“Why am I even learning this?” is a question virtually every student in the American public school system has asked themselves. While Boston Latin School students may excel in Jeopardy! and future trivia games as a result of our highly ranked, contemporary-classical education, they may struggle in areas such as financial literacy, interpersonal skills or crafts. BLS should require students to attend life skills workshops to ensure their future success as members of society, helping to mitigate income inequality and reignite interest in learning as well.
The fundamental purpose of receiving an education is to prepare you for both your professional and personal futures. Mr. Jim Levesque, Director of the Deitch Leadership Institute (DLI), adds that this includes “Effective communication, goal-setting, self-awareness, business fundamentals, social justice and leadership.”
While the DLI offers a few workshops throughout the year, BLS should make these workshops required in order to properly prepare students, as the workshops are just as important if not more so than academic classes. BLS students will otherwise continue to have similar difficulties as countless other graduates like Mr. Levesque, who had “to piece it together on my own after college with a mountain of student debt staring me down.”
Providing students with the opportunity and resources to learn life skills is crucial towards decreasing the income gap between children of different social classes. While filing taxes or taking out loans may seem like everyday tasks, Mr. Levesque observes that “As a society […] we overcomplicate the fundamentals and don’t make it accessible to young people.”
Families with more resources are more likely to understand the inner workings of such systems and pass on this knowledge to their children. On the flip side of this coin, a disproportionate number of children of color and children of immigrants who do not have access to these resources are trapped in the poverty cycle.
Xiangan He (I) reasons that from a “first-generation immigrant perspective […] I’ve never had any guidance or path to understand [finance] more. There is very clearly and significantly a lack of Latinx, Black and especially Native populations in the business sector, and in regards to gender. It reflects very clearly like so, not just on Wall Street.” Olivia S. Mitchell and Annamaria Lusardi of the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania conclude that “more than one-third of the U.S. wealth inequality could be accounted for by differences in financial knowledge.”
With the recent conversations regarding racial injustice in America, BLS has taken steps to promote dialogue and reflection among the student body. A common question raised within these discussions is how to resolve these problems. While financial literacy cannot fix everything, it is a clear and tangible step in the right direction.
Beyond this, there are many other topics that should be covered. For instance, first aid, self-defense and American Sign Language are incredibly beneficial in ensuring safety and empowerment within our communities. In particular, understanding basic sign language will make the world more accessible to members of the deaf community.
The purpose of these classes is not to simply receive a good grade in them, but to give students an edge up in life skills that will come in handy in the future. Students are far too accustomed to the fact that much of what they learn in school is for a grade, not for future practical use.
Ms. Paula Guzman, a biology teacher, agrees that “There’s always this challenge that students think schoolwork is pointless or busywork […] [life skills classes] will help to build […] community and make it so that kids are taking ownership [of their education].” Implementing these workshops where the benefits are more apparent will cause students to view their education differently, creating a ripple effect that will increase their interest and engagement in other classes.
Students will have to navigate lives that exist beyond their textbook’s “Key Terms” and the size 12, Times New Roman font paragraphs of Modern Language Association-format essays. Adding life skills classes into the school curriculum will follow BLS’s mission to “ground its students in a contemporary classical education as preparation for successful college studies, responsible and engaged citizenship and a rewarding life,” while simultaneously providing a solid solution toward combating income inequality and increasing engagement with learning.