Hey millennials, it's not your school's job to teach you life skills

"Thanks for paying for my education, folks, now can you teach me how to change a tyre?"
"Thanks for paying for my education, folks, now can you teach me how to change a tyre?" Photo: Shutterstock

I came across a post I wrote a while back, five years almost to the day in fact, about a workshop I had attended at my daughter’s school as she transitioned into high school.

One year to go, and she’s about to transition into the real world.

Where did that time go?

The purpose of the workshop was to talk about our hopes and concerns for our daughters as they entered into high school, I wrote then.

“Parents were worried about bullying, time management, study skills, social media, friendship groups ... all valid concerns. I am concerned, but not overly, if I'm honest, about these things too.

“But then there were parents, and there's always a few, who brought up things such as pregnancy, drugs, boys; there was even one woman concerned about what was being done to ensure her daughter would get into university.

“But the main thing that came out of it for me was that it's not the school's job, indeed no school's job, to raise our children. That's our job as parents, sorry.”

I still think that’s the case. That too often we’re placing too much responsibility on schools to do the things we, as parents, should be doing.

And then I read Alana Leabeater’s piece this week, “I got a 99 ATAR but I had a lousy education”, and got mighty cross.

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I wanted to know what Ms Leabeater’s parents had been up to for the past 10 years. Not only did she bemoan the poor high school education she received, but she also seems to write off the four years she has spent studying science at university.

Here’s an idea: how about showing a little gratitude that your schooling was indeed competent enough for you to get into university in the first place.

Imagine if your biology teacher had spent all that time teaching you how to change a tyre, or your physics teacher skilled you in CPR, two things you wish you had learned at school.

Imagine then that perhaps you wouldn’t have achieved your close-to-perfect ATAR, and you’d be lining up for a job at the supermarket - but not getting it, because even you admit you’re always an employer’s second choice.

Maybe people don’t want to employ you because they don’t like people who lay the blame for their own shortcomings squarely at the feet of other people.

It’s terrifying for me that my own daughter isn’t far behind you in the grand scheme of things.

I wonder if I have prepared her well enough for this next life transition.

It scares me that perhaps I haven’t. I know I still mollycoddle her, and her brother, a few years younger. I know I do that because I do not want to face the fact that soon they will be adults and gone from my home.

As parents we want to keep our children as close as possible, at the same time equipping them to become independent.

I want to be able to ensure that when my children leave home they can do complex maths and be able to start a lawn mower.

I want them to be confident public speakers and know how to bake a perfect sponge cake.

Some of these things are their school’s job, some are mine.

It would be interesting to get those same bunch of year 6 parents back in a room together to see if our concerns, worries and expectations have changed over the years.

I know my daughter is smart enough to keep on top of her studies. She’s choosing a direction for further study that’s come out of left field but interests her, she has a super bunch of friends who all have each other’s backs, she’s funny, is killing it at her part-time job, and has proven a very capable young driver. She’ll be okay.

My concerns for her revolve around getting through the next year with her sense of humour intact, realising that an ATAR is not the be all and end all of life, that she’s brave enough to head out on her own and make her own choices, good and bad.

Back on that initial post five years ago, a teacher friend commented that as parents our job was to love and support our children “and help them make decisions you will be proud of”.

“You can't hold their hand 24/7, just give them the skills to make the 'right' decisions."

Ms Leabeater, maybe your ire should have been directed at your parents, not the education sysytem.