Skills We Wish Were Taught In School – What Would You Add?

Earlier this week Judie shared an article from LifeHacker that talked about 10 skills they wished were taught in schools. The thought is even though there are many great things we learn in elementary and high school, there are also many skills that are lacking. Let’s look at their list and our own interpretations, and maybe add a few!

Skills We Wish Were Taught In School - What Would You Add?

The original list was done counting down – so here goes, with their items and my take on all of them … and of course some added items at the end!

10. Computer Science

This isn’t just about coding, but about thinking and understanding how computers work and how to work with them. I think everyone should have a basic understanding of how computer programs work – and simple programming can help with that. Also things like scripting languages, algorithms, search engines, pattern matching, symbolic notation, and so on. The power of understanding how to make a list sort more efficient is an incredibly instructive tool at getting ‘inside the mind’ of a computer.

9. Speed Reading

Think about it – basic reading and reading comprehension are skills that are taught … but what about how to speed up your reading without losing comprehension? Or the ability to skim for context, consume more content and overall have the ability to recall more. It isn’t as amazing as some proponents would claim, but it is a valuable tool in your learning arsenal … and later in life when you want to quickly check out a few journal articles to see if there is value, it becomes even more useful.

8. Time Management Techniques

Think about what is put upon kids in school – 8 hours of school, a growing pile of homework through the years, an increasing mandatory test load, the need to get a driver’s license and a job, and if they hope to go to college they need a pile of extracurricular activities … oh, and friends, family, food and sleep. Did I forget something? Oh yeah, how about recreation and ‘being a kid’? Not easy – it never has been, but teaching time management would definitely help!

7. Study Skills (or Learning How to Learn)

Here is the dirty secret of being smart – rather than push you, teachers cut you slack and focus on the other kids. Then you get to high school and realize you’ve never learned proper study skills! That happened with my kids, and as a result they needed to learn better study habits (and time management) as they hit high school and classes got harder and schedules mattered (as did deadlines!)

6. Basic Money Management

In my older son’s ACE Economics class (college level, gets credit and everything), they have a required segment because of a kid who was a freshman economics major at the local community college who bounced a bunch of checks and it became a ‘thing’. When I was young and credit cards were just starting to become more common, they were viewed by many as ‘magic money’ and the minimum monthly payment was totally misunderstood.

And seriously, just look at debt and savings in our country. Bottom line – money management is a much needed skill.

5. Survival Skills

Would you know what to do if in a bad snowstorm your car went off the road in an area with no cell service? DO you have adequate supplies in the car? What about for an extended power outage in your house? Most people today equate camping to a park where there are full-service bathrooms, a camp store, and restaurants 5 miles down the road. For many, an RV might still mean ‘roughing it’. In an age where more time is spent on our phones than in the outdoors, and most end up in office jobs … a little knowledge of survival would be a great thing – and might even save a life.

4. Negotiation Skills

In general we don’t live in a barter-based society – you pay the price that is marked. However on some of the biggest purchases most people make in their lives – cars and homes – there are very important negotiations to be made … but kids never really learn about HOW or WHEN or even WHY to do it! There are economics of cost of goods and overhead and other factors, and market influences, supply and demand and so on – those are all mechanics. Then there are the more difficult conflict-based discussions – and preparing for those is definitely not an easy skill to learn, but it is really necessary.

3. Basic Self-Defense

For most people, a dust-up on the playground or scuffle on the sports pitch is about the extent of their fighting experience. But others find themselves in situations where serious harm is a possibility and they wish they knew better how to defend themselves. We have required gym classes, the idea of some basic self-defense being included seems like an easy addition – and a bit more useful than dodgeball.

And one benefit of self-defense classes I have heard about many times is the ability to take a fall. Considering this winter two of my boys’ friend’s parents have gotten seriously hurt falling on ice, it seems like we could all benefit from that sort of skill!

2. Mental Health

Although it is much better than when I was in high school, mental health issues are still taboo to discuss, and seeking therapy remains stigmatized. My kids tell me they DO get some amount of emotional health coverage in their health classes, but it is minor and fails to address many of the ways to identify if you are depressed, at risk, and so on.

Kids need to know that mental health is just as important as physical health and that it is not a sign of weakness to get treated for either.

1. How to Apply for and Interview for a Job

A job interview is a singular experience in that the only person that matters is you and your accomplishments and how you answer questions – yet the person on the other side of the table holds a unique gating power. Filling out a job application is a skill, because what you say and how you say it can truly be the difference between two equally qualified candidates. And the job interview process is always stressful and never easy – no matter how many years or times you have done it. But those first few times – when you are first trying to get a job while in high school or trying to get full-time employment, are critical for how you learn to handle those situations.

Bonus: Economics

What does inflation mean to you? What are the implications of falling oil prices aside from cheaper gas? What happens when you move from one area of the country to another, how do you know what your lifestyle will cost? How do global economics really work? All of these things seem abstract, yet they come into play every couple of years with elections – things are said to either comfort or scare us, and without actually knowing, how can we decide.

Bonus: Asking for a Raise / Starting Salary / Benefits

There is a bit of a thread here – negotiation, job interviewing, and asking for a raise – these are all low-level conflicts concerning value. Here in particular we are dealing with placing a value on yourself and being able to make the supporting arguments based on data, not emotion.

Bonus: Conflict Resolution

Conflicts happen every day, and we have all seen people who handle them poorly by either lashing out or shutting down. Most of us fall somewhere in between. But in order to get things done you need to resolve and work through discussions that are not easy. In fact, ‘having difficult discussions’ is an entire topic that would be beneficial.

Bonus: Basic Tool Use and Repair

I have never had much interest in things like cars or engines or home repair – but when you realize the cost of having others do these things you LEARN to do them! Things like figuring out the proper tools, how to assemble an apartment tool box, checking tire pressure, fixing simple things around the house and so on would equip students who will either live in an apartment or other housing after graduation.

Bonus: Basic Cooking and Nutrition

The famous line of the guy who can’t even boil water for spaghetti is neither funny nor attractive – it is sad and pathetic. Not everyone will have the love of cooking and skills to produce gourmet meals, but the ability to produce meals for yourself that meet nutritional needs and stick to a budget are all crucial skills … and given that most schools still serve bulk produced ultra-processed meals … I would say it is a badly needed skill that kids don’t even get exposed to!

And just because it is fun, here is what The Oatmeal says you should learn your senior year of high school!

What Would You Add to the List?

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About the Author

Michael Anderson
I have loved technology for as long as I can remember - and have been a computer gamer since the PDP-10! Mobile Technology has played a major role in my life - I have used an electronic companion since the HP95LX more than 20 years ago, and have been a 'Laptop First' person since my Compaq LTE Lite 3/20 and Powerbook 170 back in 1991! As an avid gamer and gadget-junkie I was constantly asked for my opinions on new technology, which led to writing small blurbs ... and eventually becoming a reviewer many years ago. My family is my biggest priority in life, and they alternate between loving and tolerating my gaming and gadget hobbies ... but ultimately benefits from the addition of technology to our lives!