General life education

Views 160 | Time to read: 3 minutes | Uploaded: 4 - 25 - 2017 | By: Andrew Greenman

As graduation looms closer every day and I look fondly back at my four years at Westmont, I have come to the shocking realization Westmont has failed its students. While Westmont and its Christian liberal arts philosophy seek to produce well-rounded adults, many graduates are woefully unprepared: they lack fundamental life skills.
In fact, a few of my classmates have admitted they cannot cook- at all! Others say they have no idea how to do their own laundry, having brought it home biweekly for their gracious, loving mothers to do. After graduation, these poor souls may face malnourishment, poor hygiene, and a whole host of other issues related to their inability to perform basic adult tasks. While I appreciate the DC and the hardworking staff who allow us to focus on academics, they also make it easy to never cook a meal or wash a dish for the entirety of one’s Westmont career.
How can we be better prepared for post-graduation life? By making life skills a part of the general education curriculum. I propose that a new mandatory class for first years be added to the list of GEs. This class would include such fundamental skills such as how to thoroughly cook a chicken, how to tie a tie, iron a shirt, and perhaps even perform CPR and first aid.
Now wait, you - a competent and prepared adult - may say. “I’m perfectly fine. I know how to do all that and more! There’s no way I’ll starve to death or have to call my mother every other day when I’m living on my own.”
That may be true, but as I discovered living on my own last summer, there are still areas of independent life you may have never had to deal with. How on earth do you get mustard stains out of white shirts? How do I fry fish without either burning the fish or giving myself food poisoning? (I wound up with both burned fish and food poisoning.) There are many aspects of these things that aren’t apparent until they’re necessary.
Google, a good friend to many of us, can provide many of the answers a freshly-minted adult seeks. However, it’s one thing to read about how hot your oil should be when frying some breaded haddock fillets and another to be graded on it. As I mentioned earlier, it’s a fine line.
Given that some students may have attended high schools with functional home ec classes or have otherwise gained the skills necessary to survive on their own, I propose there be a way to “test out” of the life skills GE: a “live-athon”, a full-day test in which students must complete everyday tasks such as ironing a shirt, paying a loan, and cooking three meals.
I truly believe that such a class would contribute in substantial ways to the liberal arts vision of Westmont College.


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