By Ernst Stumbo
We all know the implicit promise that Berea gives us when they say they are a liberal arts college. They say that if we graduate, we will be sophisticated people who will be able to make our way around the world with knowledge in many areas of life. Personally, I disagree with the way Berea goes about trying to achieve this goal, but the goals of a liberal arts education are admirable, nonetheless. However, it is undeniable that many of our students do not know some fundamentals they need to survive in the real world. An example of this fact is that there needed to be a sign in the laundry room on the second floor of the Kentucky Residence Hall telling students that they needed to clean the lint trap. I do not know about the readers but knowing how to do laundry correctly was something that I was taught at a very young age and is a necessary skill for almost every human being. I am also fortunate that I was put into a home economics class in high school, where I learned many skills that I use now that I am out of my parents’ house.
Cleaning the lint trap is just one example of how Berea College students are unprepared for the world. Many people I have spoken to here, people I consider my friends, do not know many essential things. The list of things that I have heard people not knowing how to do include, but are not limited to, is doing laundry, patching clothes, cooking rice, doing taxes, peeling vegetables, ordering a pizza, driving a car, riding a bicycle, and many more that make life much smoother if you know them.
I do not blame anybody for not knowing these things. If you aren’t taught something, you will never learn it. The unfortunate truth is that many Berea College students come from underprivileged backgrounds where they were not taught some essential skills. Since Berea College claims to precisely serve these people, I think it makes the absence of this type of class even more disappointing. Although there are classes you can take to learn a few of these skills, a good example would be Dr. Sowers’ financial literacy class; as a whole, there is no class that teaches the basic prerequisite skills to be a functioning adult.
Ultimately, Berea College wants its students to become better as a person in every aspect of life. Part of this means teaching students who don’t know basic skills the skills that they don’t know. Liberal arts do not have to be impractical in the pursuit of sophisticating its students. Sometimes to teach someone to be more worldly, you just need to teach them to ride a bicycle.