Pop QuizSecondary Education

Pop Quiz: Teaching life skills?

Happy April Fools’ Day! Or as I usually end up calling it, “Dan, why haven’t you started doing your taxes yet” Day, which admittedly had a bit less of a ring to it, though it does result in (somewhat) fewer intentional deceptions. You’d think I’d be a little more on top of the situation, considering it’s just about the most predictable thing that exists (beating out death by having the same date each year), but for some reason I always manage to conveniently forget about it until the last moment, when I’m swamped with other things.

Expressing my yearly frustration to a relative, he wondered aloud why filing taxes, which is essentially the most complex math-related task most adults end up having to do regularly, is not a skill taught in schools. After all, nearly all of us will have to do them at some point in our lives, and surely the state has an interest in having the general public understand the tax code (hmm…or do they?). Furthermore, it might save lower-income workers the expense of having their taxes professionally prepared every year.

The only response I could think of was that the details change enough from year to year (and from one state/province to another) that any such instruction would be outdated or otherwise unhelpful to students by the time they need the skills in question. On the other hand, it might be nice to publicize some of the free software options for people earning typical young adult wages.

But that got me thinking about the other kinds of life skills that could be taught to high school students to better prepare them for adulthood. Certainly some skills, like cooking or driving, have a traditional (if waning) presence in secondary schools, as does basic information on health and nutrition. But what about other things that students are likely to run into in their lives? Perhaps students should be taught about debt and credit (especially given the current student loan crisis in the US), or even about the social safety net and how it functions (both in case they need it and to dispel myths about it).

What kinds of real-world skills or information do you think students should be taught in school? Did you/do you have a “life skills” class at your school? If so, what did it cover?

The Pop Quiz is a question posed to you, the Scholars of Doubt. Look for it to appear Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at 3pm ET.

Featured image: Pieter Brueghel the Younger (1564-1638), “Paying the Tax.”

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Dan holds a PhD in Music History from a major Canadian university and is now pursuing a M.Ed in Higher Education at another one, because he likes to collect very expensive paper. He performs stand-up comedy at venues all over Toronto when he's not busy playing JRPGs with his cat, Roy. You can follow him at @incontrariomotu, but he isn't going anywhere. You can also send him a tip on PayPal (paypal.me/dandonnelly) if you like his work!

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