Educators are weighing in on Twitter regarding the debate over whether students should be learning basic skills — including cooking or doing laundry — at school or at home, The Washington Post reports. The recent string of comments began with University of Virginia cognitive scientist Daniel Willingham, who posted his response to a Forbes story: “Five Things High Schoolers Need To Know More Than Computer Science.”
- There's sharp disagreement over what the job of a school entails — and how far schools' duties stretch beyond typical academic disciplines. Willingham's post indicates that he thinks students should be learning these skills at home, but others noted that sometimes, students might not have the role models or resources needed to learn these life skills.
- In addition, some districts already aim to equip students with non-academic skills, and the rise of community schools continues to emphasize a more holistic way to support students. The Jennings School District near St. Louis, for example, brought washing machines into schools so children could learn to do laundry — and even wash their clothes during the school day, the Post reports.
A well-rounded education should include the ability to calculate, write well and have a sense and understanding of the world at large. But students who have not also mastered basic life skills — such as cooking a meal, cleaning their room or knowing how to care for themselves — may graduate from school, but not be able to matriculate, easily, into their next project: adulthood.
That’s the argument many people make for including home economics classes in schools. These lessons are meant to help students learn the skills they will need to keep their own home neat one day, and even their bodies fed. These classes were often coupled with other life skills courses such as electric, automotive, metal and wood working where students might make their own hammer, learn how to change the oil in a car, or build an electrical switch and get a light bulb lit all on their own.
Yet, these home economics courses are slowly disappearing, as Education Dive has recently reported. In some cases, though, students have expressed regret, that after they went on to college, they wish they had been taught some of these life skills, particularly those around developing financial literacy.
Adding home economics classes into a curriculum is a choice administrators could consider to ensure their students have all the abilities they may need when they graduate, not just academic ones. These can be easily combined with other academic subjects, however, from botany to biology, by weaving science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) tools in to the lessons.
That’s what the Edible Schoolyard Project in Berkeley, California, has been able to do for more than 20 years, mixing some botany, social justice, history and literature lessons in with the greens that students grow, harvest, and then prepare and finally eat. Children learn academics with some basic skills, equipping them wherever their life takes them next.
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