No Tools for Living: Department of Education, Listen Up!

It's an understatement to say I am disappointed in how our kids are educated. I am horrified. I own up, and yes, did send my kids to one of the supposedly "best" schools in the Los Angeles area. They could have obtained as much from a good public school as well. But in either case, none of these graduates (and I now have three) left their senior year with any tools for living -- save what we, as parents, made them handle.

Why is Algebra 2 more important than learning how to enter a bank, use a checkbook and balance it, use the ATM and make sure the amounts are correctly distributed? Why is Chemistry more important than learning how to cook a meal or shop for food? Why is it that I have had kids come to me (their psychotherapist) and ask to learn how to do laundry before departing for college or make their bed? Why are there no programs that teach our children how to live on their own and confidently care for themselves? Schools need to start paying attention to what it is our graduates really need. They need to learn how to thrive and survive.

My biggest shout out to the Department of Education is that a daily dose of current events should be mandatory from day one in school. As the creator of a once much lauded program, Channel One, which was designed as a mini Good Morning America to show junior and senior high school students just what was happening in their world, I felt I was entrusted with one of the most valuable parts of their day. The difference between the knowledge gap of those who were made to watch this 10-minute daily show and those who were not was proven to be enormous. But Channel One is not seen in enough venues to make it of current national worth. At this "top-notch" school my kids attended, I remember only one sixth grade teacher making the news of the day a priority. This is a national tragedy. Ask a kid what ISIS is, and they will say a new singing group. Ask who Al Gore is and his role in global warming, and you will be met with a blank stare. What's President Obama's first name? What's the difference between Iran and Iraq and do you even know where they are? And no, the Gaza Strip is not a strip joint on the Sunset Strip.

And who is in favor the new policy of not holding back students who fail to pass a grade and making them repeat it? We used to call that "flunking." I'm not talking about failing one class and making it up in summer school. I am talking about failing all courses and never the less moving on to the next grade. What kind of education will this graduate have? It is no wonder the United States has slipped in global educational standings. According to the Program for International Assessment measuring the top 65 countries in education, The US is now ranks below 29 other nations in mathematics and has only average rankings in science and reading.

May I get cranky about one other thing? Actually two things. First, I strongly believe that we need to put more effort and apply more accolades towards those who choose to study a trade as opposed to entering a four- or five-year college program and graduating with a nice degree often empowering them to do nothing. Plumbers, electricians, solar power builders, so many more talented craftspeople are needed in our daily lives.

Next, why not build a program where all our high school graduates get to grow up a year and mandatorily enter the workforce needed to rebuild our country's infrastructure before having to decide their future educational fate? Maybe not original thought, but if enough of us can get behind these alternate ways of thinking then we can make a difference in our world and the world of our children.

Number three is off to freshman year this week. She can do her own laundry, handle money, make her bed and, thank goodness, she does not have to cook for herself. I have faith that when that necessity arises she'll answer the call. What I hope most is that in sharing her life with parents who watch the news, read papers and periodicals, continue their personal growth and education that she will reach out with newfound curiosity and embrace all that is offered her. She is a perfect Gen Z with the fastest texting thumbs in town. May she use her technological skills to better understand her world and make a difference. And if she chooses to become a plumber, I'm all for it.