A recent article in The Huffington Post cited findings by the Corporation for Enterprise Development that “echo other recent studies showing that many Americans are ill-prepared for financial emergencies. Analysts said the reasons include flat wages, the high cost of medical treatment and the nationwide drop in housing values leaving homeowners with less wealth than they believed they had.”

Andrea Levere, the president of the organization, says that “greater financial literacy might have helped prevent the current situation.” She noted how people can “‘graduate high school and not know how to write a check,’” and added that, along with public policy changes, “an increased emphasis on personal responsibility for budgeting and spending should be an important part of any step forward” (see endnote).

After reading that article, my wife and I began to wonder what other life skills might also be lacking among many today that would improve the general situation in our nation. And we wondered whether there were any required courses in high school or even earlier that taught people how to manage money, communicate, do everyday tasks, and so on.

We made a list of the things we felt everyone should know. I cited problem-solving strategies, writing a resume, searching for work, and communicating well. She noted that everyone should also be able to make a menu and shop at a grocery store, as well as cook several simple breakfasts, lunches, and suppers on their own (not just microwave something). They should know how to pump gas and check basic fluids. They should be familiar with basic hardware tools. Everyone should be able to read a news article and then summarize it.

This exercise brought to mind Jason Boyett’s book A Pocket Guide to Adulthood: 29 Things to Know Before You Hit 30. In a humorous, but helpful, way, Boyett lists such skills as how to cook eggs, being wary of the “credit card debt monkey,” “how to speak good…er, well,” changing a flat tire, living beneath your means, stocking a medicine cabinet, buying groceries “like you own the grocery store,” asking for a raise, and even how to play poker and do card tricks.

If an educated populace is necessary for the functioning of a democracy, I wonder if teaching such skills in school, and not so much impractical stuff that will never be used, would improve our national situation. I have in mind how different things might be if people were taught how to make good choices about everything from their leadership to their purchases to their meals. I’m also thinking about the peace that might prevail if folks were to learn how to express viewpoints without polarization or coming to blows, how to listen, and how to be a “non-anxious presence” when everyone else is fighting and fearful.

I’d like to hear from any readers about what is taught in your community. Is there any requirement in high school for any such class(es)? If not, is there some other way people can learn what they need to know to get along in the world? Thanks for any insights you have.

© 2012 Tom Cheatham

Endnote. See  http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/01/31/working-poor-liquid-asset-poverty_n_1243152.html?ref=daily-brief utm_source=DailyBrief&utm_campaign=013112&utm_medium=email&utm_content=NewsEntry&utm_term=Daily%20Brief