Opinion: We need a Life Skills Class

Gigi Gordon, Guest Writer

I often find myself sitting in class and  start to think, “Why are we learning this?” I am here right now learning how to graph parabolas or memorize presidents when I could be learning how to do my taxes or budget my money.

CESJDS needs to take the time to teach their students how to manage their money so that they will not have to worry about large amounts of student debt when they are older. Becoming financially independent is often a large step in a person’s life, and if you are taught how to manage this step, it can set you up for future success.

The nationwide total student loan debt balance increased 8.28% in 2020 according to the Education Data Initiative. Students at JDS are at risk of being in major student debt by the time they are 19. Paying for college is something that many students have to deal with at some point. For those who are relying on financial aid, only 20% of private school students receive it.

Additionally, students need to learn how to make money after they’ve earned their college degrees. Teaching students how to conduct a resume and apply for jobs is another way students can avoid financial downfalls later in life. 

Life skills classes have been offered for a very long time. The original format for Life Skills classes was called Home Economics, which typically included subjects such as cooking, sewing and doing laundry. Enrollment in these classes has dropped from 5.5 million students in 2002-2003 to 3.5 million students in 2011-2012 and has continued dropping according to the Journal of Family and Consumer Sciences. 

The reason Home Economics went out of style is because it confined students to skills at home. Those skills could be taught by anyone. Skills such as auto mechanics and financial literacy are more complex skills that require more time to learn. 

Skills taught in Home Economics are things that your parent could teach you, and if you aren’t taught well, it won’t affect your future. Life Skills is a course that will have a heavy impact on your future and should be taught by someone qualified who will give you the correct information. 

If you are a bad cook, that doesn’t put you at risk for financial trouble, but not knowing how to file taxes or apply for a job will. 

Life Skills classes are on the rise as there are much larger numbers of students who are at risk of financial difficulties. Private student loan debt increased by 14% in the last year according to the Education Data Initiative.

At JDS, there is currently no type of Life Skills class offered or incorporated in the curriculum according to Upper School Academic Dean Aileen Goldstein. The goal of the JDS high school curriculum is to have well informed and kind students who are influenced by Jewish values and have the skills to engage in deeper thinking. 

What good does the JDS curriculum do if you are in so much debt that you can barely afford rent or don’t know what to do when you get a flat tire? A part of going to high school is to prepare for the future, and students at JDS are currently put at a disadvantage.

Students who are not taught important life skills at some point in their life whether at home or school are put at a disadvantage. Students at JDS whose parents do not have the time or means to educate their children in basic skills are experiencing this.

Incorporating Life Skills into the curriculum would allow JDS students to be extremely well rounded people and avoid this disadvantage. Teaching JDS students life skills allows them to retain the ideas taught by the existing curriculum while allowing them to be high functioning and independent members of society.

One could argue that this is a lot to be teaching high school students every day, but JDS already has allotted times throughout the week where they are taught about life. K’hilah is a required course at JDS this year. It is a time for students to interact with their community and get to know about themselves, but it could also be a time for them to learn life skills.

Students have K’hilah once a week, and it would be the perfect opportunity to incorporate life skills into the curriculum. Students could learn about a specific life skill once a month, still allowing time for students to engage in the community. Over the course of high school, students would learn plenty of life skills preparing them for college and hopefully the rest of their lives.

As a student at JDS, I want to know that the curriculum has my best interests at heart. Incorporating life skills into the curriculum will give me the skills I need to function and thrive in the future.