There’s a serious problem with our education system, and it is the way it doesn’t value practical, useful skills. That, more than anything else, really needs to be at the core of what our education system is doing.
Education is supposed to be empowering and uplifting, but how can we claim that it does any of that if the things it teaches are not useful? The question “What can you do with only a high school education?” is used to goad people into college, because the implicit answer is “nothing you couldn’t do without one”. There is no reason that you should need to go to a community college to learn how to be a mechanic or do any other number of skilled careers. Vocational classes used to be an important part of what our high schools provided, and it meant that our workforce was well prepared to meet the needs of the country. More importantly, it meant that our citizens were prepared for what life demands of them.
Now, you can’t learn any kind of basic life skills in school. Home economics classes are practically gone (my high school didn’t offer them at all, declaring them “inherently sexist”), leaving young people to flounder on the most basic problems in their lives. The basics of how to handle and manage your money, and understanding what your obligations as a citizen are (concerning taxes and how to participate in government) are absolutely essential. That part about government is extra important, considering we live in a democracy.
And while some people already get some of those skills at home for free, many people today do not. The basic skills of life are getting neglected by our education system. If we claim education is an opportunity for people to better themselves, we need to include real opportunities to improve your life in our schools.