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Davis, California

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

Calculus may get you a job, but it won’t help you change a tire

Why did we cut home economics?


Many students leave college with a vast breadth of academic knowledge and the ability to churn out endless assignments on little sleep. However, if you asked these same people to mend a torn sweater, what their credit score means or how to cook something other than microwavable mac and cheese, you might be met with blank stares. 

Basic life skills refer to the technical and psychosocial competencies that allow people to function as capable adults. Everyone acquires a diverse range of skills as they grow up and there’s no shame in realizing there are certain tasks you still can’t perform independently. College is the perfect time to bridge this gap.

UC Davis offers numerous courses to prepare students for the real world:

  • Exaggerated on your resume about your proficiency in Excel? PLS 21 can teach you professional computer skills for the workforce. 
  • Share the world’s most common phobia of public speaking? CMN 001 can help you address an audience with confidence and clarity. 
  • Know next to nothing about filing your taxes? Take ARE 142.
  • Cupboards stocked with nothing but instant noodles and energy drinks? NUT 10 is great for learning about adequate nutrition and adjusting your dietary pattern to stave off diseases. 
  • Chronic writer’s block? UWP courses offer advanced instruction on how to write articles, essays and scientific papers across various disciplines.

The university also provides opportunities for students to learn essential skills without the pressure of working towards a grade. Student Health and Counseling Services provides free cooking demonstrations for students interested in learning about food preparation and nutrition. The Craft Center offers courses on beginner’s sewing, as well as classes like woodworking, sculpting and photography. Furthermore, free CPR and first aid courses are available through the UC Davis Fire Department. 

Although students have many options for improving particular skills, it can be difficult to find the time to take additional courses. Some classes also have restrictions that prevent enrollment outside of certain majors and they may consist of in-depth subject material as opposed to the introductory content that students are likely seeking. 

To mitigate these issues, UC Davis could implement a comprehensive course geared towards preparing students for multiple aspects of adulthood. High schools used to offer home economics classes that taught students how to cook, garden, do laundry, do taxes and care for children, but most of these programs were terminated years ago. If students were able to take a similar course at UC Davis emphasizing one or two of life skills like these per week, by the end of the quarter they would have a set of fundamental tools to care for themselves and others throughout their lives.

Students would also benefit from more courses dedicated to the development of soft skills. Education stresses the importance of gaining knowledge and experiences applicable to the workforce, but success is highly dependent on personal attributes. Effective communication, time management and emotional intelligence are all skills that allow someone to navigate conflict, build meaningful relationships and lead a fulfilling life. While these characteristics can be difficult to teach, course content highlighting their importance and incorporating aspects of peer discussion, open feedback and self-reflection can strengthen interpersonal skills relevant to school, work and home.

If your car were to break down and you found yourself stranded on the highway, knowing how to change a flat tire would be more useful than the ability to recite the periodic table. While important, academic curriculum is just one factor contributing to an individual’s success. There are a variety of classes at UC Davis based on specific life skills already, and the addition of courses appealing to a more general audience would allow students to flourish as confident, responsible adults far beyond the classroom.


Written by: The Editorial Board



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