OPINION | Tulane has no obligation to teach life skills

Abe Messing, Staff Columnist

“Life skills” may include financial literacy, time management and resume building. (Paige Douglass)

Perhaps the most common criticism any institution of learning receives is that it does not equip its students with necessary post-graduation skills.

In early college years, students may be mostly concerned about their peers’ inability to cook or do laundry. Later on, these concerns may shift towards resume building, financial literacy and other personal or professional tools. In any case, teaching these life skills anywhere other than a trade school, where people go specifically to learn a certain life skill, would be a waste of time. 

Uninspired high schoolers and snarky college kids who do not believe they are learning anything valuable are not entirely alone in their beliefs. Some university administrators also take issue that the curriculum does not include practical skills education.

Using North Carolina State University as an example, Anna Martina, a columnist for the Martin Center for Academic Renewal, corroborates these ideas: “NC State doesn’t offer a course on insurance, credit, taxes, personal nutrition, first aid, cybersecurity, or automobile maintenance.” Likewise, Tulane University does not have courses exclusively dedicated to these subjects that you can take for credit. 

Martina goes on to reference a study that convinces her “recent graduates struggle to remain lifelong learners. That shows where colleges often fall short: in teaching students how to independently live and grow as people.” 

Martina is correct in that students should be immersed in an environment where they can “grow as people.” But, preoccupying students with the most mundane parts of adult life instead of exposing them to new ideas and ways of thinking does not seem like a reliable way to achieve this or combat academic listlessness. Instructional seminars like the ones she mentions are unlikely to cause students to jump out of their seats to explore the world around them. 

The learning format Martina suggests, which would integrate “life skills” into a gen-ed curriculum, also pins the responsibility of educating students about how to “live independently” on the university rather than the individual. 

Life skills education, which could theoretically encompass anything from doing laundry to decoding tax forms, would be relatively unique to everyone. Mandating any number of “life skills” courses would then seem arbitrary and could lead to familiar confusion about why certain subjects are prioritized at the expense of others. 

Schooling on these subjects is better suited for auxiliary learning on one’s own time, like how Money Matters — an optional financial literacy program — functions at Tulane. Students who value technical education will seek out similar programs. 

There is an enormous amount of knowledge available for consumption on every college campus. In all likelihood, if some subject is so necessary to living life, it is probably already being covered in some capacity in some course anyway.