And comment you did. I was struck by the broad range of people and perspectives. I heard from teachers who feel so overburdened they wanted to throttle me for suggesting the addition of anything to the curriculum. I heard from parents who explained it’s their responsibility to impart those skills and told me in great detail how they did it. I also heard from people who felt that some of these “life skills” turned out to be the most-used skills they picked up in high school.
First off, let me say that the last thing I meant to do was upset any teacher anywhere. But I do think it’s worth realizing that not all parents have the education, resources or acumen to teach their children these essential skills. I was just proposing that it’s worth having a discussion about what skills we think children should have mastered at the end of 12 years of education (public or private).
In any event, because I did ask for comments, I’d like to use the rest of this space to share some of them.
“I believe that parents are responsible for teaching their children about checkbooks and credit cards. . . . Teachers have a child for 6 1 / 2 hours a day for 9 1 / 2 months. Parents have their jobs for a lifetime. Let’s applaud teachers for all they do to help parents teach children to be valuable citizens instead of expecting them to do a parent’s job.”
— Lisa Wirth, Lake Ridge
“Since NCLB [No Child Left Behind], schools have been forced to teach academics earlier and more rigorously. . . . Kindergarten teachers are now expected to have 6-year-olds reading. Fifth-graders doing algebra. Please. There isn’t enough time or money to do what you suggest.”
— Bernadette Carter, Fairfax
“I have taught at two private schools for the last 20 years. Both schools allowed me to implement and teach a financial literacy course. Now my goal is to make it mandatory because the kids on the upper level can’t fit it into their schedules.”
— Julius Prezelski, Mount St. Joseph High School, Baltimore
“One would think a life skills class in high school would be a no-brainer — and mandatory. I can still clearly remember learning to write a check in my seventh- or eighth-grade math class.”
— Anne Haas, Washington
“I disagree with your precept that kids should learn about taxes, balancing checkbooks and so on from the schools. In my opinion, this is a parent’s job. If parents aren’t able to, there are many outside groups that can help. . . . What it comes down to is that the best way to teach kids about life is during life itself, not in a classroom.”
— Alexandra Hook, Georgia
“As a parent, I don’t expect the school to teach my daughter life skills, social skills and especially moral values. That’s MY job and I consider it a privilege to do that for her. In fact, I resent their intrusion in those areas. I want the schools to teach her academic knowledge and critical thinking skills so she will be adequately prepared for higher education. I will be happy to teach her how to drive safely and create a budget and balance a checkbook.”
— A reader from Florida
“In this day and age . . . a teacher only has so many choices. Teach the things for which you will be held accountable or expand what you teach to include many more of life’s lessons and run the risk of jeopardizing your career.”
— Scott Goldstein, Calvert County
“As a parent and former high school teacher, one subject immediately came to mind when reading your column. . . . The subject — conflict resolution. As a society it is crucial that we resolve conflicts constructively. . . . This is a learned skill that can and should be taught and practiced in schools.”
— Jill Russo-Downey, Accokeek
Grant, the editor of KidsPost, writes about parenting issues every other week.
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