An education should involve learning life skills that a person will carry with them after college in order to navigate relationships and careers and be a well-rounded, successful person. This article has compiled 20 Life Skills Not Taught In School, which are valuable in life.
Though high school and college are excellent in teaching many valuable skills, our current academic curriculum doesn’t teach many aspects necessary to succeeding and thriving in life in general, such as financial responsibilities and investments, how to think logically–retaining information and not merely temporarily memorizing information, and how to apply such abilities to real-world scenarios (which are bound to occur).
And some of these skills are the most important skills that we will use in our lives, with the highest stakes.
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20 Life Skills Not Taught in School
This is number one because it permeates every area and aspect of life. Conversing with coworkers, bosses, loved ones, dates, friends, spouses, neighbors, acquaintances, etc., all require certain social norms and boundaries to be observed—such as mutual respect and give-and-take—whether it’s face to face, by email, social media, and telephone. The younger generation has been called the silent generation, due to communicating overwhelmingly via mediums that do not require actually speaking to anyone, such as texting, social media messages, email, and so on.
For a fuller treatment of learning to communicate well, see our article:
In so doing, their personal communication skills are being hindered. The broader outcome could be social isolation, arrested social development, and not learning from the common lot of other’s experiences and mistakes who are their age and older, which could stifle a person in various ways and potentially become a barrier to rewarding careers and the full enjoyment of relationships. Knowing how to connect with others, being empathetic, when to speak and when to listen, is of great value in the workplace and in interpersonal relationships. To learn the art of conversation is to actually do it, with peers and other varied and diverse people.
The stakes are high in our duties and responsibilities in life. The decisions we make have real-world consequences, some immediate, and some delayed, affecting ourselves and others. Making the right choices could literally mean the difference between happiness and remorse, success and failure, and so on. We need to be equipped with the ability to think through scenarios and situations which inevitably arise in our lives, not only for the sake of successful endeavors, but also for the sake of being wise for its own sake.
Students are never taught how best to learn. Educators just expect students to know how to best understand what they’re being taught.
See our article 7 Characteristic of Successful Students
Education is generally pragmatic, wherein the educators test students on specific data, and as such students will learn the specific data just for the test, often by rote memorization. Too often, then, students are not taught how to think through to solutions; even in math, formulas are memorized and the numbers plugged-in to the formula without an understanding of the formula’s formation, and what it is solving for, and what are real scenarios it’s applicable to. Learning about Logical Consequence is a good place to start. And here’s a short video which explains a logical fallacy know as self-referential incoherency. Avoiding self-referential incoherency leads to thinking that is consistent with itself.
3. How to Handle Money.
The importance of handling money responsibly is obviously valuable. Accounting, finance, and business classes do explain accounting procedures, financing arrangements, and business structures, but do not focus much on personal finances, saving or investing. The job of these classes is to prepare students for working environments, and not necessarily for managing their own finances.
Popular financial personality Dave Ramsey’s advice for money management and getting out of debt is a good place to start. Furthermore, higher education doesn’t spend much time teaching students how to be self employed. For the self-starter, knowledge of how to set up their company’s structure, manage the finances, pay taxes and reinvest into the company is crucial, and can mean the difference between failure and success.
4. Dating and Romantic Relationships.
“If a thing is worth doing, it is worth doing badly” said G. K. Chesterton. With some things we will be awkward and fumble when we are learning about how to do them. Dating is one of those things. But it’s worth doing, so it’s okay if it’s done badly, and we can learn and grow from our experiences. Schooling doesn’t help our awkward dating life because it doesn’t teach in this domain of life whatsoever.
Nevertheless, we can all agree that this aspect of life is very valuable, for this is the first step in falling in love, getting married, and starting a family–and the family is the foundation of society. It is, therefore, important to choose the right mate, know what to look for and what to avoid in a partner, and how to be a good partner yourself. This takes practice and attention to yourself and your date. As with conversation, this experience comes by doing. However, some guidance from our peers and our teachers could help avoid common pitfalls and mistakes that are bound to occur in dating and relationships.
5. The Government.
In certain classes we are taught the Bill of Rights, but how these broad rights actually apply to us in day-to-day practice is usually not covered. It is important as a citizen to know and practice your rights when appropriate, and enjoy the freedoms that the U.S. has to offer. It is also beneficial to be involved in politics, from the federal to the local levels, and be aware of who the politicians are, such as the senators representing your state and the mayor of your city.
Also, bills that either do or do not pass congress, or that are put to a vote, have an affect on us as citizens. For instance, in 2003, a measure was put to vote in Texas that would allow state colleges to raise their tuition cost, which passed, and tuition has been rising every year since, and as of 2013 state college tuition has risen 55%. Also, how do you register to vote, and where do you vote, and when are votes occurring?
6. How to Survive Without Certain Technology.
With the popularity of smart phones and e-readers, mechanical watches and books are becoming rarer. Can you read a single-hand watch, such as the one in the picture? The watch in the picture shows the time as 10:10. One revolution around the whole watch takes 12 hours. It takes one hour to move from the 10 to the 11, and so on, and each individual marker between the hours represent 5 minute increments.
So if the hand is at two marks past the 10, it is 10:10. At three marks past the 10, it is 10:15, and so on. The first pocket watches were made with only one hand. While this is antique, it is beneficial to know how to read modern analog clocks.
Watches that are “automatic” will never need a battery and will last hundreds of years if taken good care of. One benefit to reading paper books is that older books can still be read, which are usually not in any e-reader form. They can be borrowed, traded, and gifted. They don’t need to be charged. They can be signed and annotated. There are no update or platform or filetype incompatibilities. I fear that the popularity of e-readers will mean that old books will cease to be read, which will mean that we will be cut-off from our ancestors, which will mean the first generation in history which will exist as an island, annexed from common traditional humanity in many ways.
7. Home Repair and Home Owner’s Insurance
As a home owner, potentially costly repairs and replacements to the home will inevitably be necessary, and knowing how to do them can save homeowners money. Painting, plumbing, carpentry, electrical work, etc., are all involved in maintaing and repairing a home, and since home is where most of your valuables are and where you will spend most of your life, knowing how to do repairs and improvements is always valuable. Home owner’s insurance will cover some costly repairs to the home. It’s important to be aware of what types of damages and what amounts are covered and included in the policy.
Knowing what tools are necessary for specific jobs makes the work much easier. Learn how to read a ruler and tape measure and be able to take accurate measurements. One of the easiest and most striking ways of improving a house is a fresh coat of paint. Also, maintaining the yard and flower beds add lots of curb appeal. All of this taken together contributes to the value of your home, both monetarily and intrinsically.
8. Car Repair and Car Insurance
Much of the same about repairing and maintaining your home applies to repairing and maintaining your automobile. Regular maintenance can save on repair bills, such as changing the oil every so many miles. Also, changing the oil and oil filter yourself is an additional way to save money. Maintaining proper air pressure in the tires helps gas mileage to go farther, and knowing how to change a tire can mean the difference between being stuck on the side of the road or a momentary setback.
Repairs and maintenance are inevitable for anyone who drives a vehicle for any reasonable length of time, and as such it would be helpful if these skills were taught to students, given that quite literally almost everyone will encounter such issues. Also, knowing which vehicle to buy and which to avoid, based on their performance and safety ratings, and which holds the most resale value, are good things to know. It’s important to have full coverage insurance on your vehicle, to cover it and other vehicles in the event of an accident. With accidents, whether they’re your fault or someone else’s, comes filing a claim with car insurance. Knowing what your coverage consists of is important, such as what your deductible is for having your own car repaired, and what dollar amount your insurance will pay for fixing another person’s car if the accident was your fault.
9. Personal Credit and Credit Cards.
Learning how to establish and maintain good credit is a very valuable skill not taught in school. We all start with no credit, which is not bad, but it’s not necessarily helpful to lenders, and thus good credit needs to be established. Getting a credit card, such as Discover, Capital One, or Fidelity is a good start (retail cards at department stores like Macy’s don’t help as much for improving credit).
Do not “max out” the credit card by using more than 90% of the credit limit, and do not miss payments and always pay on time. It’s important to steadily build your credit in this way, so that more and more credit can be extended. Avoid many credit inquiries by financial institutions, as many inquiries can reflect negatively on your credit report. Get a copy of your credit report each year for free, and be aware of what’s on it. The three major credit bureaus are Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian, and all three will have credit reports on you. Keeping good credit will mean having lower or no interest rates when financing a car or house, and will save money over the length of the note.
Learning how to cook and how to handle household duties are gone with the era of taking Home Economics class in high school. Nevertheless, cooking is essential to life and very beneficial to eating healthy, and therefore being healthy.
With home cooking, the ingredients and dishes can be controlled, and the portions commensurate with one’s appetite. Cooking at home generally saves money over eating at restaurants. Culinary school is a specific education that comes after grade school, however, the basics of cooking, food pretreating and preparation, safety and hygiene, should be taught to all students as basic curriculum.
11. The Bible.
The Bible is not covered in public education due to the separation of church and state. However, in teaching what the Bible says as an education in history, literature, ethics, etc., doesn’t mean state endorsement of it as a religious position. The Bible is the greatest selling book in the history of the world, and in certain households the only education or exposure some students will have to the Bible would be in education.
Given the influence of the Bible into western culture and it’s impact throughout the world, to be denied and potentially remain ignorant of scripture would be detrimental to a well rounded, thorough education in its own right. Learning what the Bible contains will put people in touch with what the majority of humanity has also learned for the past two thousand years.
Manners are indispensable in civilized society, and using them properly will make good impressions with family, our significant others, in-laws, friends, teachers, bosses, acquaintances, etc. As etiquette classes are a thing of the past, likewise manners have steadily been on the decline. However, an etiquette class shouldn’t be required to know to say please and thank you, sir and ma’am.
Also, the more genteel the society one keeps the more important manners will become. Along with manners should be extended kindness and respect for all people encountered in normal society, and notice how proper manners always achieve this end. Additionally, as one travels abroad, it is important to learn the customs and manners of that society, so as to not cause offense, and to get along as well as possible. Learning the manners of a society shows, like signposts, the values and traditions that a society holds dear.
There was a recent time in this country in which high school students could drive trucks with gun racks on the back window, and a shotgun used for squirrel hunting on the rack, to school. This seemingly more innocent time is gone. With the onslaught of gun violence, especially in schools, of course guns are not allowed on school premises by anyone except law enforcement, or other trained and qualified personnel.
Nevertheless, learning gun safety and proper gun handling is important to learn. Such training instills adequate respect for the power of guns, reduces the likelihood of a gun-related accident, and demystifies guns and shooting, thus reducing the stigma surrounding guns. This right to gun ownership is ensured by the 2nd amendment of the United States Constitution. In teaching students about guns, schools would be enabling American citizens to exercise one of their Constitutional rights.
14. Finding a Job.
The goal of education is primarily twofold: to educate for it’s own intrinsic reward of being knowledgeable about existence, and secondly to prepare students to engage the workforce and become self sufficient, productive, contributing members of society.
As such, finding a job is crucial to the latter and, of course, for the sake of supporting oneself and family. Students would benefit from being taught how to successfully go about finding a job, applying for a job, building a resume and cover letter, the interview process, and understanding and negotiating employment contracts. There could be mock interviews in which students go through a simulated interview process, learn what is beneficial and detrimental to their particular interview, and each student benefits from the others.
15. Healthcare and Health Insurance
While schools do offer access to the school nurse, students need to be taught at least the basic rudimentary facts about getting and maintaining healthcare and health insurance, which can be a confusing process to an expensive and ever-changing system. Schools should keep up with the changes to healthcare and teach their students accordingly.
Not every healthcare situation can be covered in class, however, certain broad-stroke generalities about the law and the policy holder’s rights can be taught, which cut across all aspects and differing healthcare providers. How to shop for the best care at the best price, the difference between individual and group plans, the difference between health, vision and dental care, and how the premiums are affected by each particular of the plan, can be a great starting point to teaching students to make informed decisions about their healthcare.
16. Self Defense.
We all have the right to self defense as a basic right, afforded to us by virtue of being alive. It is the job of school to prepare students for adult life in the real world in general, and it is a reality that learning self-defense can be necessary in protecting the wellbeing of yourself and your loved ones.
Hopefully, no one would ever need to use self-defense, but in the event that using skills learned in self defense classes was ever necessary, exercising those skills could mean preservation of life and limb. It is better to know how to defend oneself and never need to, than need to and not know how to.
Having pepper spray, mace, a concealed weapon, is a good start to self defense preparedness, however, there could be scenarios in which these are inaccessible, and old fashioned hand-to-hand combat and defense becomes necessary. For women it is particularly advisable to know the weaknesses of a man, and how to apply maneuvers accordingly that would leave any potential violator incapacitated.
17. Learning from Failure.
There is a modern trend towards equality and egalitarianism, in academia and in school’s competitive sports, and as such the knowledge of how to deal with failure properly is being avoided, and thus not learned. It is an increasing practice of academia and sports to preserve every students sense of self confidence, and as a result students are not being told that their school work is substandard and worthy of a failing grade.
Along this thinking many team sports have stopped taking scores so that there can be no winners or losers. However, there is no such atmosphere in general society that is sympathetic and concerned with an individual’s sense of self esteem, and in the real world substandard work results in negative consequences, such as losing one’s job. This practice has a tendency to make students mediocre, and fearful of taking risks. Learning from failure teaches tenacity, gumption, character, and makes one tougher and more capable of navigating life’s inevitable ups and downs.
18. First Aid.
Along with the need for learning how to navigate healthcare for yourself and family, also important is the knowledge of rendering first aid and help, such as cardiopulmonary resuscitation, when necessary. Accidents can happen at just about any time, and being equipped with the knowledge of first response is important to the health and potentially to the life of yourself and loved ones.
In extreme events, this knowledge could mean the difference between life and death. Often times the response time of medical professionals is too long, and can result in complications and worsening symptoms, which could be preventable by immediate help from a close individual.
Looking for appropriate warning signs for things like a concussion, frostbite, heat exhaustion, dehydration, not breathing, etc., would be very valuable and potentially life and limb saving knowledge. Knowing how to apply CPR, clean and dress a wound, prevent infection, apply the Heimlich maneuver, apply a tourniquet, are just a few of the important aspects that could be taught to students in school and have very beneficial, life and limb saving consequences.
19. Time Management.
While assignments, tests, papers, exams, and so on are expected by educators to be studied for and taken in certain time constraints by students, educators don’t really teach the students how to manage their time effectively. Time efficiency is not only helpful in school, it is increasingly valuable the older we get, for the older we get the less and less time we will have, until we retire.
It becomes especially important as we try to navigate our career and family and raising of children. Schedules will become increasingly important in these regards. Sleep becomes less and less required for productivity the older we get. The advent of calendars and alerts on our smart phones, which many of us always have on us, has made keeping schedules much easier. There are many good time management apps which can be downloaded on our smart phones for this purpose.
20. The Law.
Ignorance of the law will not keep a lawbreaker out of out of the criminal justice system if the law has been demonstrated to have been broken in the judicial system. Most citizens generally have a knowledge of what laws there are that have any impact on our day-to-day lives. Students should be taught, at bare minimum, the laws that might have an effect on their lives as they are in school and as they graduate and enter society as fully culpable adults.
For example, is trespassing a misdemeanor or a felony? Could decorating a friend’s car be considered destruction of property? Can someone be arrested for not paying a debt, such as a credit card? What rights does someone have who has just been arrested? Given the real-life and potentially grave consequences of breaking the law, the law should be taught to students, who can then act accordingly.
20 Life Skills Not Taught In School
Written by Jake Akins and published on June 16th, 2014.
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