How do I rent an apartment? How do I open a bank account? Pay taxes? All of these questions and more came to me recently as I started looking for after-college jobs and planning ahead for the next few years. Then I realized that despite my fancy, expensive engineering degree and supposed “thinking beyond the possible” that Case Western Reserve University attempted to shove into my head, I was not taught basic life skills.
I was left asking, “How do I life? How do I adult?” and realized that despite all of my schooling, I never learned how to function. It was as if I had over four years of living to do in about a month. CWRU claims to prepare us for the real world beyond the engineering quad, but once again its bark has no bite. No programs exists at CWRU to educate us on basic life skills.
Part of the problem may be the fact that it’s assumed that we should know all these things by some obscure process of cultural osmosis. The truth is most CWRU kids, including me, are here because we could not function at any other university. We are the kind of folks that eat ramen for a week straight because we have no meal plan and never learned how to shop for food.
What CWRU must do, then, is listen to its moral obligation to educate us socially as well as academically. We as CWRU kids will probably not voluntarily take on additional work to learn how to, say, ride the Red Line (I have met folks who do not know it exists), or ask for assistance from a cashier. What CWRU should offer, then, are classes that teach us basic skills and that count for credit hours. It already mandates we take PHED classes and SAGES classes, and both of those have their usefulness constantly questioned by students. Learning real-life skills in Cleveland would allow students to connect with the world around them, learn necessary skills and fulfill those mysterious “breadth requirement” credit hours all at once.
Unlike ENGR 398 (Professional Communication for Engineers), however, such classes should exist with an actual purpose. Some half-baked attempt where we sit in lecture and write useless equivalents of ad copy is not what this ought to be, despite the obvious temptation administration would face in creating it. If CWRU can teach us differential equations, structural analysis, actual rocket science and how to build a robot, CWRU can to teach us how to adult.
Zak Khan doesn’t even go here anymore, but they have a lot of feelings and angry barking.