There’s an idea that’s been playing out in my mind for several years now. It’s the result of two important facts about college students in America. The first is that I’ve encountered many, many college students who lack basic life skills; this runs the gamut from the ability to do laundry and sew on a button to the ability to cook. I won’t talk here about why this is the case, simply that it is. The second fact that is that America is one of the few countries in the world which does not have a compulsory military or civil service.
In my mind, these two facts collide to create a wonderful idea: Compulsory Life Skills Camp.
Here is the gist of it. For six months following your high school education, you are obligated to attend a “camp” which teaches you skills that, in my opinion, every adult in this world needs to, and clearly doesn’t at the moment, have. Here is a taste of some of the skills that would be learned:
Basic Etiquette: Should you find yourself at a formal dinner, you should know which fork to use, and how.
Clothing: Everyone, regardless of the gender with which they identify, should know their measurements for formal clothes, how to express their needs to a tailor and how to pick out a proper suit and/or gown for formal occasions.
Dance: Everyone should be able to throw it down, if called upon to do so. The types of dance are debatable as we are, after all, a multicultural nation.
Self-Defense: A populace that knows how to defend itself is not only safer, but also more confident.
Cooking: I cannot express this clearly enough: Everyone needs to be able to cook for themselves. Frozen dinners are an embarrassing fact about our culture. Home-cooked meals are cheaper and more nutritious.
Nutrition: On that note, you should know the basics of nutrition and what different foods do to your body.
Penmanship: You know how you can’t read your notes because your handwriting sucks? That’s because no one ever taught you penmanship. You know who else can’t read your handwriting? Everyone you’ve ever written something to.
Excel: Everyone should know how to create an Excel spreadsheet in order to manage their finances. This is pretty non-controversial. It just makes sense.
Sewing: Everyone should have a grasp on basic types of stitches, as well as sewing machines. You don’t want to be taking your clothes to the tailor every time you lose a button or have the tiniest tear that you could repair yourself.
First Aid: How First Aid and EMT-type training isn’t part of every high school education is beyond me. If someone is bleeding profusely, going into anaphylactic shock, or having a seizure, you ought to know what to do.
Music: The ability to play an instrument and/or sing brings people together. It solves lots of awkward moments, and there are plenty of instruments whose basics could be taught in six months.
Games: Related to the above, everyone should be familiar with the classic Western games: chess, checkers, backgammon, and various card games like poker. Great for breaking the ice, or when you’re bored.
Great Book Series: High school generally does a great job at fucking up the classics for everyone forever. I can’t count on all my limbs the number of people who refuse to pick up a classic because they were traumatized in high school. The classics are great for a reason, you just have to teach them right.
I realize some of these are very Western-world-centric. This is just a start. It should also be noted that I’m not saying this from some high horse — I don’t have all these skills. Not by a long shot. But I wish I did, and I wish such a thing as this existed.