Planning for your future isn’t just about figuring out what you want to be when you grow up, it’s also about mastering the skills that wil help you be a successful adult.

Here’s a transcript of our conversation:

Brittany: Hi, Connor.

Connor: Hey, Brittany.

Brittany: So, the name of this episode is Why You Should Learn to Cook or How to Cook. So I hate to disappoint our listeners, but this episode is not going to be about teaching you delicious recipes or cooking techniques.

Connor: It’s not the great British Baking Show podcast edition or anything.

Brittany: Though I am British. Get it Because Brittany, it could be the great British. Okay. It was a bad joke. So instead, we’re going to talk about some classes public schools used to teach that helped kids prepare for adulthood, including basic cooking skills, right? And why these classes used to be so important. So, Connor, I’m going to start off by asking you, did your high school teach any classes called Life Skills, or maybe it was called Home Economics?

Connor: Anything like that? Yeah, we called it Home EC for short and had to at one point carry around a thing of flower to simulate caring for a baby.

Brittany: Wait, you guys didn’t get it, we got babies that cried and were on set on timers, and they would wake you up.

Connor: And I guess my school was too poor to buy those for us, so we got a sack of flour and we made some food, and man, I think I was a freshman. I have very few memories of that. But yeah, we did have, what’s funny is I never knew as a kid that EC stood for economics. I didn’t either. I won’t just called it home economic. I’m like, oh, economics. The economics in a home. There’s totally economics in a home. Homes are like small businesses in a lot of ways, but I didn’t have that insight as a kid. But sorry, long-winded way of saying yes, we had one and you guys did too, it sounds like.

Brittany: Well, not in it’s funny, not in California. So I went to three different high schools, even though one of ’em was very short. So I grew up in California, then moved to Texas, then moved to Utah in Texas. They did have it, which is interesting to me because in Texas, not all places, but I moved to a very small suburb of Houston, and people were a lot more, what’s the word I’m looking for? So they had to be a lot more independent because their parents worked so much and there was also, in certain pockets of the city, there was a lot of poverty. And part of me wonders if that’s where they taught it because these skills actually helped a lot of students. I remember some of them telling me that. So that was the brief time that I did have a home economics class, and I’ll get into what we learned in that in a minute. But the sad thing you just said is that schools don’t really do that anymore. And a lot of districts have said it’s because they can’t afford it, they’re not getting enough money. But I think in reality, many schools really, or all schools, can’t afford not to offer these classes because I think that not having them anymore has given us a lot of problems we see with people not being able to adjust to adulthood or not really knowing what to do. So, back a long time ago, high schools and junior high, they would offer these classes where students learned basic life skills, home economics as we called it. That included sewing, cooking, and personal finance lessons. In Texas, I even learned etiquette, which is a fancy word for manners, how to take somebody on a date where the men open the door and how this is even funny, how to hold your silverware if you’re eating dinner at a restaurant or with people, and little things like that that we don’t actually do anymore. But I like it, I miss traditions like that. So that was what I had. And in my school in Texas, I’m trying to think of other things we learned. So we’d have once a week, I think we learned how to make a new recipe, and these were not great recipes. Part of it was something that was easy and simple that you could do, but at least it was something. And I know that a lot of people, and by say a lot of people, I mean myself, graduated from high school knowing how to make, I think I could boil noodles maybe. I think I could do that. I know I could make a mean grilled cheese sandwich. I was real good at that, but there wasn’t a whole lot I could make. And this was before, I feel old saying this, this was before YouTube, and this is a good point I didn’t think of before. Maybe we don’t have these in schools, but maybe YouTube has kind of taken the role of this. I know that there’s a dad who grew up without a father, and he has a YouTube channel that teaches men or young boys who also maybe don’t have fathers how to do basic life skills, how to tie a tie, how to change the oil on a car, how to change a tire, and I think that’s really great. So even though, yes, I think that if we’re going to pay for public schools, they should offer these courses. As I’m thinking it through right now, I realize, oh, but the market kind of provided in its own way because somebody who wanted to find it could go find it. I think the problem is a lot of people in high school don’t necessarily think they need to find it. If they’re like me, they think like, oh, I’ll just know how to do this. What I turn into an adult and spoiler alert, that is not what happens. So, Connor, I want to ask you a question now, which is, why do you think these classes are so important? Why were these classes such a priority back in the day? There’s a reason for this. There’s got to be.

Connor: Well, I think the notion of school itself is let’s prepare these young people for adulthood. And I think now what’s interesting is schools typically have focused on what they all seem to call college and career readiness. That is like the mantra or the focus of kindergarten through high school across the country now college and career readiness. So now the focus is let’s get you ready for college, let’s get you ready for a career. And it’s much more oriented towards how to take tests well, how to study well, how to learn, memorize all these things because they’re prerequisites for later subjects. And so, you got to cram your head full of these things so that you can be more successful at college. And I think that’s when you have that focus on college and career readiness, you leave aside these types of what we call home economic ideas. I think one of the things they taught us in my class was how to balance a checkbook, which is also kind of funny because no one really does that anymore. I was going to say, I don’t think there’s even checkbooks. So, there’s also something to be said for schools like teaching you things that were done decades ago, but not keeping up with the times. Ultimately though, I feel like the true point of schools, whether we’re talking government schools or private schools, just schooling in general, is to help you become a successful person, not just a successful college student or a successful employee, but a successful person, which does include some of those soft skills or life skills. So you might say to that, well, that’s all well and good, but isn’t that the role of parents, right, in the home? Parents ought to be doing this. Now, I would say, well, yes, absolutely, but parents can and should be supported by a lot of other efforts like this dad on a YouTube channel. That’s a great help, especially if it’s a fatherless home, someone who grew up without a dad or an orphan or whatever. And so we want all these other resources to be there. I think the important thing though is to recognize that these lessons are all critical if we wanted to develop into someone who is successful. My challenge with this is that, again, with the checkbook example, are the schools really best positioned to teach new innovative things to teach. For example, I see the schools broadly speaking as training kids for the way the world was 20 years ago because these teachers grew up, that was their most formative years, and the way they learned things and when their worldview was shaped was for about 20 years before. And so they’re kind of teaching through this lens, through this bias. I remember being in college and taking a class on graphic design, and the teacher who was teaching this college course was like in his sixties, and his graphic design skills were subpar and everything he was teaching, he probably Googled the morning before to freshen up on, oh, what are the young whipper snappers doing today for graphic design? What’s the latest and greatest? So I would sit in class and I would be on my laptop learning more about graphic design on my own, just Googling than I was hearing it from this teacher. So, I think schools ultimately are not the best equipped to be teaching a lot of these types of ideas. And so for parents, I think we have to recognize, well, sure, it’s our role. We need to be doing that in the home. We need to be teaching our kids etiquette and manners and soft skills and how to use Venmo or how to, if it’s not a checkbook anymore. But I think Brittany, the example you share about YouTube is great because there’s so many ways that can help fundamentally, I think here’s the problem with school and school uses. That’s just one reason. No, I’m going to boil it all down. All the many problems. It’s like 42 is the, here’s the one, not the one, but here’s the big one. Schools use what’s called just-in-case learning. In other words, they want to cram our minds full of so many things just in case we later need it in college, in a career, in life. It’s why we memorize all the stuff we do. About 1492, Columbus sailed the ocean blue, and mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell, and the quadratic equation is whatever it is, I forgot the opposite of B plus or minus the square root of B squared minus two AC all over four A, something like that. I was like.

Brittany: Do you actually know this?

Connor: But again, we memorized it just in case we would later need it. I was the kid who would raise my hand, Brittany, and you were a teacher. You probably, you were a better teacher than most, but most teachers, when I was raised my hand, why do we need to know this? Why do we need to learn this? I’ll put your hand down, Connor, it’ll be on the test. I was always asking, why does this matter? And never got a satisfactory answer, but I’ve later learned that it’s because the whole schooling model is built around just-in-case learning. Let’s teach you this now just in case in the future you need it. But that’s not the way we as humans operate. The way we as humans operate. Brittany is, oh man, I’m going to this dance. Cute girls are going to be there. I don’t know how to tie a tie. Let me go to YouTube. Let me search for how to tie a tie. I’m going to find this cool dad’s YouTube channel who teaches this, and I’m going to write when I need the information, I’m going to tie a tie. Oh, my refrigerator broke. How do I fix it? Let me go to Google. Let me read the manual. I’m not going to, no one gets a refrigerator and reads through the manual just in case 10 years later it breaks down so that you have that knowledge in your head. Literally, nobody does that. But that’s how we treat schooling and textbooks. Read it all, memorize it all just in case. And it’s so backwards. It’s upside down. It’s not how humans learn. It’s one of the reasons why I think schools torture kids is because they’re cramming their heads, including in home economics. So, I think some of this Brittany comes down to we need to recognize even with something like home economics or entrepreneurship or all these other things like etiquette and other things you’re talking about, there’s also something to be said for making sure kids know where to find the information they need just in time for when they need it. Hey, you’re going to be going to a formal dinner. You’ve never done one before. There’s going to be 83 forks and spoons next to you. Here’s how you use them. Let’s go watch this video, or let’s read this little ebook or whatever. Instead of teaching kids what to know, we need to be teaching them, training them on how to find the information they need so that when they need it, they know where to find it, and they just don’t walk around it competently like, oh, I don’t know how to do this. We just need to train them on being good Googlers. Here’s how you find what you need when you need it. The world is abundant with free information. Go nuts. And when you encounter a problem or have a challenge or are curious about something or whatever, now you are empowered to know all the places and all the methods where you can find what you need when you need it. Thank you for coming to my TED talk, Brittany, over to you.

Brittany: Yeah. One thing I want to point out is a lot of schools say they can’t afford it, and it struck me as kind of odd that we’ve talked about critical race theory and those kinds of programs here before, and millions of dollars have been allocated for schools to put these classes into their school’s curriculum. So it’s funny to me that these things which are very politically motivated, they get to be taught in schools, but the basic life skills that could make everybody’s lives easier in the long run, they’d know how to do these things. Those are taken off the table and neglected. So that’s really weird to me to think what we’re prioritizing in schools, and you and I both are not huge fans of the public school, but public schools are going to exist I think, for the foreseeable future. And so if we’re going to be paying our tax dollars to the public schools, I think it’s very important that we’re teaching our kids things that should actually be taught. And I’m trying to think of subjects I think are silly in school other than just the critical race theory thing. But I think you had a good point with the math because one, I haven’t used most of what I learned in math. Obviously, you grew up to be a mathematician or an engineer, you’re going to use that, but I don’t think I ever used anything I learned in Algebra 2 ever in my life. And I don’t know if that’s different now because again, we have the internet and we have calculators, and we have all these things. And I’m not saying it’s not important to learn basic math skills, but you just wonder what would’ve been more useful to me learning how to change a tire or learning these formulas I’ve never had to use. And I guarantee you, my father can tell you it would be me learning how to change a tire because he had to come to bail me out when I lived in Utah many, many times. And he was never happy about it because it was always.

Connor: Because the schools never taught you how to do it.

Brittany: The schools never taught me. Well, that’s another thing. I don’t know if they still have auto class in high school, and maybe this is something to research, but we had that in Utah, and I bring this up because technically Connor, I think I did learn, I think technically I was in class the day that we changed the tire. I don’t think I learned anything. And again, I think my dad can attest to this, that’s funny. But those basic classes we just don’t have anymore, and it’s so sad, and I’m here as to bear witness to the fact that I think I would’ve been a lot better off as an early young adult if I had learned some of these skills.

Connor: Well, fortunately, all the young kids out there today, even if they don’t go to school or if they do go to school if your school doesn’t offer stuff like that, the internet is a marvelous place, and there’s so much access to information now, like the YouTube channel that Brittany mentioned and so many other things. So, don’t let this be an opportunity for you to be osh, shucks, I’m not going to learn this at school. Instead, figure out what you want to learn and how you can find the information. I mean, even, my son the other day was like, I want to learn how to do better shading on Japanese anime characters. He’s really into Pokemon and drawing anime and stuff, and it’s like, you look it up on, and there’s like six people who have a class on that precise issue. Whatever you want to learn. There’s all kinds of stuff. There’s books, there’s YouTube videos, there’s out school classes. There’s Udemy, Coursera, Khan Academy, and all the things. And so the internet is a marvelous place for learning. Let’s take advantage of it and be intentional about all the many things we want to learn. Yeah, maybe you won’t have the experience of carrying a sack of flour or a crying baby robot that looks pretty scary and might electrocute you, and that’s fine. We can lament that. But you guys, you young people have opportunities that Brittany and I and your parents didn’t when we were younger, that it’s going to be different for you. There’s different opportunities, different resources. Take advantage of them and be intentional and figure out what do I want to learn. What experiences do I want to gain? Who can help me with this? What resource? Come up with a plan. Don’t just be passive with your life and like, okay, I’ll go through this class because I’m being told to sit down and think. Spend an afternoon with pen and paper and say, what do I want to learn? What do I want to do? If I could design my own curriculum or plan my own school year, or if I got to control everything, here’s what it would be. Present that to your parents. Get their buy-in. Talk about how you can customize that or how they can help. But it all starts from you guys having a desire and figuring out what you want and then going after it. And the internet is just such a marvelous opportunity with abundant resources to help you do what you want. Check out of course, for some books that can help along the way, Brittany, until next time, we’ll talk to you later.

Brittany: Talk to you later.