2.10.2014

when are we ever going to use this?

I love learning. There I said it. It feels good to get that off my chest.

I love learning - but I didn't always love school. Sometimes I hated school because I felt like the pace was mind-numbingly slow. Sometimes I hated school because I was a teenager and that's what teenagers do. Sometimes, though, I hated school because I didn't feel like what I was learning was relevant. 

"When are we ever going to use this?" is a question echoed round the country by throngs of pre-teens and teenagers alike. I know this because I was once one of those teenagers, and more recently, I was the teacher hearing those cries. When are we ever going to have to plot a parabola on a graph? When will I ever need to know the pluperfect subjunctive? Why are we learning the parts of a microscope?

Though school is about more than just the content learned in the classroom, and teaches soft skills like organization, time management, problem solving, and critical thinking, I graduated high school and even college wishing I had learned more hard skills that applied to my daily life. If I could add certain subjects or courses to my secondary and higher education, here's what they would be:

Saving, Budgeting, Investing, and Staying Out of Debt 101
I'm a saver by nature, and I hate spending money when I don't have to. But if someone had showed me and tested me on the logistics of budgeting, paying off student loans, and eventually investing my hard earned dollars, I might have made better decisions my first year out of college. No cable, live closer to work, bike everywhere, only pay for cars in cash, and make all your food from scratch. Budgeting will always be my Everest, because I'm always wondering if I'm doing it right, especially when it comes to sinking funds or surprise expenses. This is why the thought of doing a zero based budget makes my palms sweat. 

Nutrition
What is the prevailing wisdom on nutrition? Can nutrition really make a difference in things like mood, diseases, aches and pains, and energy levels? What is the current research on how dairy, gluten, and sugar/salt affect the human body? What are dairy, gluten, salt, and sugar? How much protein do you need? Is butter a carb? This is a gold mine of information that a lot of young people are clueless about. I mean, I sometime considered 2 pop tarts and mashed potatoes a sufficient lunch as an athlete. Yikes. 

Running a Household for Dummies
This is not just for women! All people of all time need to run a household, whether you're single or a family of 10, male, female, in the work force, or working from home. Subjects they could cover: how often is acceptable to go between changing your sheets, how often should one dust the bookshelf, how to separate laundry into white, colors, and delicates, meal planning, and interior design on a budget. 

Manners
Eating at fancy restaurants, etiquette when giving and receiving gifts, being a respectful traveler, dating dos and don'ts...the topics are endless!

How to Make the Perfect Cup of Coffee and/or Tea
Yes, this would be a semester long course. It could cover the history of these popular beverages, and skills like choosing your beans, operating different types of coffee makers, the science behind how these beverages are made, and adding mixers like cream and sugar. 

Taxes
This wouldn't be a popular one, but it would be really helpful!

HTML and stuff
That would be the name of the class. And it would teach all of us how to create our own website. Because nowadays, life = the internet. 

How Cars Work and Other Alien Life Forms
Like, seriously. I think someone should have told me how to put oil in a car and change the tires. Also, how not to get tricked by a mechanic.

I love learning for the sake of learning. Does reading Anna Karenina serve a purpose in life? Not directly, though the argument could be made that it increased my vocabulary, critical thinking, and summarizing skills. But I read it on my own time, anyway, because I like the idea of being a well read person. Did memorizing all those artists in college have instant application in my life? Not really, but I was really glad I did it, because it made me feel cultured.

Academia serves its place - but it would be really nice to get some insight into life in the real word! What classes would you add to your education to best serve you in adulthood?

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