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Learning for life

February 2, 2024 at 5:00:00 PM

Elise Gao '26

At Mercersburg Academy, students study a wide range of subjects ranging from mathematics to history to Maker’s Lab, where you can design new lockers for day students or benches for spots around campus. While many students, especially as they get older, have a large degree of choice in their course selections, there are, nevertheless, mandatory classes that you have to take to fulfill graduation requirements. 

This prompts the question: which courses are important enough to be designated mandatory by the Academic Office? I find it interesting that courses such as Home Economics or Financial Literacy, are not only not required but also non-existent. 

These fundamental courses help prepare students for life beyond school – preparation essential for teenagers, who are on the cusp of adulthood. Financial Literacy educates students about balancing accounts, budgeting, saving, and investing, whereas Home-Ec deals with household finances, food preparation, nutrition, and consumer issues. 

In a handful of years, we’ll be faced with real-life situations like paying taxes and taking out loans. While it is true that we could ask our parents, it is, frankly, embarrassing not to know anything about how to handle one’s own finances by the age of twenty.

While these courses were staples of the American curriculum during the mid-twentieth century, they fell out of favor due to budget reallocation as well as shifting gender norms. Home-Ec, in particular, was marketed to girls, and thus declined in favor as societal norms shifted with the feminist movement. Nevertheless, it’s been surfing a wave of resurgence lately, driven by a desire for self-sufficiency and the desire to not order takeout for the twentieth time in a row while struggling in college. Ramen does get old quickly.

Considering that Mercersburg does not face the budget allocation obstacle that many public schools face, the only thing standing in the way of implementing these essential courses is time. However, I have a solution for that. X-block! 

For ninth-graders, X-block is an important part of adjusting to the school and learning its guidelines. However, that importance wanes as you rise in grade level, and many upperclassmen find the new X-block programming to be quite redundant. Instead of covering similar topics every Wednesday or giving us advisory time, why don’t we implement some life skills that become relevant later on? Instead of barely memorable Wednesday afternoons, Home-Ec and financial literacy would serve us just as well, if not better.

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