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High School: Thanks for the Diploma, but How do I Pay Taxes?

When I was a kid, I expected myself to know how the world works by the age of 20. I assumed that I would know the basics of life skills, like how to file my taxes, how to take out a student loan and how to change a tire on my car. Basically, I anticipated being a jack of all trades in the world of adulting. Yet, as I sit here in my bedroom, I ponder about what I truly have learned over the years. I found that the amount I learned is very minimal concerning the real world. Why is that? I think it’s the school system to blame. 

School is practically based on the letter grades you get, not the content that you’re actually learning. Over my many years of schooling, I couldn’t tell you what I learned in my high school anatomy class, or what trigonometry is actually good for (if you like Trig, I apologize, I just don’t get it). Children are so worried about their grades that they’ll force themselves to learn a subject at a rapid pace, which can cause them to forget the content after the exam(s). The process is the same for any grade: from elementary school to higher education. 

Apart from your home, school is where you have the most potential to absorb any type of information that you receive. The school system has the opportunity to have you for the main parts of the day, which include the hours when people are the most productive. So, why don’t we learn more productive skills while in school? Why don’t we learn skills that will truly last us a lifetime? 

I attended a high school where a “Home and Careers” course was offered in eighth grade. I was not in that school system until I reached my freshman year of high school, so I was not allowed to enroll in that class. But, to my surprise, it’s not a requirement for schools to offer such classes. At my Vermont-based elementary school, the only requirement we had to fulfill was a 2-week long health course hosted in Fifth grade. At that age, we only talked about puberty and how it will change your body. At my high school, there was also a mechanics class, which taught kids the ins and outs of your standard vehicle, but the class was mostly only offered to kids with prior knowledge of vehicles. Of course, since I was extremely uneducated about cars, I couldn’t really take that course. Therefore, the most sensible class for me to take relating to “adult skills” would’ve been the Home and Careers course, which I would’ve had to take in eighth grade. Yet, that class didn’t contain beneficial life skills like filing taxes, it mostly taught students how to bake, clean, and sew up random holes in t-shirts.

Schools need to start doing better for their students, and that starts with giving them the proper education to succeed in their adult lives. Some schools are starting to go in the right direction, but many schools (especially under-funded schools) are quickly falling behind. We need to make life skills an essential part of the school curriculum on a federal level. Every child should have the opportunity to be more prepared for the world. According to the website Big Think, we need to start teaching children about topics like public speaking, nutrition, basic mechanics, financial literacy, stress management and emotional intelligence. Though certain courses are offered in colleges that pertain to these essential skills, children who don’t go to college can end up lacking these skills. On the other hand, college students may not decide to take these classes if they already have a packed schedule that consists of textbook reading and exam-taking. 

While in college, I’ve taken courses that pertain to these necessary life skills, including Nutrition, Public Speaking, and only some Financial Literacy; but, I still feel so unprepared for life as a whole. If I had been taught these subjects and skills at a younger age, I feel like I would’ve felt much more prepared for it all. Once you hit 18 years old, it feels as if the adult world simply crushes you. Throughout the many textbooks that I’ve read, I’ve learned maybe two or three life skills out of them. The only purpose I get out of textbooks is to ensure that my letter grades remain at a high level. Schools need to start making the “crash landing” into adulthood a little more manageable (and work on making letter grades a little less important while they’re at it).