Education

Students should learn more basic life skills in high school

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The Maine Department of Education has certain requirements students must complete before they can earn a diploma. Four years of English, two years of social sciences, math, and science and one year of fine arts. What is not included is a class dedicated to basic life skills, such as teaching one how to file taxes or change a tire. This type of class is in fact so rare that when a Kentucky high school added it to their curriculum, national news picked up on it. 

Recently, Fern Creek High School in Louisville, Kentucky started offering an “Adulting” program to its high school seniors. This program offers educational skills such as dorm-room cooking, how to interact with the police, personal finance, physical fitness after high school, resume and cover letter writing, and what level of medical care one might need when sick. The class was taken in sessions, with students having the ability to sign up for the skills they were most interested in. 

This program started when Sara Wilson-Abell, Fern Creek High School’s long-time senior class sponsor, heard the concerns that many parents and students were having regarding life after high school. After some thought, she made it happen. The format was a three-day seminar that included many local area businesses and individuals. Not only did this provide more professional care, but it also provided the students with a terrific networking opportunity and allowed the students to have contacts in multiple industries. 

Perhaps it is time that all states, including Maine, pick up on opportunities like this. With such an advanced world coming to light, there are so many skills that students need just to survive day to day. Years ago, driver’s ed was an actual class in some schools, but now, students must pay upwards of $500 just to learn how to drive—a skill that is necessary in today’s society, especially in the rural areas of Maine. Not only is driving a necessity, but most people are required by law to file taxes. Depending on the financial situation of some, it can cost over $200 just to have them done professionally. Sites such as TurboTax and H&R Block can help you file your taxes for free, but it isn’t always that simple. 

Another skill that many do not know how to do is change a tire. While there never may be a situation that requires one to do so, when this does happen, it has the potential of being not only a nuisance and expensive, but also dangerous. A simple class on how to do this could be overwhelmingly beneficial. 

Perhaps another simple life skill is something as basic as balancing a checkbook. All too often students and even adults are resorting to resources such as debit and credit cards, and while electronically one can keep track of their expenditures, it is not quite time in today’s society to eliminate the balancing of the checkbook when the checks themselves still exist. 

Some high schools have done away with cooking classes as well, which can lead students to participate in the more expensive “ordering out” method through sites such as Uber Eats and DoorDash, or even eating out in restaurants. In 2019 in Maine, the average person spent nearly $3,000 a year on dining out–now that the pandemic is winding down in the eyes of many, it is possible that number might even increase over the years. 

Students in Maine receive an education that is necessary to navigate life academically, but what about practically? When it comes down to it, once a student graduates from high school, their chances of learning these skills are slim unless they attend a college that requires them to or they have an outside source to teach them. It is time that Maine schools, and schools all over the country, incorporate classes or seminars into their curriculum to better prepare students for the issues and requirements everyday life demands.

About Sophie Cohen

Sophie Cohen, of Falmouth, is a policy intern with the Maine Policy Institute. She is a graduate of The University of Maine where she holds a degree in Political Science. In the fall, Sophie will be attending Maine Law with the hopes of becoming a criminal and family law attorney.

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