Bring Back Home Economics Class Because Our Kids Lack Basic Life Skills

As I grow closer and closer to my 20-year high school reunion, I reminisce about the flurry of classes that have actually stuck around with me from then until now in my early 30’s. Seldom are the days where solving math problems with technical equations (that still make little to no sense to me), swoop in to save my average adulting days.

As I begin to prepare for next semester’s classes, I consider what my students need to learn. What aspects of my class will prepare them for the real world?

The educational system needs to do the same thing.

Every semester I have a week of “math lab” in my college reporting class. The words strike fear in my students. Their eyes roll back in their heads, they foam at the mouth, they sputter the words, “But I’m a liberal arts major.”

It’s not that bad, really. We cover things like what property tax changes mean for their rent, how interest rates affect their car or credit card payments, and how a 5 percent raise affects their paychecks.

We seldom get past property taxes before they start realizing that if they own property, they will pay property taxes forever. And it always surprises me that they don’t already know this.

It’s a failing of our educational system that students don’t leave high school with this basic understanding, among other things.

In March 1963, students participate in a home economics class at West Virginia State College at Institute, W.Va.

In March 1963, students participate in a home economics class at West Virginia State College at Institute, W.Va. (File Photo/The Associated Press)
That’s why we need to bring back the old home economics class. Call it “Skills for Life” and make it mandatory in high schools. Teach basic economics along with budgeting, comparison shopping, basic cooking skills and time management. Give them a better start in real life than they get now.

How cool would it be if our kids knew how to shop for groceries and stay within a budget? Wouldn’t parents feel a sense of relief if their kids understood how interest accrues on their credit cards? And shouldn’t everyone have one great go-to meal they could cook if guests pop in?

These are the skills we learned in high school home economics, the skills all kids should have, whether they are college bound or heading straight into the workforce.

I’ve heard the argument that young people should learn these things from their parents, but my experience is that they don’t, for various reasons.

Some parents don’t have time. Some parents don’t have the skills. Some parents don’t think about it until it’s time for their kids to leave home. And, since part of teaching is exposing kids to your own situation, some parents don’t think it’s any of their kids’ business.

It’s important to take the tools of the trade once learned in home economic classes and pass them on to the next generation. Imagine how tailoring the structure to the modern day of essential necessary skills could benefit future generations. How amazing would it be if they understood how to shop for groceries while remaining within a specific budget? What would it look like if everyone understood how interest accrues on credit cards? Are we losing the simple art of preparing a basic meal for ourselves or unexpected guests? Having the tools to successfully grow from childhood to adulthood is not only beneficial, but the ripple effect of knowledge in many ways trickles down to how well we function in society.

Do you believe these classes would greatly benefit society today? Do you feel these courses should be mandatory offerings for students?

Knowledge is power. It’s time to pass that power on to the next generation.

Marti Harvey is a lecturer at the University of Texas at Arlington and a Dallas Morning News 2018 Community Voices columnist.