5 Things They Should Teach In High School

The students of Beverly Hills 90210 didn't learn much in high school, but that's okay—their parents had money.

The students of Beverly Hills 90210 didn’t learn much in high school, but that’s okay—their parents had money.

My last column was about the demise of cursive writing, how many school districts are phasing out longhand in favor of teaching kids how to type on keyboards.

I’ll begrudging admit it makes sense – everybody needs to know computer basics these days. But it got me thinking about other changes that are needed in the current school curriculum.

Back in my day, you had the option of taking a driver’s education course through the public high school (which offered the uniquely weird experience of cruising around town with your gym teacher riding shotgun). Driver’s Ed was a nice option to have, but I understand it’s not offered in many (any) schools these days. You have to hire a private instructor instead.

I appreciated learning a basic life skill like driving a car in public high school, but I realized in the decade following graduation there were still a lot of life skills to learn. Here are the top five things I wish I’d learned in high school (or college…or anytime in my twenties would have been nice.)

5 Things Graduating Seniors Should Know How To Do

1) Buying a car. It’s probably the first major purchase people make in their adult lives, yet many are clueless about buying and owning a vehicle, the terms of an auto lease, or how to register your car, and get an inspection sticker. You should learn how to maintain and care for your vehicle, too. Things of value need to be cared for.

2) Buying a house. From choosing a mortgage to assessing a property, there are a million and one things to know when buying a home. There are an equal number of pitfalls and mistakes to make, too. I made several hundred thousand mistakes buying my first home, and a bunch more buying my second.

3) Personal finance. Opening a bank account. Paying bills. Managing credit cards. Balancing a household budget. I really, really wish someone had taught me about this stuff when I was a teenager. My parents did their best, but I wasn’t a very apt pupil. I was taught nothing about personal finance in high school aside from a few word problems in math class. I still don’t know how the stock market works, but from what I gather, neither does anybody else.

4) Marriage & family. There’s a gap between home economics (baking, sewing, etc.) and health class (human biology and reproduction) that needs to be filled. You could devote an entire semester to “wedding planning” if you wanted. I’d rather see the course dig into the meat of marriage, the expectations and potential pitfalls, and how children impact a relationship. Not everyone gets married and starts a family, but many do. Half of those end in divorce. Maybe that number wouldn’t be so high if young adults got some basic training.

5) How to pick a college/write a resume/interview for a job. Maybe there should be separate courses for each of these subjects, but they’re all leading to the same place. You’re going to have to do something after school, and chances are good you’ll have to interview for a job. It’s hard to get by without one. The whole point of standardized education is to create fine upstanding citizens that contribute to society. I think colleges should offer more internships and apprenticeships. Students should work in their field of interest before deciding on a major. Then you’ll create a workforce that enjoys giving back to its community.

As I said, I owe a lot of my practical education to my family, Mom and Dad, along with my brothers and sisters. Friends taught me a lot, too. I’m fortunate because I had those things. Not everyone does. That’s why public schools need to step up. You might not need to know cursive writing anymore, but there’s still a lot to learn

Originally published in Wayne TODAY, September 2011

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