Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Skills We Ought to Have

Here's a really interesting article from Lifehacker by Melanie Pinola - The Top 10 Skills We Wish Were Taught in School, But Usually Aren't. You can read the entire list for yourself, but here are three of Ms Pinola's suggestions that I think are especially good, along with my comments and another four suggestions of my own ...

Study Skills. Nobody seems to know how to study any more. I think this is probably a function of two things: the general decline in reading, and the advent of the Google search that makes research too easy and too limited. We're growing generations that have no idea how to study and do research to find and interpret facts (see Critical Thinking, below).

Basic Money Management. Well, hell, Congress could use this, too. Not many people know how to construct a budget, balance a checkbook, or even figure out the tip on a restaurant check. I'm certainly no math genius, but I'm glad that my parents gave me early lessons in how to do enough math to keep my finances in relative order*.

Basic Self Defense. This is a good one. As a skinny, bookish fellow in grade school and high school, I had more than my share of trouble with bullies, and I could have used some good self-defense training. I finally got it when I took karate lessons in my 50's. I would still probably get my ass kicked in a bar fight, but the other guy would know he'd worked for it.

And now, four of my own suggestions for skills that ought to be taught in school:

Critical Thinking. People nowadays tend to believe utterly ridiculous stuff. Lots of them swallow the bilge pumped out by Faux News whole, without ever bothering to ask even the simplest questions that would help them separate truth from wildly slanted opinion. Carl Sagan's Baloney Detection Kit and the basics of logic ought to be part of every high school and college curriculum.

Good Manners and Behavior. It seems that to a lot of young - and even older - people nowadays, good manners are considered a sign of weakness or servility. It's more important in many circles to build "street cred" than it is to treat other people decently. "Please" and "thank you" - the magic words my parents drilled into us and I try to drill into my grandchildren - come few and far between. The Golden Rule has gotten pretty badly oxidized, and our schools ought to help polish it up again.

Effective Writing Skills. I enjoy writing and I like to think I'm pretty good at it. But there are a lot of people out there who either slept through their English classes or just never bothered to take them. I'm appalled at least twice a day by the miserable quality of writing I encounter, even from people who supposedly have baccalaureate or postgraduate degrees. I think our schools should invest a lot more time teaching people to write coherent sentences and paragraphs and recognize when the spell-checker is leading them astray.

And finally ...

Public Speaking. It's said that most people are terrified of speaking in front of an audience. But public speaking doesn't have to be done in front of an auditorium full of people ... it can be done in a small group when you need to convince others to do something, or of the righteousness of your position. I enjoy public speaking more than most, but you don't have to like it as much as I do ... you just have to have the basic skills and self-confidence to speak clearly and convincingly (see Critical Thinking, above) in public. Unless you're in a debate club, our schools don't seem to teach public speaking skills any more.

So, Dear Readers, those are my ideas on what our schools ought to be teaching. I recognize that there are a lot of people advocating a lot of "feel-good" subjects they believe ought to be squeezed into our school curricula, but I think the ones I've mentioned above are more important than many, many others. How about you? What things do you think our schools ought to be teaching that they aren't now. Leave a comment.

Have a good day. Speak and write well, and remember the Golden Rule. More thoughts tomorrow.


* Of course, Congress and the business community are ever conspiring to keep my budget out of whack by means of taxes and the constant hiking of prices and fees to "cover the cost of doing business." Wouldn't it be nice if we could arbitrarily hike our paychecks to "cover the cost of everyone else doing business?"


eViL pOp TaRt said...

Elementary skepticism. René Descartes was on to something.

Being able to amuse yourself.

Learning how to really swim!

Margaret (Peggy or Peg too) said...

these are a good start!

Linda Kay said...

Cursive writing is being eliminated in the schools. Some folks still write in cursive to produce a book. At a writer's meeting last night we speculated that because so much of American History is in cursive, students of history will have to take a course in cursive to be able to read the writing! ;-)

Grand Crapaud said...

Learning how to apply and interview for a job are very necessary. Learning how to present oneself effectively.

Mike said...

Public speaking is not my thing.

Randomly Rachel said...

Basic literacy and study skills is mandatory!

Elvis Wearing a Bra on His Head said...

Public speaking -- yes.

Public silence -- YES!