When coming to college or moving out of your parent’s house, reality hits hard. You find bills piling up, you have to do your taxes, fill out your financial aid and manage your banking information independent from your parents.
While a substantial portion of college students still get help from their parents, there is still a pressure to figure out these intricacies of adult life. In the absence of understanding and the ability to use resources (Hello, Google?) young millennials and Generation Z like to blame public schools for their ignorance.
Being the scapegoat for a variety of issues in the coming-of-age process, public schools have been popularly criticized in recent years for failing to train or teach students to “be an adult” and have rather taught subjects that students find useless in their career path.
A lot of high schools offer classes on personal finance and home economics, which vary in how helpful they are. However, these classes are government-funded and do, in fact, exist. But even if they didn’t and you’ve never seen a checkbook in your life, there is and should be a distinction between public education and private life.
Public education seeks to make students better citizens and productive members of society. Public educators aim to prepare students for college, university, trade school or the job market in a way that directly teaches the skills necessary to make those goals happen.
With that being said, English teachers, for example, are not trained to teach you how to balance a budget. Math teachers do not learn all the formulas and mechanics of math so they can teach you how to fill out fairly simple government forms.
It is clear that not all students in the U.S. have great at-home instruction on things that are not important to teenagers but will be important as an adult. And I think most people can appreciate the gaps that middle schools and high schools try to fill in that arena. However, to assume that the “ins and outs” of private life need to be taught in a classroom setting is a bit too much for the already weary and understaffed public schools to handle.
Public schools cannot be expected to raise children, and while they do a decent job at providing services to those with less-than-ideal home lives, it’s still unrealistic to demand so much of an institution that is serviced so little.
So next time you reminisce on all the days you sat in biology and could have been learning how to fill out a W-2, think about the limitations of public education and how easy it is to simply Google search your way through “adulting.”