Over the past week, I’ve had a number of different conversations with friends and family that made me realize how lucky I was that my parents taught me certain life skills, and how few people get that kind of grounding in basic competency.
I remember reading a quote by Robert Heinlein in college and checking off which of his list of essential skills I did or didn’t have, and wondering what that said about me as a person (It didn’t occur to me at the time to question what the list said about him as a person): “A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”
Let’s face it, I’m probably never going to butcher a hog.
But I still believe that there are certain areas where everyone needs some basic knowledge, the areas that used to be covered by home ec. and wood shop. I’m not talking about being able to design your own clothes, bake croissants, or craft a piece of furniture from scratch, although kudos to you if you can do any of those. But if you can’t sew on a button or mend a tear, you don’t get to choose when you’re done with your favorite clothes. If you can’t use a hammer and screwdriver to tighten something that’s coming apart, you have to replace a whole bookshelf when all you need is a ten-cent screw. If you can’t follow a simple recipe, you’re at the mercy of takeout and microwave meals, with all the harm to budget and waistline that entails.
And the thing is, it’s really easy to learn all of this when you’re nine. But when you’re an adult, it’s hard to find the time and the teachers to learn these things, and it’s embarrassing to admit you don’t have some basic skill, if you even realize this is a skill that can be taught. So why aren’t we teaching these things to kids, regardless of gender? Why isn’t this a priority anymore?