20 Things I Wish Schools Taught Everyone

  1. Balance a checkbook.
  2. Make a budget.
  3. Basic nutrition – how to eat healthy and work out healthy and generally live healthy.
  4. Cook healthy meals that are both cheap and fast.
  5. How to use a power drill.
  6. Sew well enough to mend things.
  7. Write a resume.
  8. Properly clean and disinfect a kitchen surface.
  9. Properly clean and disinfect a bathroom.
  10. Do laundry.
  11. How to debug a computer.
  12. The reasonable precautions needed to secure a computer.
  13. How to take a computer apart and put it back together properly.
  14. LaTeX or another markup language. No. Word doesn’t count.
  15. At least one version control schema
  16. At least one programming language.
  17. The proper form for running and lifting weights.
  18. How to swim.
  19. Reasonable precautions one should take to reduce one’s chances of STDs and accidental procreation.
  20. Consent. What is consent, and what is not consent.

[Note: I’ve purposefully left “complicated” things like “critical thinking” off of this and am focusing on mostly basic skills]


13 responses to “20 Things I Wish Schools Taught Everyone

  1. I think your over shooting with 13-16. Really just teaching students how to use Word PROPERLY would be a huge step. Computer assembly and tech languages really are beyond what most people need to know. I personally would include critical thinking, while much harder than doing laundry, it is VERY important to be a functional adult.

    • Well, I purposefully left that off in favor of things that can be taught in, say, a couple of hours.

      Also – Computer disassembly is far easier than assembly. It’s more of a matter of remembering what goes where than anything else, and I think it’s the 21st century equilvalent to “know your way around an automobile so the mechanics can’t rip you off”

      Because seriously, 2x8gb of third-gen RAM is like $100, and computer companies mark RAM up something horrific.

      And – as far as Word/LaTeX goes, I frankly thing it’s easier to use a compiled language and not a WSIWIG one. I’ve never managed to get Word to just behave; WSIWIG languages inevitably end up in a mess of confused code when a person would have written much cleaner and less convoluted stuff. LaTeX’s…not hard. Knowing your way around a few basic commands can get you beautiful documents, and the documentation is fairly easy to find.

      Also. Word is proprietary software; LaTeX is not.

      Version control – Effectively necessary for collaborative projects, I have found. Nothing – nothing! – has worked better for collaborative projects than git for me, and I’ve tried some absurd things. Workflowy? Needs internet. gDocs? Also needs internet. Dropbox? Have fun dealing with conflicted copies.

      And as for programming – there are computers everywhere these days. In the washer, in the dryer, in the AC control unit, most phones, the router.

      Learning a computer language is a quick first step to learning how to talk to computers. I’m a biologist. The vast majority of young biologists I know know how to code, and frankly my ability to python is roughly up there with my ability to pipette as “skills I use most in day-to-day biology“. It’s even more so with the rest of the sciences.

      And even if you’re going into the sciences, frankly, having the ability to wrangle the computers that are going to be more prevalent in the future is handy.

        • *shrug* All these things are easier than learning to use Word properly. Word is actually really really difficult to use in a consistent way.

          And programming is good for your mind. HS doesn’t teach calculus or literature or history because they think cashiers and trash collectors will need them for their jobs; they teach them because it’s good for members of society to know these things. Learning to program (well, as much as I have so far) did a lot more to teach me to think clearly than any of the various high school classes that were supposed to do that.

        • Not to mention that having the skills to do a job other than cashier or trash collector is a nice thing to get from high school.

        • The world NEEDS truck drivers, cashiers, trash collectors, secretaries, receptionists, stock boys, Servers, cooks and a very long list of other low skill/no skill jobs. You make a very solid point about thinking skills and clarity of thought. This is why we should be teaching critical thinking. Limiting the critical thinking skills to the boolen logic of computer programing is less useful.

        • So.

          Cashiers have to interact with computers. (And given the age of cash register programs/their tendency to fail)

          The “logic” of computer programs is far from simple or boolean. Far from it.

          Being able to distill your logic down enough for a computer to understand you is hard, and is a great way to get you yourself to understand it.

        • No doubt that being able to distill your thoughts down to a point that computers can understand it is hard and very important.

          The binary black/white true/false 0/1 of computer programing is not useful in every situation (if you start talking true AI and fuzzy logic then your talking graduate level programing courses not HS programing courses). There are a great many situations that are very grey, and much more common. Teaching people critical thinking is much more useful in everyday life and interpersonal interactions.

          Programing skills are useful, but not as useful as more geniric critical thinking skills.

        • The world does need cashiers, truck drivers, and so on. But a world where most people do a low-skilled job for a few years and then move on to something else is much more appealing to me than a world where many people are in that situation long-term with no skills to do anything else.

          The advantage of learning clear thinking through programming is that if you get it wrong there’s often immediate feedback. It’s not like essay-writing, where you write a draft with some logical flaws and get it back a week later with comments that may or may not be helpful but definitely come long after you’ve forgotten your original line of thought.

        • Well being able to recall that line of thought and correct your mistakes is a huge part of being able to think critically about a given subject. Really how often are the affects of bad logic in real life seen immediately and how often does it take days weeks or even years to come back and bite you in the ass. Sorry but I won’t support the instant gratification culture even in the name of education.

        • The instant feedback is an important learning tool. Adding a subject where you get quick feedback on poor thinking doesn’t necessarily remove other opportunities for mistakes to propagate and snowball in the background for years and then you find out that punting PE due to asthma in seventh grade means you might not get to graduate. Or, you know, whatever your own particular mistakes were.

          And really I remember plenty of times I used dubious logic in essays and it *never* came back to bite me. Most of the time slow feedback is more like none at all, because teachers don’t have time to do more than circle typos and ungrammatical sentences and maybe make one overall comment like “You changed the subject halfway through for no clear reason.”

        • I don’t see this going anywhere further. We both have really good points on why we think our argument is better. I really do think think that critical thinking would be a much better thing to teach than programing, but you do do have some very valid points.

        • I agree that being able to reconstruct “What the hell was I thinking when I wrote that a week ago?” is useful. But it’s a more advanced skill and not one that HS really exercises anyway.