Most of us realize by now, no matter how we identify ourselves politically, that our public school system is a bit of a miserable failure. With a budget just the tiniest fraction of what we spend on national aggression/defense, it’s really no surprise at all that our teachers and students alike lack both motivation and results.
The thing is, it’s not just the pitifully small budgets of our nation’s schools that are failing our children, but the curriculum itself.
Public schools exist, at least ostensibly, to prepare young people for life in college and, after that, the “real world.” Nothing else matters – certainly not cocktail party-caliber trivia that we’ll forget right after we take the test.
What we should be giving our children is a practical, working knowledge about how to survive as adults–and a thorough understanding of how the world, our government, and our society really works.
And we’re not. As a survivor of public school, I’d like to take you through the following list of the top seven things that public schools don’t teach our children – and why they’re so important.
1. How to budget
There are few things as important to surviving adulthood than knowing how to budget your money. My very first allowance was just $1 a week, but my parents taught me that I could save for a few weeks and buy something I really wanted. Later on, they taught me to save for college.
Not everybody is lucky enough to have parents like mine; our public schools need to remind kids that saving money and balancing a checkbook isn’t just a decent idea – it’s essential for survival.
2. Basic repair skills
I think it’s criminal that so few young people today could change a tire if they had to. Or install a new showerhead or kitchen faucet. Or even just do some proper lawn care or basic painting and plaster work.
Frankly, someday you’re going to “accidentally” punch a hole in a wall with either a body part or an errant piece of furniture; and you’re going to want to patch it up before your landlord finds out and blows your security deposit at the nearest casino.
3. How the stock market works
I’m not saying that every child in school needs to be encouraged to seek their fortune buying stock in uppity social networks and smartphone manufacturers, but c’mon; how many adults really know how this thing works? Most of us grow up hearing about the stock market on a regular basis, and yet it remains a huge blind spot for the majority of Americans.
4. Sex education
I’m not going to make any friends in the right-wing by adding this one to the list, but I’m going to stand by it anyway; our kids need to be taught about sex. You know why? Because they’re going to “do it” no matter what we tell them, or how vociferously we preach abstinence.
To put it simply, abstinence-only sex ed doesn’t work. It just doesn’t. Acting as though it does, and insisting that our kids remain ignorant about sex, is simply irresponsible.
5. How to do your taxes
Death and taxes: life’s two inevitabilities. Seventh grade science students become intimately familiar with death as they stare into the dispassionate eyes of the frogs they’re forced to dissect, but taxes aren’t something they have a working knowledge of until they’re thrown screaming into the deep waters of adulthood.
I didn’t have to do my own taxes until my parents stopped claiming me as a dependent on theirs. What this means is that I was already an adult, by just about every definition, by the time I had to fight my way through the IRS’ endless series of forms.
6. How to apply for a job
If I remember correctly, most of the schools I attended as a student had some kind of optional career guidance services. I’m going to emphasize the word optional because most kids either didn’t know they existed, didn’t care, or didn’t realize the significance of the opportunity.
We should teach our kids to have their eyes on the horizon; it’s never too late to start thinking about what you’ll say during an interview, or how you can spin your limited job experience into a great resume.
7. How to argue
I’m going to close with something perhaps a little more unorthodox than the rest of the list. Like sex, death, and taxes, arguing is something we’re all going to do eventually, and probably often. And yes, there’s a right and a wrong way to do it.
More important, even, than the art of the Socratic debate, is the idea that all of us have an obligation to explore – notice I didn’t say agree with – points of view that are different from our own. Imagine how much more tolerable Christians and atheists would be if both parties focused not on their differences but instead on a common truth: that life is so much better for everyone if you just be the most decent person you can be.
The views expressed in this opinion article are solely those of their author and are not necessarily either shared or endorsed by WesternJournalism.com.