Stuff You Can Always Use

I often wonder whether modern school environments truly prepare America’s youth to make a positive contribution in the workforce as forward-thinking, innovative individuals. Too often, the pursuit of more (or even adequate) funding seems to trump the teaching of real-life skills and best practices. Too often, a “teaching to the test” mentality is not only tolerated but encouraged. That is why a recent blog post by the always intriguing Seth Godin entitled “What’s high school for?” originally caught my attention and resonated with me. Seth wrote:

Perhaps we could endeavor to teach our future the following:

  • How to focus intently on a problem until it's solved.
  • The benefit of postponing short-term satisfaction in exchange for long-term success.
  • How to read critically.
  • The power of being able to lead groups of peers without receiving clear delegated authority.
  • An understanding of the extraordinary power of the scientific method, in just about any situation or endeavor.
  • How to persuasively present ideas in multiple forms, especially in writing and before a group.
  • Project management. Self-management and the management of ideas, projects and people.
  • Personal finance. Understanding the truth about money and debt and leverage.
  • An insatiable desire (and the ability) to learn more. Forever.
  • Most of all, the self-reliance that comes from understanding that relentless hard work can be applied to solve problems worth solving.

I read this blog post and truly agreed; these are all skills to which our schools should give more focus. Reading through the list a second time, though, I realized that Seth’s list could be read an entirely different way. This is not just a list of things that ought to be taught, or an indictment of American schools—it is a guidebook, a sort of manual for success and personal growth. There are skills on this list that I struggle with daily, and this list will serve as a reminder to make a sincere effort to challenge myself to improve them.

I encourage everyone to read this and forget Seth’s title “What’s high school for?” Instead, imagine it is titled “Stuff You Can Always Use” and treat it as a succinct how-to guide for making your way in the world. Read Seth’s blog here.

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