Many complain that young people are not getting the basic life skills so needed to survive in the world. Parents and schools no longer teach skills like cooking, laundry, budgeting, or car repair as in times past.
At the same time, our culture encourages young people to extend their adolescence well into their twenties. They postpone future responsibilities indefinitely as seen in a third of young adults between 18 and 34 that now rely upon their parents for room, board or financial support.
The result is a surge of young people ill-prepared to be adults. Indeed, young people doing adult-like things has given rise to the new verb “to adult.” Making one’s bed in the morning is an exercise in adulting as would be arriving on time for work.
Marketers would be amiss if they did not take notice of an opportunity. Hence, adulting classes have sprung up all over the country.
The Rise of Adulting Classes
The Adulting Collective of Portland, Maine, for example, offers a wide variety of classes which include bicycle safety, gift-giving, budgeting, and nutritional planning. Other courses can be found at the Brooklyn Brainery or the online Society of Grownups. The target demographic is that 93-million-strong sector of people in their twenties and early thirties who missed out on the art of taking care of themselves that was once learned in the home and school.
As one who has worked with and taught young people, I think we need to be careful about writing them all off as melting snowflakes or incurable cell phone addicts. Not all millennials are equally in need of adulting. Some have developed good work ethics and practical skills from heroic parents.
However, many still need help. What I see in the young generation is not something new, but a logical consequence of defects from prior generations, starting with my own boomer generation. The sixties started the destruction of the morals and rules that had restrained our passions and bad tendencies. They devastated the social framework that kept order in society. The result was lives without structure or rules.
This is now complicated by new technologies that help make people progressively more impulsive and distracted. Today’s frenzied lifestyles leave many people without time to fix, teach, or learn. Despite all their online connections, young people are more isolated and lonely than previous generations.
Are Adulting Classes the Solution?
Adulting classes claim to help millennials develop those skills left behind, and ease them into full adulthood. The tasks can be as simple as fixing a car, writing letters, cleaning house, digging a hole, changing a tire, cooking, sewing, preparing for job interviews, or managing money.
As much as these abilities are needed, I believe they do not represent the life skills that millennial Catholics desperately need to survive in this world. I would like to note that many millennials (following in the footsteps of their parents) hardly think about those skills that develop the more spiritual side of the human condition.
These more spiritual skills lead to wisdom, perfection, and sanctification. Learning these skills will give millennials the means to deal with the other more practical tasks. The higher resolves the lower. It is a case of “Seek ye therefore first the kingdom of God and his justice, and all these things shall be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33).
Thus, I would propose four adulting classes for Catholic millennials, based on my observation over the years of what young people need. This is not to say older people do not need these same skills, but rather they are specially required by young adults who have yet to assume adult responsibilities.
A Schedule Class
The first adulting class would be developing a sense of schedule. A schedule class would put a person’s life in order by developing the idea of method and routine in flighty souls.
The postmodern tendency is to walk away from problems that become difficult, especially those that involve regular attendance. The spiritual writer, Dom Jean-Baptiste Chautard, notes that “a soul cannot lead an interior life without the schedule we have referred to, and with the firm resolution to keep it all the time, especially where the rigorously fixed hour of rising is concerned.”
A schedule avoids the pitfalls of postmodern life with its constant cyber-distractions and impulsive wanderings. I cannot help but think that such lessons could contribute toward preventing people from leaving jobs, commitments, and marriages that tire them and keep them from living spontaneous lives without a course…or a cross.
Schedules provide a framework of order, and it is a much-needed commodity for millennials who aspire to become adults.
Reading Is Important
A second adulting class would be a reading course. I am not saying that millennials do not read. I suspect they read a lot. What concerns me is what they read, where they read it and how it is read.
I have seen studies that report many young people do not read a single book during a year. Others never read a newspaper. Many start and do not finish their books.
My experience is that reading is a habit that can be acquired with much coaxing. I have personally helped young people who never read a book become avid readers by constantly encouraging them to read the right books.
Millennials need to read the right books to fill their minds with the perennial truths they need to deal with life. Thus, a reading course would feature the classical books, extremely interesting stories, biographies, and history long abandoned by postmodern educators. It would also include those tried and true religious books and saints’ lives that have been taken off the reading lists of Catholics for decades.
The course would start by asking students to routinely finish their books and then develop the habit of reading and savoring good books. Once they start reading, they would gradually develop their appetites for profound commentary and populate their minds with the interesting material that develops strong personalities.
I might add that good reading skills that tend to improve writing skills that I notice have become ruleless and sloppy in our digital age.
Lessons on Failure
Postmodern life tends to be shallow because people are afraid of failure. Studies show millennials and Generation Z behind them are adverse to risk. One very important adulting class would be a class on failure.
Students would be taught the value of lessons learned from failure. They would be required to read tales of spectacular failures and defeats that nevertheless developed character. They would learn about the defeat of Leonidas at Thermopylae or the failed expedition of Sir Ernest Henry Shackleton in Antarctica. They would especially read the accounts of martyrs like Saint Isaac Jogues or heroes like Saint Louis IX who also suffered setbacks and defeats. They would thus learn that even failure can be fruitful.
In Catholic theology, this lesson is found in the concept of the cross of Christ and the need for us to carry our crosses. Thus, Catholics would gain much by tapping into the rich literature about the Cross of Christ.
Indeed, after Original Sin, we all must suffer. Those who do not resolve to embrace the cross of suffering, do their duty, and carry its weight until the end will not develop their character. Those who accept suffering and often failure—the cross—are transformed by the experience. They become adults.
Learning to Pray
The final adulting class would be on prayer. Many people and especially young people have very superficial notions of prayer and spiritual life. At best, many consider prayer a kind of dispenser of God’s favors for those who ask. At worst, prayer is deemed a psychological crutch that helps people deal with times of difficulty. As with reading, many never pray at all.
I notice many young people have a very vague notion of what prayer entails. They are unaware of the ends of prayer: adoration, reparation, thanksgiving, and petition. They limit their prayer to petition without employing it to know, love, and adore God.
Prayer is necessary for salvation. It helps us obtain goals that are impossible without it. Prayer is a great and powerful means to deal with adversity. This unique adulting course would include the learning of the rosary and adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. It would open up the treasures of the Church regarding this necessary means for salvation. It would introduce students to the concept of spiritual life and the action of grace in souls.
The Important Spiritual Side
There are many more adulting classes that might be taught such as the art of conversation, norms of courtesy, and leisure. All these things involve our now lost Christian tradition that seeks to look beyond material well-being. Barry Goldwater rightly affirmed this universally recognized outlook in his Conscience of a Conservative (ghostwritten by Catholic convert L. Brent Bozell, Jr.) that every man is a unique and “spiritual creature with spiritual needs and spiritual desires.”
If we are to solve the problems of a childish world, we must address this superior spiritual side of man’s nature. Focusing on this spiritual side gives rise to political, social, cultural, and religious activities and solutions that tower far above the practical skills now offered to adulting youth.
As seen on Crisis Magazine.