Life Skills

Every month, there’s some tweet authored by a teenager, commenting on the wide berth between the skills taught in K-12 education, and those required to function as a real adult. My school attempted to bridge this gap with a mandatory class called Life Skills that we took senior year. I wasn’t sure what to expect of the class before I took it, as the name “life skills” is a rather tall order for a semester-long class that’s assigned to a group of 17 year old idiots*.

I have no idea if this class, curriculum, or structure are commonplace in people’s schools but I really hope they are not. I honestly cannot remember the class syllabus – or if there even was one – or what the class promised to teach us, but unless the motivation behind the class was to present teenagers with a smorgasbord of well-intentioned but overall confusing lessons, it missed the mark. Because here’s the thing: I have no idea what the fuck this class was supposed to be about. 

Here’s what I remember about the class, presented to you in list form because that’s the only way I know how to communicate. The same way a vigilante detective puts together a murder board with clues connected by yarn, my hope is that by laying out the bits and pieces that I remember from this nonsense class I took nearly a decade ago, I can piece together the mystery of exactly what the fuck this class was. 

  1. The class was taught by a teacher with a PhD who we were required to refer to as “Doc.” As a 17 year old, I found this almost unbearably pretentious. As a 25 year old, I still find it pretentious, but mostly out of jealousy, since my higher education journey came to an end after I got my BA in Communication, of all things. Who majors in Communication? We can mostly strike my judgement of the teacher from the record, as my life choices are clearly not sound and my opinions should not be taken seriously. 
  2. We did the “marry a classmate” project that is a staple of many a teen TV show (though it was separate from the “carry a fake baby around” project – see #3). As part of this project, we married a classmate. I cleverly picked a classmate who lived on the street next to mine so I wouldn’t have to travel far to work on the project**. We had to meet each other’s parents and create a budget for our shared lives. I don’t have a copy of my paper to reference, but I’m sure it was utter nonsense. I thought rent was like $200 until I was 20. 
  3. We had a baby project, like in the movies, but instead of using a flour bag, we had these robotic babies. Mine was broken so it cried through the night until the batteries died at 2am. 
  4. We did a family tree project that I inexplicably got an 85 percent on, despite following all of the guidelines. I have never really cared about my grades, but for God’s sake, who gives you a B on a project about your own family? What kind of mind game is that?
  5. Every class would start off with those stupid ethical puzzles, like the Trolley Problem. One question was like, if you, your dad, and your best friend were trapped in a pit with limited oxygen and your only chance for survival was killing someone, would you kill your dad or your best friend? We then had to journal about these prompts and then discuss them, which I find as horrifying now as I did back then. I was like, it’s 10am, man. I haven’t slept properly in days, the SAT is next week, and I don’t have a date to homecoming. I have enough on my plate without you forcing me to contemplate murder. 
    1. Other than that horrifying question, there’s one very memorable discussion from that class that echoes in my brain years later. The QOTD was something like, would you kill a stranger if it meant humanity would receive the cure to cancer? 
    2. Most of the class said that, yes, the loss of this one life was worth it if it meant we’d get the cure to this disease that has taken so many lives. 
    3. Only one lonely voice was brave enough to take the dissenting position. “We can’t justify the senseless loss of this one person,” he protested. “Think of what we’d lose. He could be an amazing person, he could solve climate change, or even find the cure to cancer.” 
    4. As brave as this stance was, he had fallen into his own trap. “He is the cure to cancer,” pointed out another classmate. And with that, the discussion was over. 
  6. There was a section on sexual assault. Rather than use the opportunity to educate the class of soon-to-be college freshmen about the importance of consent, our teacher let the girls know that we would likely get assaulted at some point in our lives, and taught us how to fight off a would-be attacker, using a 100-pound girl and 200-pound boy as models for the self-defense lesson. 
  7. We watched a lot of Kevin Kline movies. Like, A LOT. As I was writing this, I looked up Kevin Kline on IMDB and was shocked to discover he actually has quite a prolific acting career, which I would never know since we only watched his lowest-rated movies. I’d say the movies had a tenuous connection to the course material, but I still have no idea what the course material actually was, so who can say? 

That is all I have managed to unearth from the deep recesses of my mind. And I’m no closer to cracking the case of what the fuck that class even was. Using the principle of Occam’s Razor, I must infer it was all part of a plot to keep the lesser-known works of Kevin Kline alive within the collective consciousness of a small swath of southern California teenagers. 

Kevin, if you’re reading this, please contact me. I have some questions. 

*I can say that, I was one of those idiots. 

**This also happens to be my strategy for picking guys to date: minimize travel whenever possible. 

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