Don't knock the university of life

School can only teach us so much. The rest, you find out yourself

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The Independent Online

After my column last week about what we can learn from our children, some of you said you wished you had had parenting classes at school so that you could have been better prepared to savour the experience. Their childhoods simply  fly by.

It got me thinking about all the other stuff I wished I had learned at school, mostly “life skills”. Regardless of what their GCSE results might be, I wish my daughters were learning more of the same.

This is not another rant about what the hell is the point of Latin or Art History, but more an open question about what we all believe school is for?

I know that at some schools you can learn food tech and woodwork; how to be a beautician or a welder? But what about the other really important stuff; the things that in our TV ads people turn to Google for - like that cute little boy who wants to know how to ask a girl out?

You may as well ask the average parent the meaning of Pi  or why is there more matter than anti-matter? These are maths and physics questions I’m hoping to avoid, given that the elder daughter has chosen these as A-Level subjects. How long can I hide behind “I did English and history darling, you can’t expect me to know that”.

Thrillingly, the same elder daughter has also started Economics. There have even been a couple of questions thus far that have been a. possible for me to have a stab at and b. vaguely useful background life knowledge.

I wrote recently about the scary words “sorry mate, I’m going to have to condemn your boiler”, and how there are all manner of DIY skills that you just wish you didn’t have to “know a man who can” for.

But life skills should surely extend beyond DIY, food tech (cookery) and changing a fuse – which should all be compulsory along with computer coding. Yes, I know there’s a class named PSHE (Personal Social and Health Education) but it really only scratches the surface.

As you make your way from innocent childhood through turbulent teenage years to angst-filled adolescence, there are questions you really do have to learn at the university of life: why do so many believe you have to get drunk to have a good night out; are all teenage boys idiots; and why do cakes at home never come out like Mary Berry’s?

Then there are the questions that still leave me completely stumped: why is the tax system so complicated? What’s the point of self-assessment, Kim Kardashian, or golf? Never mind teachers or parents, there are some things you just have to find out for yourself.

Stefano Hatfield is editorial director of London Live