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What Do We Really Need To Learn?

296747958_8c15e91e3f_mA fun article has been making the rounds of my social media sphere this week. Things You Really Need To Know, by Stephen Downes, isn’t a brand-new essay or a new idea, but it seems to have found a new life in the new decade as we all take stock of where our lives – and our kids’ lives – are going.

“Your school will try to teach you facts, which you’ll need to pass the test but which are otherwise useless. In passing you may learn some useful skills, like literacy, which you should cultivate,” Downes says.

What does he think we need to know?

Basically, critical thinking skills. How to tell if someone is lying to you. How to read an essay and understand what the author is trying to say. How to relate to other people. How to take good care of our minds and bodies. Essentially, how to live in the adult world.

It’s striking to me that few of these skills are taught in school. Last week, when I interviewed the Financial Physician, he told me he thought every American kid should get two years of financial literacy courses before graduating high school. Instead, most of us graduate without knowing how to balance a checkbook.

Schools are getting a little better about offering media literacy units to kids, teaching anti-bias curriculums that help us relate to each other across different life circumstances and helping kids connect the dots between what they read in school and what happens in the world. But there’s still a big gap between what schools teach and what kids need to know.

My kids are young, and my list is blessedly short still:

  • They should know how to read
  • They should know how to think
  • Swimming is a must
  • They need to know how to manage their money
  • They need to know how to respect and care for their bodies

What’s on your need to know list? What skills do you feel your kids must have before they fly the nest?

Photo: Steven S.

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