Imma be real for a sec. I started writing this article in the mindset of “13 years of schooling did not prepare me to be a functioning adult in today’s society! My teachers didn’t teach me how to do my tax return, buy a house, or get a job!”. However, not only has this topic been done to death [for examples, see here, here, and here], the longer I thought about it, the more I disagreed with the whole premise.
This might be a really unpopular way to view this issue, but I think it’s time to stop hatin’ on your high school for [what you think are] gaps in your education. So, your teachers didn’t help you write a resume, but they taught you how to write. They didn’t show you how to buy a house, but they taught you about interest rates and repayments. They didn’t teach you to be a three-hat chef, but they taught you the importance of a balanced diet and exercise.
It’s time to flip the script and holistically look at the skills you learned that HAVE actually prepared you for what comes next.
What You Don’t Learn at School
If you Google this phrase you’ll be met with an absolute avalanche of complaints [often in the form of a meme] from students around the world. Here are a few how-to’s that apparently got missed along the way:
- Complete a tax return
- Write a resume
- Practice basic banking
- Fill-out insurance applications
- Purchase a house
- Change a tyre
- Perform CPR
- Use basic cooking skills
- Get mental health support
- Know your rental rights
Quite the list…
What I find ironic about all these memes, though, is that more often than not I can barely remember anything about the punchline. Pythagoras’ theorem, the mitochondria of the cell, the quadratic formula, etc… who’s to say that even if we were taught about tax and how to complete a return, we’d still remember that after graduation? But that’s just a theory.
Whose Responsibility is it Anyhow?
Ever heard of the saying ‘it takes a village to raise a child’? That’s essentially what started the parent/teacher debate about responsibility: who teaches kids what. This fight can be an ugly one, and both sides peg blame onto the other. But are we sure these are our only two options?
The education system teaches kids academics sure, but also self-regulation, self-confidence, resilience, determination and aspirations for the future; all skills necessary for 21st century success.
This is what I’m talking about. THIS is what kids have to [and DO] learn. Sure, it takes a village, but what about the kids themselves? As a child, we’re spoon fed, but eventually understand the process and take responsibility for eating. The same principle applies to learning; we should be able to take responsibility for ourselves.
No one can learn something for you. In 2006, Gary Allen concluded that students will take responsibility for their learning IF they understand why this is important. So, that tough love we got in the first week of high school [‘we’re not here to hold your hand’, ‘you have to do the work’] is actually a really good thing. If students are continually spoon fed they won’t ‘get it’ and that can be detrimental to their education and development.
So Covert, it’s Overt…
The National Curriculum is comprised of seven General Capabilities that each student must possess by graduation. Each capability is broken down into separate areas of knowledge. For example, the general capability of literacy is broken down into four areas of knowledge; text, grammar, word, and visual, which are tested through comprehension and composition, and applicable to all learning areas.
Sure, you learn how to read and write, but it’s not that straight forward or black and white. To this end, our ‘adulting skills’ are implicit in everything else we’ve ever been taught; we’ve just had to take responsibility for our education and put the pieces together ourselves. TBH, it’s a lot like when you were little and your parents used to chop up your vegetables really small and hide them so you didn’t know you were eating them; just because you didn’t know they were there doesn’t mean you didn’t eat them!
What I DID Learn at School
The valuable lessons I KNOW my teachers taught me:
- To not only read a text, but to analyse and be critical of it
- Effectively work in a team environment
- Basic maths/accounting
- Importance of fitness & good health
- To understand social issues respectfully and inclusively
- How to research
- That it’s OK to ask for help
- Mindfulness; of mental health, relationships, impact etc
Factoring all of the above, while the teaching of life skills might not have been overt for everyone, taking a deeper more ‘adult’ look at my education, I certainly don’t feel let down by my school. It’s OK to be uncomfortable with the unknown, but just because you haven’t come across a problem before, doesn’t mean you don’t already know or can’t find the solution.
And that’s kind of empowering to remember.
‘Adulting’ Lessons Ahead
Still not sure about this ‘adulting’ thing? People, meet the internet, internet, meet the people! Here’s a few pointers to get on your way:
- The Australian Electoral Commission [AEC] will help you out. Super important to make sure you’re registered to vote before you do anything else.
- Writing a Resume
- Basic Banking
- I feel like everyone tells you you need insurance, but no one tells you how expensive it is! House, car, health, life, income, travel, pet, etc…..
- Despite what you might have heard, iSelect might actually be the easiest way to catch a glimpse of multiple insurers and what they can offer you for what price.
- [Warning: you have to give them a phone number before you can see the results, and they Will. Not. Stop. Calling. from multiple different numbers at different times of the day until they talk to you. Trust me, it’s easiest just to answer the first time and say you were doing research for an article 😊].
- How to Buy a House
- Changing a Tyre
- Learn how to change a tyre in under three minutes here
- Read this document from the Australian Government in under 7 minutes and increase your chances of helping someone in an emergency situation.
- Basic Cooking
- BuzzFeed has got you covered here: 13 Basic Cooking Techniques Everyone Should Know.
- Mental Health
- Rental Rights
So, while your parents and teachers took responsibility for your education for thirteen years, what you learn in the next [optimistically] 80 years is up to you. They laid a solid foundation and equipped you with not only vast amounts of information, but also the skills you need to go and find more. Without sounding lame, it’s time to take control of your own destiny and educate yourself from now on.
And quit hating on your teachers y’all!