Readers’ Forum: General education courses need to include more adulting skills

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Author Eliza Homer wants general education courses to teach students life skills that will bless their lives now and in the future. (Universe Archives)

Reflecting on your high school experience, what do you wish you had learned? How to cook? Good strategies for managing stress? How in the world to do taxes? A quick Google search reveals that you and I are not the only ones who hold similar views.

Many people have articles and web pages titled “X number of things I wished I learned in school.” Those lists include things such as study skills, relationships, healthy fitness habits, leadership, good financial habits, basic self-defense and effective job searching. 

High schools may be failing us by not teaching essential life skills. But just because high school is over does not mean all hope is lost.

As students continue to a secondary institution, such as BYU, they continue their learning with a set of general education classes, GEs, that are a requirement of a four-year undergraduate degree. BYU states on its GE frequently asked question page that the purpose of its GE courses is to “provide the skills and knowledge derived from a robust broad-based education and equips you with competencies that provide versatility in employment and a foundation for life-long learning and service.” To me, this sounds like teaching students life skills to help them throughout their lives and employment.

One would hope that the skills in high demand that students feel will help them transition to adulthood and become better members of our society would be taught. However, GE requirements at BYU mandate various basic arts, history, religion, biology, science, physics and writing. I see a lack of skills to help with employment and life-long learning in this list. Having a basic and broad understanding of various fields different from your own does make you a well-rounded person, but leaves you lacking other essential life skills. BYU needs to modify its GE curriculum that encourages the learning of life skills. 

BYU already teaches many classes that would answer the “what you wished you learned in high school.” They have a basic finance class that teaches how to file taxes and good budgeting habits. There is a general cooking class that teaches basic cooking. There are study skills classes, stress management classes, parenting classes, relationship classes, self-defense classes and personal fitness classes. So why are more students not leaving the university feeling like they can “adult”?

Students are too busy with schedules filled with major requirements and GE classes such as Art 101. If BYU really believes that the purpose of GEs is to make students more employable and provide life-long learning, they need to restructure their general education curriculum to allow students to take more of the already offered “life-skills” classes instead of the current GE options. Let’s teach students life skills that will bless their lives now and in the future.

Eliza Homer

West Richland, Washington

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