The Spotlight

Education Should Expand Past Academics

Townsend Colley and Ben Baca

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High school graduation is a time for celebration and excitement. It holds the promise of a future outside of the rigid school systems of a K-12 education. It’s a promise that students can pave their own path, a journey that they will travel on as they go through life and find their way. However, it is because of this great, unknown journey that, for many, high school graduation is also a time for panic and worry: about college, about jobs, even about life in general. Each year, high schools across the country release thousands of kids off into the real world. Many students land on their feet and manage to find their way, but some will struggle with the overwhelming pressures of adulthood and the newfound responsibilities — a fate that can develop and affect them for the rest of their life.

“I try to tell all students to have a happy balance because when they go to college, their parents aren’t hovering over them,” art teacher Mrs. Stephanie Donald said. “I do see a lot of people get lost in the moment of not knowing how to balance the educational aspect with … the freedom aspect of being able to be responsible, to be on their own, to have fun, and [take] classes seriously.”

For many teachers, a common line they hear from students is, “How will this help me in real life?” When teachers find themselves unable to answer, it causes students to wonder, why do we learn about these topics instead of the ones that are more meaningful to the daily life of a normal adult? How many people can truly say that they have used a geometric proof in real life? Probably not nearly as many as those who can say that they have utilized the power of negotiation and successfully completed their personal finances in the last year. From this perspective, it makes very little sense that the former is taught instead of the latter. Developing the fine line between preparing students for life and preparing them for the rest of their education is a challenge faced by schools nationwide.

According to a study done by PayScale, American business leaders agree that only 60 percent of recent graduate employees have adequate skills for the workplace, such as critical thinking and problem solving, and 56 percent of these hires struggle with basic abilities such as paying attention to detail. Even more damning is that only eight percent of managers believed that their new employees were prepared for the job. These are the types of statistics that high school teachers should pay attention to in order to help students effectively develop useful skills the classroom.

A common argument against teaching real world skills in school is that school should serve only as preparation for the higher education that only those who plan to become trained professionals can achieve. However, this argument implies that it is the parents’ responsibility to teach their kids life skills; but some students are not fortunate enough to receive this type of education at home. It is important for high schools like Southern Lehigh to help these students learn how to properly adapt to college and the workforce in order to avoid leaving them in the dust.

Despite the gravity of this issue, there are some simple solutions that high schools can adopt in order to prevent problems for students later in life. For instance, simply teaching students to think outside the box as early on as possible will let them develop from a young age the problem solving abilities to produce their own answers to life’s everyday problems, as well as give them an opportunity to thrive within the workplace later on.

Additionally, schools should skirt the restrictions placed on curricula due to initiatives such as the Common Core Standards. If all of these lessons currently taught in the classroom are truly applicable to life in the real world, then teachers need to prove it. Teach in ways that will show students how an abstract concept can be applied to their lives in college or in the workforce. Show the students how they can apply a lesson about Greek literature the second that they get home that evening. Going this extra step with lesson plans will be challenging, but it ultimately be worth it for the sake of developing the future leaders and workers of the nation.

“It would just have to be parents proving that responsibility helps their kids succeed throughout life,” senior Elijah Price said. “It gives them the chance to succeed on their own, just like their parents did.”

Southern Lehigh has attempted to give students the opportunity to develop these life skills by offering useful electives such as Accounting and Family Consumer Science. However, the ongoing issue with these courses is that, as electives, they are optional by definition. This leads to many students overlooking these courses that could be truly important, and taking honors and AP classes simply for an extra weight on their GPA that students believe looks better on a final high school transcript. Regardless, Southern Lehigh has at least done a good job compared to other school districts at trying to overcome this problem by making some classes like CTA — which proves effective in teaching vital lessons about common workplace tasks such as letter writing, interviews, and presentation skills — mandatory.

“Well, I think [the school] could embrace the electives more and express to students that they should try their best in each subject, no matter what,” junior James Tankred said.

Across the country, students suffer from distress over their post-graduation journey, which may be caused by the lack of real life skills necessary for them to succeed. It is true that many of these lessons should be taught by parents at home, but another truth is that not everybody has parents from which they can learn these things. For this reason, schools should place a greater focus on developing these skills within academic curricula in order to close the workforce and college gap between peers, and allow every student the opportunity to succeed.

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Education Should Expand Past Academics