Practical Classes Would Better Serve Students


Author: Brittany Wightman

Occidental students have the opportunity to learn about everything the postmodern Renaissance man might want to know. Unfortunately, the college does not offer practical one and two-unit courses that teach students life skills.

As a result, students are leaving college less prepared for the challenges of daily adult life. Instead of moving through their daily lives with ease and independence, they are limited in ways that they simply should not be.

With a more diverse range of classes, students would develop self-sufficiency in terms of managing their home lives, protecting their investments and developing unique methods of problem solving.

It may seem that these skills are unnecessary and even archaic now that society has become even more dependent on technology. If people do not know how to fix their cars or run their households, they can usually find a way around doing it themselves, but basic knowledge of common household items is extraordinarily helpful.

Whether this means cooking a well-balanced meal, hemming a pair of pants or changing the oil in one’s own car, these skills allow individuals to navigate through life with more freedom and independence. While some students may have learned the art of domesticity or mechanics before entering Occidental, the likelihood that they have had to maintain these skills at school is low. Between the Marketplace, Emmons and the facilities work order system, students do not have to take care of themselves in many ways. When students leave Occidental, it is likely that they will not have the knowledge of how to take care of a car, kitchen or wardrobe, but that they will still own these items. The potential knowledge to be gained from more applicable elective courses would allow students to independently maintain their belongings, rather than having to depend on someone else to do so.

Beyond simply applying the instruction of these classes to future situations, students would learn to think in different ways while facing new challenges.

The problem-solving skills learned in a mechanics class are different from those learned in any math class. In addition, the basic act of using one’s hands develops the mind in ways that academic classes and theoretical discussions cannot. Practically applicable classes would be an invaluable asset in addition to students’ classroom educations.

While Occidental does prepare students “for leadership in an increasingly complex, interdependent and pluralistic world,” as its mission statement promises, it may not prepare students to function in their lives outside of school.

If Occidental offered courses in mechanics, cooking, wood shop and sewing, students would be more independent individuals who are prepared to manage the simpler aspects of life. Their education would also be more comprehensive, and they would have unique perspectives on how to solve problems on a daily basis.

Brittany Wightman is an undeclared first-year. She can be reached at

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