High school is an important part of any teenager’s development.
Outside of school, it’s a time when teens get their first feelings of independence, whether it’s being able to drive, having romantic relationships, getting a job, or simply hanging out on their own with friends.
These experiences are crucial to forming positive social and emotional skills that will help young adults succeed later in life.
High school is also a time for students to learn as much as they can about a wide range of topics as they decide what classes they’d like to take in college. Students may learn myriad subjects ranging from biology and calculus to US History, and Spanish.
While these topics may help them do well in the four years of college, there are arguments to be made that more urgent life skills should be addressed before young adults leave home.
What High School Classes Could Teach Life Skills?
There are several classes that could help teach teens crucial life skills…or “adulting.”
Accounting and Money Management
According to a 2020 study by the Council for Economic Education, only 21 states require high school students to take a course in personal finance, and only 25 states require classes in economics.
Managing personal finance is a subject that will impact 100 percent of students.
High school students are only a few years away from potentially taking on massive student loan debt for college, and without having the proper training, they could fall victim to disastrous interest rates or not understand the differences between loans.
Statistics from Forbes show that there are 45 million borrowers currently in the US with a total student loan debt of $1.56 trillion. Not receiving formal education to understand how banks, interest, and loans work can be detrimental to borrowers.
Students need to learn how to budget, build and keep good credit, plan for retirement, pay taxes, manage mortgages, understand tricky financial documents, and invest.
These are daunting tasks to learn in real-time and we shouldn’t leave it up to our students to find out about money management the hard way.
Career Paths and Networking
Similar to financial literacy, learning how to choose a career path and the skills needed for networking are applicable to nearly all students.
How can students compete for jobs if they aren’t taught how to create a cover letter or write a resume?
Research from LinkedIn showed that in 2016, 70 percent of workers were hired at a company where they had a connection, and professional networking is considered to be important to career success by almost 80 percent of professionals.
The statistics don’t lie. A failure to learn how to network and build relationships in the working world could be detrimental to a student’s future success.
High school classes should teach this skill to prepare young adults for life.
Nutrition and Mental Health
While schools do have physical education requirements and many spend time going over nutrition and mental health topics in health class, health classes should be focusing even more on topics such as eating healthy and dealing with mental health issues.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that in 2016, 44.7 million US adults 18 years or older reported having a mental illness. Cases of depression in college students are on the rise.
Addressing how to deal with these issues early in life can help prevent many of the problems untreated mental illnesses pose.
Requiring discussions around topics such as mental health in school also builds understanding and sympathy from students. Destigmatizing mental health is important as it shows young adults it’s OK to seek help when it’s needed.
Many schools do cover nutrition in some way during middle school or high school, but it would behoove institutions to return to a more hands-on approach, including teaching students how to cook their own healthy meals and showing them what to look for when buying food in the supermarket in classes like home economics.
According to the University of Pennsylvania’s newspaper The Daily Pennsylvanian, the number of students majoring in computer science (CS) has more than doubled since 2011.
Computer science is also one of the most popular majors at schools such as Stanford University and Princeton University.
With its increasing popularity, computer science has proven itself to be a critical skill highly coveted by businesses hiring recent graduates.
If schools are meant to open students to a wide variety of fields and potential career interests, computer science should be high on the list of required classes.
Computer science encompasses so many important skills for students to learn. For example, they can get experience in logical reasoning, algorithmic thinking, and problem-solving.
As nearly every industry moves towards data-driven decisions, having the skills to analyze mass amounts of data, whether through programming or simply applying the skills learned in CS classes will be widely applicable.
In a 2017 interview with Forbes, Hadi Partovi, CEO of Code.org said, “with Code.org training tens of thousands of new CS teachers per year, making computer science mandatory may be possible in less than a decade.”
Schools should do whatever is necessary to help their students learn valuable computer programming skills.
A personal development class could cover a wide range of topics. With a focus on work ethic, teachers can instill in students strong habits surrounding how they work and the techniques they use to better themselves personally and academically.
Students should learn how to manage their time by creating schedules; they should learn ways to minimize distractions and study more efficiently.
Tools such as these would help all students in their schoolwork and future endeavors.
Many jobs require extended concentration and with the Gen Z population only having an average attention span of 8 seconds, students need to learn how to focus on a topic for a longer period of time.
Similar skills that should be taught are building self-confidence and public speaking. Knowing how to clearly communicate ideas to a crowd allows students to express themselves and get their point across wherever they are.
Should These Classes Be Mandatory?
There are many opinions regarding whether or not classes beyond the established curriculum should be mandatory.
One school of thought is that requiring more classes will prevent students with set career goals from further exploring their passions and developing greater knowledge.
However, others have argued that many of these topics are applicable in any industry and therefore would benefit all students even if they fall outside their specific academic interests.
A third argument is to imbed these topics in the current slate of required courses.
Accounting and money management could be taught as a part of a math course; public speaking and expressing ideas might fall under language arts.
This approach doesn’t prevent students from exploring specific passions and also gives them a chance to experience how these skills are interconnected with academic topics.
Who Should Teach Life Skills Classes?
While high school classes should be taught by certified teachers, expecting teachers to teach complex topics such as completing taxes on top of their current workload may be asking too much.
Some people are of the opinion that parents should teach their children this information.
Outside of high school, organizations such as Distributive Education Clubs of America (DECA), gives students the opportunity to learn many skills in their programs.
If students learn and master these skills now, they will be well equipped to teach their own children in the future without having to rely on the school system.
No matter where students acquire this information, well-educated and competent students will only benefit society as a whole.
They can inspire and support those around them, bring more innovative ideas to their jobs, and be more successful in whatever career they choose.
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