As Ferris Bueller said before he took his theatrical day off: “Life moves pretty fast.”
And that was in 1986, before we embraced the internet, cellphones and 401(k)’s, to say nothing of Facebook, Google and all forms of digitized distractions.
We have more choices, more responsibilities and less guidance than ever. Are you coping? We could all use a few “life hacks,” or problem-solving shortcuts. More important, are we preparing the next generation for life in the fast lane?
Not sure? Maybe we should ask them:
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▪ Where do they get their news? What do they know about those sources? How do they assess credibility?
▪ Have they ever made a budget — and stuck to it? Do they have a bank account? Do they understand how a loan works? A credit card?
▪ Who pays for health care? How does insurance work?
▪ Do they know who represents them on the school board? The city council? In Congress? Do they know how to share their views with public officials?
This is not an indictment of any school system or teacher. As a society, we have already dumped a lot in their laps, including things that families, Scout leaders, coaches, ministers, rabbis or neighbors used to help with.
Plus, there’s more than ever to teach. We still want kids to read, write and do arithmetic. We also want them to be familiar with Word, Excel and PowerPoint. It would be nice for them to be able to write computer code, while understanding history and science. And they surely should be familiar with literary classics.
But if it’s not an indictment, it is an opportunity. And for Fort Worth, it’s a challenge. Should we give kids the essential tools they need to embrace opportunities? The Texas Education Agency asks schools to meet college and career readiness requirements. But if a student believes that Google actually reports the news or that carrying debt on a credit card is pain-free, are they really ready for the real world after high school?
Here’s a modest idea: Create a series of short courses that expose students to the real world. Let’s foster media and financial literacy. Encourage civic engagement. De-mystify the process of making smart consumer choices.
We’ll defer to the expertise of talented teachers and administrators to determine the best approach. But we don’t foresee traditional semester-long courses that feed standardized tests. These life topics would fit into six-week segments that can be mixed and matched. Slip them into the school day as electives. Or offer them as bonus after-school sessions.
Frankly, this isn’t a huge leap. Most students find time for driver education outside of school hours. Is that particular life skill more important than being an informed voter or good with money? For that matter, some of us once took shop classes or home economics. If we’re honest, those skills have proven more practical for most of us than solving differential equations.
If you’re a parent who thinks this applies to everybody else’s kid, not yours, look again at the questions above. Quiz your child.
U.S. Sen. Ben Sasse, a maverick Republican from Nebraska, has written a book (“The Vanishing American Adult”) arguing that our nation is in the midst of a collective “coming-of-age crisis.”
“Too many of our children simply don’t know what an adult is anymore — or how to become one,” Sasse writes. “Perhaps more problematic, older generations have forgotten that we need to teach them. It’s our fault more than it’s theirs.”
What do you think, superintendents? Teachers, does the idea of short courses have any merit, as long as it isn’t dumped on you as another obligation? Parents?
At the very least, we believe it is worth talking about.
Rex Seline, a former managing editor/news for the Star-Telegram, is now director of research for an investment firm. His oldest daughter, Kyle, is a graduate of Fort Worth Paschal, taught in a North Texas high school, and now works in Denver.