Things I wish we had all been taught in high school (and how we might learn them now)

  1. How to balance your checkbook
  2. How to navigate IRAs, 401K’s and their importance
  3. How to listen to your friends, partners, lovers when you are in the middle of an argument
  4. How to generate invoices, contracts, and other financial transaction related pieces
  5. How to keep track of your credit card debt, determine the best credit cards for you, and pay them off
  6. How to stay out of debt/live within your financial means/budget
  7. For those going to college, how to navigate applying for grants and loans
  8. How to write query letters, cover letters, letters of introduction
  9. The three branches of federal government (here in the USA), what they do and what their actual responsibilities are
  10. How to read contracts (and not sign anything you don’t understand)
  11. How to do your taxes (especially if you are either self-employed, have your own business, or will otherwise not be able to use the 1040-EZ form)
  12. How to stand firm in your beliefs in discussions, but how to keep an open mind to other points of view
  13. How to support your stance in debates, discussions, and arguments
  14. How not to use circular logic in debates, discussions, and arguments
  15. How to listen and think critically
  16. How to trust
  17. How to trust but verify
  18. How to maintain our curiosity and how to study so we develop a well-rounded view of the world (at the University of Michigan, we had an amazing Classical Civilizations professor, named HD Cameron, whose last lecture of his class (every year) was attended by previous students, alums, and the general public because he gave such an impassioned plea about the above).
  19. How to manage your investments as you get as you age (from post-high school all the way through retirement)
  20. How to vet contractors you need to hire (plumbers, electricians, etc.)
  21. How to close a deal with both knowledge and confidence. I sure would have loved to have exposure to the art of negotiation (business and personal) when I was a kid. I learned how to haggle, but negotiation is a different and more elegant process.
  22. How to do basic accounting and the definitions and purposes of accounts payable and accounts receivable.
  23. How to estimate the time projects will take (and the appropriate steps to ensure that they do or that we can notify the proper parties).
  24. How to make a good cup of coffee (for myself).
  25. How to approach, meet, and engage with new people in professional settings. (This skill would expand our opportunities in remarkable ways.)
  26. How to write a grant or a Request For Proposals (RFP)
  27. How to determine whether or not you are an idea person or an implementor, and how to choose a professional focus based on that and your interests
  28. The psychology of winning and losing gracefully, and the methods to evaluate and react in both situations
Don’t get me wrong. I had a great set of teachers and lots of opportunities to learn when I was a kid. However, these life skills were not offered, and they are crucial for many measures of success. If we all had these skills, our interactions would be more smooth and we would all have greater opportunities to thrive.
Over the next few weeks, I’m going to address each of these and give thoughts and resources on how we might learn these skills now.
Stay tuned!

One thought on “Things I wish we had all been taught in high school (and how we might learn them now)

  1. Interesting list! Some of those things I learned at home or actually learned in school. My parents navigated me through a checkbook and my first tax returns. We actually had a budgeting lesson in grade school. Writing various types of letters was definitely part of high school, and definitely we learned how to research and how to learn.
    #24 is useless to me, but basic cooking and home maintenance would be good. Have a meal you are able to make, how to do laundry and basic clothing repair, as well as common house repairs. My middle school had a “bachelor survival” class option, and these days it would be useful for both sexes. Whatever happened to home ec?
    And finally, awareness of others and basic courtesy. I’m still amazed at how many people don’t look behind themselves to see if they should hold the door for a second, or step through the Metro doors and stop as if no one is behind them.


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