Though I had the benefit of what would generally be considered a “good” education, I completed it without having any knowledge of general life skills. I could just about cook as I had done Cookery ‘O’ level but beyond that I had learned very few practical skills. I knew nothing about money or budgeting or paying bills, I didn’t know how to change a plug, I knew nothing about plumbing or electricity or any sort of DIY and I knew no First Aid. I knew nothing about babies or childcare.
Leaving home at 19, I soon acquired a few of these skills but I still feel pretty useless in many ways. I would still struggle to change a plug (though that skill is somewhat redundant now that electrical plugs are purchased with the plug already connected). Learning to clean and wash clothes was OK. Anything to do with the car is, in my brain, “not my department” and the simplest problem will prompt me to visit my local garage. Ditto with my push-bike; I’ll take it in to the bike shop for a yearly service when I am sure I could learn about tightening brakes and lubricating chains or whatever it is I pay someone else to do.
It is a shame such life skills are not taught in school; but lessons there seem only to be taught with lectures and text books. These skills can only be taught by setting examples, by conversation, by showing, and by allowing the child (or teenager) to do these things on their own (with supervision at first). Many would argue that this is the job of the child’s parents. The only problem of course is time; being a home-educator, I am keen to pass on the (few) life skills I have but, for instance, making bread can take twice as long if the children get involved. But it is worth putting in the time because the payoff will come when they can make the bread themselves and they will acquire a skill they will have forever. Talking of time, time management is another skill not taught in school and this can be a problem for many adults who complain there are not enough hours in the day because they are adept at procrastination or because they over-estimate what they can do-they try to fit “a quart into a pint pot” as my grandmother would say.
I think the most important life skill which is not taught in school is the art of critical thinking. These days, we are taught to be robots, to listen to the teacher and not to question, to accept what we are told and not to think, to be good employees and to shut up. This produces naive and ignorant citizens. We need to know how to question authority — and to realise there is no one right answer. Conversation is a good way to accomplish this skill but, with the proliferation of social media, this seems to be a dying art. Hopefully the teaching of life skills will become fashionable before we breed a generation only capable of working in call centres.