Thursday, December 8, 2011

As poverty rates among children swell, what are we teaching them?

It was discouraging to read an article, "Hungry, needy kids swell lunch lines", in the StarTribune. Across the country the nation's rate of students living in poverty has risen from 59% in 2007 to 65% in 2010. In Minnesota the poverty rate among young people is at 37%.  With the federal minimum wage set at $7.25 an hour there are millions of working poor.  Given latitude to set their own minimum wages, the rates vary among the states. The minimum wage in Minnesota is $6.15 per hour.

The disconnect is growing larger between the school curriculum and the economic reality facing many of our young people. For many years basic life skills and the trades were taught in our public schools. I fondly remember taking drafting, electricity, metal and woodworking. Many students were also taught to manage a household budget, cook, and sew.  Whether or not one went on to work in the trades or took a strictly academic route, these skills could be useful later in life.

Homemade bread
It has been determined that the nation's schools should all now almost exclusively focus on english, math and the sciences.  I would suggest that the next generation is likely going to need to learn to live more simply on less income than the previous generation. Learning to live sustainably, within ones means, will be a significant challenge.  Skills like gardening, money management, making meals from scratch, and even making and repairing clothing may become just as critical as learning to operate Microsoft Office. While these skills may not be what corporate america is clamoring for, it just may be time for the educational system to listen to another voice... the voice of practicality.  Skilled farmers, artisans and craftsmen may someday become just as valuable as MBAs and PhDs. As a nation we must relearn the skilled production work we've lost over the years. Instead of being producers we've become the world's largest consumers, both figuratively and literally!

No comments:

Post a Comment