Poll: Did Your High School or College Teach Basic Life Management Skills?

In this thread (about things you didn’t learn in high school), a lot of posters mention not learning any basic life management skills. How to balance a checkbook. Personal money management. Interest rates, investments, mortgages. Basic cooking skills. Etc.

It seems to me that our high schools and colleges are sending out students who have little grasp of how to live out their day to day lives. I also note that a lot more young women are doing the Stay-at-home-mom thing, and that many of these women were raised by mothers who worked. Thus, they know scant little about things like cooking and other home management skills.

So I ask you, did you learn any life management skills in high school or college? Was Home Ec mandatory when you went to high school (it was in my mother’s day (60’s), but not in mine (80’s))? Did your college offer any personal or family budgeting courses? Or did you learn everything you need to know at your mother’s (or father’s) knee, or through trial and error?

No, mine didn’t.

That said, I think that before we criticize the school system we ask ourselves where we want to expend our finite number of education dollars, and I would argue that basic life skills is a really, really bad place to spend them.

Life skills are important, don’t get me wrong. But my parents were capable of teaching me how to cook meals, write resumes, understand home finances, and the like. The fact is that my family, and most people’s families, was capable of doing that. I realize some DON’T, but the expertise usually resides there.

On the other hand, it is quite inconceivable that my parents could have taught me all the academic subjects I learned in high school. They could have instructed me in English and History, but they couldn’t have possibly taught me French, or math above grade 9, or geography, or computers, or chemistry and physics, or really most subjects without spending a lot of their time brushing up on it themselves. My mother’s a teacher, by the way, in elementary school, but you don’t just teach someone Grade 12 math tomorrow without brushing up on it yourself.

Given that public schools cannot teach you everything because they don’t have unlimited time with the student, it’s reasonable to have them focus their time on subjects that the vast majority of students cannot be taught at home, and NOT focus their time on subjects the vast majority of students CAN be taught at home.

That being said, most community colleges around here do have Life Skills programs (I should know, as my father designed a lot of them) so they do exist if you look around. High schools have elective courses in this stuff, too.

In Alberta they have CALM (Career and Life Management). You are supposed to take it in grade 11, and they will let you take it by correspondence if you have a busy schedule. Theoretically, it is supposed to teach you life skills. The only class I remember clearly is the one where they taught us to write a cheque. I was baffled the rest of my “honours” class had no idea how to do that (did they never go shopping with their parents? - keeping in mind this was back in the time before Interac :))

It is very rare to have HomeEc in highschool here. In junior high it’s an option in most schools. In the Calgary Separate System (the Catholic schools) you take half a year of HomeEc and half a year of shop. My mother is a junior high HomeEc teacher, and she despairs at the lack of knowledge her students display. Many of them have no idea how to do the most basic things - like wash dishes.

Having said all this, I agree with RickJay - there are only so many school hours, and I feel they should be spent on teaching academics, or on the arts options (art, band, drama). If your kid is so useless around a kitchen they can’t wipe a counter or load a dishwasher, that’s not the school system’s problem.

This topic hits a cord with me. As a Prof. at a small New England Liberal Arts College, I see this all the time. Though I think a fair bit of partying is Okay for the AECS (Average Everyday College Strudent) there is certainly not enough responsibility being had on the part of the individual and far too much responsibility being placed on the teachers. I can lecture until I have blue lips on how much a credit score will affect you when you start off after college - even during college. But the fact remains, many college students have other things on their mind than learning how to cook a beef brisket, or balence their check book.

Your point Homie, is well noted by many…however, your AECS is not going to heed it until they have the chance to fall on their ass* - and are given the chance to pick themselves back up…
*classes start in three weeks, and though I wanted to write a novel on this topic I am going to stop myself. As the overall tone of my post is fairly dark…and I do not want to do into my 9th year teaching with such a dark view.

I do believe students are not prepared, but as Rick so eloquently said…Parenting plays a gargantuan role in the process on hand.

We had a “required for graduation” class called “Senior Seminar” where we learned things like balancing a checkbook, reading and applying for credit cards, applying for a loan. We had some big financial budget project, but I took it over the summer and everything was cut short (a one semester class taught in 18 days).

I took home ec in Jr High, but it wasn’t required. (I think you had to take home ec or wood shop). The only things I remember were that we were required to dry out the stainless steel sinks after doing the dishes (??), half the kids didn’t know how to use a blender, and a friend of mine managed to sew her right index finger with a sewing machine, breaking the bone.

I think a helpful class would have a topic like “Top 10 financial holes people dig for themselves.”

I see too many young adults these days that screw themselves over for reasons such as:

“A college education is important therefore I will purchase it at any cost”. They then are overwhelmed at how long it will take them to pay back $60,000 in loans even if they make $45K right out of college.

“I always want to drive the newest vehicle out there and the dealers always let me trade up.” I know a girl that has traded up several times while being upside-down on payments. She now drives a brand new $23K SUV and pays $750 a month for now till eternity.

“My solution for when I am over my head in debt? I’ll file for bankruptcy.”
They believe they’ll get a free fresh start with this one.

In Illinois a semester of Consumer Education is required to graduate from high school. Fortunately for me, I had responsible parents that taught me all this stuff and was the only member of my class of 86 people to pass the proficiency test and not have to take it.

Where would you get the idea that mothers who work don’t cook or manage their homes?

Mine did not; however, I had a conscientious history/government teacher who took time to teach us a few things - one day, he gave us each a fake check and made sure we knew how to fill it out. One day, he explained about stocks (and how stock prices really are dollars, in spite of the fact that they talk about ‘eighths’ and ‘halves’), and had us ‘buy’ stocks with a set amount of money, and track them for a week or so.

I think a book called “Life’s Little Cheat Sheet” should be written that covers all kinds of things like these.

When was this requirement put into place? I graduated from a public high school in Illinois in 1988.

I didn’t mean it that way. I just meant that a young woman who decides to be a stay-at-home-mom will put a level of time, energy & intensity into what she does that her own mother, if she worked outside the home, couldn’t have done.

Home ec was an option at my high school, and I think there might have been a math class that taught things like interest rates, but these were by no means mandatory. My university didn’t include either.

In Economics class, we did check-writing and basic banking, as well as stocks and general economics.

I took Home Ec in junior high, and we did cooking.

Otherwise I guess not, but I agree that it’s primarily the parents who ought to teach life skills–not that everyone does, which I guess is why schools do. But if schools take over every job, they won’t do any of them well.

I’m not sure why colleges would offer life courses; I think colleges expect their students to be able to feed themselves. I’m wouldn’t pay thousands of dollars a semester to learn how to cook basic meals and keep a checkbook.

I don’t remember if home ec was required or not at my public high school, but it probably was, because I took it. I learned how to eat and tip properly in resturants in business situations, how to prepare a resume and cover letter, how to interview for jobs, how to do place settings, and a bit about weddings and pre-natal care, and the evils of credit cards.

In public middle school, I took a business class (definitely required) that taught me business letters and asdfjkl; keyboarding. I also took a keyboarding class in high school, but it was an elective. Yes, I really like typing. :smiley:

In college? Liberal arts degree all the way. I didn’t learn anything practical, except how to write–something I’d been struggling with for a long time.

Grad school was more practical because I was being prepared for a specific trade.

That I’m not sure of. I graduated in 1998. My brother, who graduated in 1995, was also required to take it. (Sadly, that class and help from parents still didn’t help him with managing his finances!)

I was told by my guidance counselor it was a statewide requirement (but he had been wrong about things before!)

In college, most definitely not.
In high school, we were required to take two semesters of “business ed” - I think home ec counted, as did shop. I took one class where we ran the student store & learned to read the Wall Street Journal. For my other semester, I learned to run the printing press. (Which I suppose could have been a useful life skill - but I haven’t really needed it since.)

But, really, my school emphasized getting into college. And most college admissions people really don’t care if you can balance a checkbook or cook.

No, never had to take any of those classes. And I’m glad. Like RickJay, I was busy learning other things. My schedule was busy enough without adding in something else that my parents could teach me.

As for whether or not my parents taught me…some stuff yes, some stuff no. I’m still a fairly sorry cook, but I am pretty good with money. (Of course, that probably comes from working in mortgages and looking at peoples’ credit reports all day. You wouldn’t believe the dumb things I have seen. A good lesson in how not to behave.)

Um yeah, life skills classes would be so “useless”. Like we all needed ceramics, or underwater basket weaving (or half those ridiculous “electives”).

After the basics, I think a mandatory basic life skills class would be an excellent idea. It’s NOT just “the kid’s problem” if he/she is so naive or useless that he has no idea how life works regarding work, paying bills, budgeting and so on.

When I was in school one of the electives was called DECA Distributive Education Clubs of America. I’m not sure if that’s still around (that was cough30yearsago coughcough:D). But that class was excellent, it taught us how to file income taxes, balance a checkbook, manage a household budget. And that was in addition to all the interesting marketing stuff.

I remember some of the life classes that were, unfortunately, electives. One was the famous “carry a flour sack or computerized baby around” class. It seems as if a lot of kids have no earthly idea of the reality of these situations. They seem to overromanticize their “first apartment” (I’ll bet way too many kids have no clue how much rent is, or car payments or insurance and so on), and how “cool” it will be on their own, but have no idea how to get a job in order to pay for all this stuff.

Yeah, some kids are way ahead of the curve, but based on my short stint substitute teaching, most teens don’t seem to have any clue about life out in the “real” world.

Having a mandatory course in say, the senior year, imho, would be a help.

My school did have a brief number of courses set aside for life skills.I think it was even called Life Skills, actually. Anyway, the problem was that we were told many things that just a few years later, due to a huge economic shift, were no longer as relevant as they anticipated.

I hardly ever wrote a cheque, because ATM cards came into use.
Job applications were no longer meant to be as fully informative, they suddenly had to be brief guides only.
Employment figures dropped drastically, especially in my town, so living on the unemployment benefit was common.
Cooking skills were reduced to almost unnecessary with the common availability of microwave ovens.

In retrospect, there wasn’t much I learned in High School that I use today. Most of the basics I learned in Primary School, and the rest I learned out in the real world by trial and error.

I took Home Ec in junior high, but I discovered that those “smart” kids who were designed for the “college track” were steered toward the AP classes, if not actively encouraged.

Hence, there were a lot of kids who took business math, while my group was guided into calculus and math analysis, chemistry and physics.

So, while I graduated high school 13th in my class and got college credit for all my math and science and half my English, I didn’t know how to balance my checkbook.

I did have a Senior Social Studies teacher who did a whole section on filling out your income tax return. He would put various scenarios on the board (You’re 67, your spouse is blind) and hand out the 1040s and grade us on how accurately we filled them out. I found that incredibly useful. Physics and math analysis? Not so much.