Curriculum should emphasize real world skills

Executive Editors

It is indisputable that American society places a strong emphasis on attending a four year university, graduating and receiving a degree.  The message is that if you do not graduate with a college degree, you will not be able to obtain a successful, well-paying job. This is an unhealthy construct for many reasons, but primarily because the cost of college is increasing so rapidly, restricting students’ ability to receive higher education without drowning in debt following graduation.

It seems that ETHS and high schools across the nation are fostering that emphasis on college rather than combating it, with good intentions in mind.  Our school wants to prepare students for the next step of a four year university. However, this is not the next step for all nor should it be.

Placing emphasis on core classes over electives, pushing students to take AP classes, and exposing them to mandated college entrance exams as early as sophomore year all contribute to the exacerbation of the mania surrounding college.

That being said there are many students who will graduate this year with no concrete plan of college and will enter the workforce, armed forces or other areas of life that require skills not learned in high school. This begs the question of what is being done to prepare these students to lead a successful life, given that they are unable to attend college? The answer seems to be very little.

The issue of students being underprepared for adult life skills does not only apply to students who will be entering the workforce next year; it applies to everyone.  At some point, everyone will have to learn how to take out a loan or pay taxes.  Students are expected to learn these skills throughout their college years, once again perpetuating the notion of a required four year degree.

However, high school is a more preferable juncture in life to attain these skills, as college is a transitional period where you are already adapting to change.  So, whether you are or are not attending a college, these skills are best taught before you graduate.

The area of instruction that most directly aims to give students real-world, practical skills are classes that fulfill a Consumer Education credit. These classes range from American Legal Systems to Contemporary Adult Life to Personal Finance.

We believe the administration should ensure that all students are financially literate by the time they graduate. This means that we must understand how to do things like open a bank account, save money, use credit, take out loans, buy/rent a property/car, etc. But since Illinois state law only requires students to take and pass one Consumer Ed class, students usually only take one, missing out on the guidance and information provided by the other 10 options.

Another issue is that when a student takes a course like Personal Finance and Careers in Business Management where they’re expected to gain skills in basic financial literacy, there is far too much inconsistency in the way that different teachers teach the same class. From talking with students who have taken the same Consumer Ed. class but with different teachers, there is disconnect that reflects a lack of continuity in curriculum.

We at the Evanstonian believe that the solution to this disconnect is to require all students to take a semester-long class that condenses much of the Consumer Ed. curriculum in order to promote financial literacy and real-world skills among students. This class should be regulated with a strict curriculum (similar to sophomore’s Health class) in order to mitigate the lack of consistency among teachers and should be a class that students are required to pass in order to graduate so that it is taken seriously.

Finally, in order to ensure that the content is most effectively consumed and retained, the class should be taken during a student’s junior or senior year.