Three Old-Fashioned Classes I Wish Would Return To High School

We need these skills more than ever, so why aren’t schools teaching them?

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BY Suzanne Lucas - 12 Mar 2018

PHOTO CREDIT: Getty Images

On Saturday, I ordered a new couch. The salesman had to enter the specifications for the couch into his computer. He seemed like a knowledgeable enough fellow--probably early 50s and knew a lot about furniture. But, he used two fingers to type all the information into his computer.

That made me start thinking back to my days in high school and thinking in the present about what classes my children take and I realized that there are three classes that everyone should take, but many schools don't even offer. Educators, we HR types would be thrilled if people came to work with these skills--even though some don't seem work-related.


Back in the dark ages, when I was in high school, I took type classes. We learned to type on actual typewriters (although they did have built-in correction tape to fix mistakes, but only small ones). We learned how to place our fingers on the correct keys (sometimes we typed with our hands covered), and to properly format business letters.

And by we, I mean the people who chose to take type. It certainly wasn't a required course and most people didn't take it. Personal computers were just starting to be a thing, and secretaries who did your typing were still common. So, it wasn't really a necessary skill. The aforementioned salesman, who is a bit older than I am, probably didn't think he'd need to learn to type, clearly either didn't take a class in it or didn't pass it.

Today, we don't really call it typing, but keyboarding, but it's the same concept. Fingers in the right position, and hitting the keys correctly. Any office job and a bunch of non-office jobs require you to type now. Almost no one has a secretary to type things up for them--you do your typing yourself.

Sure, with most things being done by email and other electronic communication, proper business letter formatting isn't quite so important, but understanding how to write a formal message sure would be great.

I often say that type was the class that helped me the most in life, and it probably was. Being able to type quickly and accurately (most of the time--I still make typos), made everything from college to my career today easier. Better keyboarding skills would have helped the furniture salesman as well. Faster typing means the ability to get back on the floor and sell.

Home Economics

Can you hem your own pants? How's your budget? What's for dinner? Why would a Human Resources department care if employees could do these things?

Because these are things that cause employees stress. If your employees don't know how to make and stick to a budget, it doesn't matter how much money they make, they'll be stressed.

Work-life balance is much easier when you have standard life adulting skills. It takes only a few minutes to hem a pair of pants. It takes more time to find a tailor, take the pants in, and then come back in and pick them up. Not to mention the cost (see that part about managing finances).

And lots of companies are making money cutting up vegetables and putting together meal plans for us (confession: I use these from time to time). Not to mention the amount of money spent on restaurants and prepared food.

There's nothing wrong with hiring people to do any of this stuff, but they should be considered basic skills that we all have.

Shop Class

I fully admit to being the opposite of handy. I never took any sort of shop class. I never prepared for any job that required any sort of physical skill. Even back when I was in high school, the push was for all to prepare for college.

The reality is, though, by neglecting to teach these things, we're not preparing people for really great careers. There's a huge shortage of skilled labor and our current solution is to push everyone towards a university-based career. There's a huge disconnect because of our cultural belief that jobs where you shower before work, are good jobs and jobs where you shower when you get home, are bad jobs.

This is not true. But by removing all vocational training from schools and pushing everyone to towards a four-year degree, we're not really preparing all for meaningful careers. We're creating our own skilled labor shortage.

So, by adding these three classes and encouraging people to take them, we could increase productivity, lower stress, and help fill the skilled labor shortage. What HR person wouldn't love that?