Home Opinion COLUMN: Educational ‘progress’ is regressing knowledge of basic skills

COLUMN: Educational ‘progress’ is regressing knowledge of basic skills

I was talking to my younger daughter on the telephone the other day and she was telling me how she was addressing envelopes for letters and thank you cards. 

A lot of people have sent her things since she moved to Alabama and she is just now getting around to formally thanking everyone. She has thanked most everyone on social media or by text message, but she felt that a handwritten thank you would be more appropriate for some folks. 

She had written nice little messages in cards and sealed the cards in envelopes and then drew a blank. She couldn’t recall how to address an envelope. Mind you, this young woman is no idiot. She is brilliant and creative and funny and charming. She is also the product of a seemingly abbreviated educational curriculum.

There were skills taught in English class when I was younger that don’t seem to be taught any longer. While my daughter could compose a little note and stuff it into an envelope or a card, she had no idea of how to compose a proper letter, whether a business letter or a personal letter. She had no idea there was a specific format, with correct greeting and spacing and all that boring stuff that comes with writing a letter. 

She comes from a generation where electronic communication is the norm and the old ways are, well, old. She knows her way around a text message or an e-mail. She knows how to deal with people one on one. I don’t blame her for not knowing some of the old ways. She is very well-versed in the new ways. I’m just surprised that the educational system skipped over what was once required. 

English is not the only class that has suffered this. I once asked my daughter if she had an opportunity to take home economics. She looked at me as if I had asked her when she was going to be barefoot, pregnant, and in the kitchen. I assured her it was nothing antiquated or sexist, but it was a class that was an elective when I was in school. We learned basic cooking skills, as well as simple skills needed to run our own home. There are some skills I learned way back when that I still use today. I know measurements and such and I can still make a killer baked apple dish. I can’t remember now if I learned that in Home Ec or Cub Scouts, but it’s something that stayed with me. 


There is a campaign now, mostly organized by we more mature folks, to get our younger folks to learn basic skills. There should be a class in every school that teaches basic life skills like balancing a checkbook, simple cooking, cleaning, and skills required to make life easier and make our youth more independent. 

I wish I had learned how to change a tire when I was in school, so I would not have been clueless when inevitably, I had to do it on my own. I asked my daughter if she could write a check. She told me she actually had checks, but didn’t know how to write one. She uses her debit card for everything. I told her I would show her how to write a check. I also told her she could not keep the check I used as an example. 

I have complained more than once in this column that our society has become an instant society. There just isn’t any skill to anything anymore. None of the younger people know how to do anything that we had to learn. Some call it progress. Some call it the dumbing down of our culture. I’m on the sidelines watching. 

Eventually, one of these kids is going to have to pay the guy who came out to change their tire. With a check.


Joe Weaver, a native of Baltimore, is a husband, father, pawnbroker and gun collector. From his home in New Bern, he writes on the lighter side of family life.


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