I like Laura’s list of to-do and not-to-do for young women at 11D. In the comments, Western Dave follows from this list to argue that a class like home economics has big and often neglected payoffs for high school students (male and female), presumably once that type of course leaves behind the heavy baggage of being an indoctrination center for female domesticity.
I totally agree. One of the best things my mom ever did
to for me was to insist I take a typing class during the summer during high school. I hated it at the time but the value it returned goes well beyond almost any other course I’ve ever taken. I wish now that some of the other applied or practical courses I had to take hadn’t been so badly taught. I had metal shop when I was in 7th grade, but the teacher was a jerk: the class really should have been called “Asshole Masculinity for Guys The Teacher Thinks Have No Other Prospects In Life”. Same for the course I had to take in 9th grade on mechanical drawing: the teacher made no attempt to teach it for anyone who wasn’t going to be using the skill in an immediate vocational sense.
I’d even love to see a life-skills course at the college level in a liberal-arts environment. Why not? We have a swim test here, rather infamously. Here’s what would make my list of concrete skills that men and women will find useful to know as adults, some of which I’m still awkwardly trying to pick up now in mid-life, a few of which I’ve never picked up. The key thing here is to insist that both genders have to be exposed to all of this stuff, that nobody gets to opt out on the argument that it’s not manly or feminine. It’s ok if later on people divide these chores according to facility or preference.
I’m leaving aside intellectual skills that are more commonly taught, such as writing or numeracy. Also leaving aside child care, as that is more relevant if and when you have kids or have to take care of someone else’s kids.
Maybe this list is a bit biased towards suburban and rural life. Anybody think of important urban skillsets that are missing from this?
I mostly think that the way that social, emotional and psychological skills are taught in K-12 schools don’t belong on this list, partly because I’m skeptical that they are well-addressed by conventional pedagogy, which easily degrades into well-meaning jargon that has little to do with real-life. Most of the things on this list are concrete, though I think if they’re taught dully (see again my 7th grade metal shop), it’s hard to retain them.
The insides and workings of a computer, and how to replace and add components to one.
How an operating system works. How to customize an operating system. File systems.
How Internet works. How to set up a router. Internet safety and virus protection. Online commerce.
How to operate important software applications: word processor, spreadsheet, image management, presentation software.
Best practices for searching for information online.
The basics of investment and personal finance.
How to file tax returns. How to read a paycheck.
Basics of how to start and manage a small business.
Price comparisons and management of monthly budgets.
Cover letters and resumes.
Basic first aid. Proper use of medicine. Common illnesses. When to call for expert medical assistance.
Basic evaluation of food quality in markets. Food safety, especially cross-contamination.
How to drive, including stick-shift. Basic auto maintenance.
How to read a map. Knowledge of mass transit systems.
Basic power and non-power tool operation. Safety training in tool use.
Care of plants. How to plant, including use of shovel and other garden implements.
How to paint interiors.
Basics of home mechanical and electric systems.
Basics of carpentry.
Basic self-defense, including watching for trouble signs from other people.
How to swim.
How to ride a bicycle.
Dealing with poisons, hazardous chemicals, insect bites, common irritants.
Sewing and clothing repair.
Legal rights, small claims courts, basic familiarity with civil and criminal provisions.
Condom use, safe sex, reproductive health.
Simple diagnostics and repair of appliances.
Cleaning of home environments, clothing.
Reuse and repurposing of household items.
What would you add? Take away?