What School Should Have Taught You

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By the author of The Faithful Prepper and  The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications.

What school should have taught you is a lot different than what it actually does. And real life is a lot different than what they teach you to be prepared for in high school. And I suppose when I say ‘what they teach you in high school,’ I mean the collection of stuff that it’s very difficult and rare to incorporate into your day-to-day life.

At least in my case, I left high school having taken a lot of calculus tests but then going out to live on my own and trying to figure out how the heck I was supposed to find an apartment, what some of the very basics of insurance were, and trying to learn everything else that is typically associated with “real life” as quickly as possible. Granted, I’ve used geometry a few times, but calculus has remained on the shelf.

While my chemistry class did teach me how to sleep in a sitting position, which has been helpful at the occasional wedding (you get away with it if you bring a nice gift), I found that this skill doesn’t really help one to put bread on the table. And the bits and pieces I gleaned about the proper way to balance a chemical formula? Well, they didn’t really help me out much.

The high schooler complaint – “We’re never going to use this!” – is largely correct.

I have since learned that I should really go back and give my English teacher a thank you, but the great bulk of what I learned was, in fact, rather pointless.

How on earth was it that I had spent years in high school – a place I guess I had always assumed would teach me what it was that I needed to know – and then left to discover that I really didn’t know anything of practical value? I mean, I wasn’t a completely helpless case, but most of everything that I really needed to know I learned from my mom and dad.

I suppose that’s largely the way it’s supposed to be, but shouldn’t high school be worth some value?

(Looking for something else to read as well? Check out our free QUICKSTART Guide to what to eat when the power goes out.)

I was pretty frustrated with the entire experience after the fact.

I never let it make me bitter or anything like that, but I did flounder my way through those first few years keeping a mental list of all the things that I wished I had known at the very beginning. As the years went by, I met a lot of other people who were going through the same thing. They had their diploma in their hands, but it didn’t take them long to discover that they felt like they’d been tossed into the deep end of the pool without knowing how to swim.

Sometimes, I think that the reason we go through some things is so that we can help other people through the same thing at a later date. That may not be the reason for everything you go through, but at least it could play a part in some of it. It was because of this that I wrote What School Should Have Taught You: 75 Skills You’ll Actually Use in Life. which we’ve released in paperback format.

This book is a collection of tips written from a big brother perspective for anybody who finds themselves struggling to make sense of a lot of the questions they’re facing in the world around them. Some of the topics covered include compounding interest, how to shop for a car, what a credit score is, how to make small talk without being awkward, how to vote, how to write a resume, how to look at continuing your education, and more. I strove to focus on the basics of what it is you need to know to make it out there.

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If you like big books and cannot lie, you may like What School Should Have Taught You.

I always try to write longer books when I get behind the keyboard (Zombie Choices: An Interactive Story came pretty dang close to reaching the 500-page mark), so What School Should Have Taught You comes in at 284 pages long. I tried to pack as much value between the binding as possible so your reader walks away with not just a book in their hands, but a reference as well.

It may serve as the perfect gift to give your high school graduate, high school senior, or college student as they begin the great journey of making their own way out there in the world. So, check it out. You can find it on Amazon right now for $15.95, making it an affordable gift for your loved one. I had a lot of fun writing it, and I hope that it will be both beneficial and a blessing to the rookie you have in your life.

About Aden

Aden Tate is a regular contributor to TheOrganicPrepper.com and TheFrugalite.com. Aden runs a micro-farm where he raises dairy goats, a pig, honeybees, meat chickens, laying chickens, tomatoes, mushrooms, and greens. Aden has four published books, The Faithful Prepper The Prepper’s Guide to Post-Disaster Communications, and Zombie Choices.

Aden Tate

Aden Tate

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  • Graduating High School in the latter 70’s, I have to agree. As far as I’m concerned, your Junior and Senior years should be dedicated to Life Skills and not Advanced Placement Classes. I’ve watched AP students struggle with basic life skills through and after college (same as I did after High School). Lord knows I made my share of mistakes and then some. Some were very costly.
    Learning is a life long task in my humble opinion, and there’s very little that isn’t worth learning. To those day I can’t do a quadratic equation to save my life, but I can count the floor tile length and width of a room to estimate how much flooring it will require to replace it. The latter skill I’ve used for 40+ years, the former one, I’ve never used.

    I’m going to add this book to my list if “Pick this up ASAPs.” Not for myself so much but for the Granddaughter 2 years away from graduating High School.
    Thanks Aden.

  • Yeah. I remember home economics.
    We spent like two weeks, might of been longer, learning to sew.
    Then, one day learning to cook an omelet.
    I do not recall anything about finances.
    I also recall asking myself when would I ever use algebra?
    Geometry, yeah there are a few times when building something.
    English, should be able to read and write correctly. Not that I am good at it.
    Biology, anatomy and physiology, chemistry, all of those things have come in use, especially when it comes to growing things.

    Aden, if I know of any one with Jr or high schoolers, I will buy your book as a gift. The sooner they read it, the better off they will be. If I were homeschooling, I would incorporate your book into the curriculum.

    • To add, why limit it to just K-12?
      I recall having to take a whole host of courses in college I would never use, yet pay for, just to fulfill “liberal education requirements.”
      My daughter had to take some DEI courses to met a made up requirement.

  • Ramsey has a book for teenagers that deal with finances. My nephew was going to Castle Hill, but moved to another school that was suppose to have the programs that dealt with his educational needs. This is a boy, who in first grade, was not allowed to read any books below fifth grade level. He is in 9th grade right now. However, Castle Hills school has Dave Ramsey come in to teach the senior students on applying for grants every year. This way they did not burden their parents with the cost of their advance education. One book I read made sense. Bing Crosby said he wrote it for college graduates, however it would be better for high school students. It covered the issue as to what job were you qualified for after four years of liberal arts. Only thing was to become teachers to teach liberal arts to other students who won’t have a job in four years either. Oprah had a show interviewing different graduates who were stocking shelves or working at Starbucks despite having degrees. Schools no longer are teaching skills like automatics, wood working, etc. Even home economics is not about sewing, cooking, etc. It is about a mechanical doll that is suppose to teach you about the problems of having a child as a teenager.

    • You beat me to the punch with Dave Ramsey. His “Total Money Makeover” and companion workbook are my standard wedding gifts. To paraphrase on of his frequent comments: “Debt is dumb, cash is king, and the paid off home mortgage is a status symbol beyond anything with 2 or more wheels”.

  • I graduated high school in the late 1970s. My first college roommate was useless. He couldn’t do a thing for himself. He didn’t know to wrap food before putting it in the fridge. Hell, his mother used to drive 90 miles to bring groceries, and also cook his meals. She brought up cooked bacon once! He did have a kick ass stereo and a Trans Am, though.

    I had to sit him down and give him “the talk” about how to do stuff. He used to toss all of his laundry in “warm” and put in a cup of washing machine detergent. I asked if he chose to have maroon underwear after his TAMU t-shirts went in there.

    He’s a college professor now. And he’s single… lol

  • Coping in today’s world is vastly different from when I finished high school when most people with typewriters still had only mechanical ones … and the only mention of what would later become cell phones was the pocket communicator that Tom Swift carried in his futurist adventure novels of the late 1940s.

    Even the later pocket calculators (both the algebraic and the RPN logic ones) did not teach in their training manuals how to compensate for the loss of value of one’s money (as the result of government counterfeiting) during the lifetime of a loan one was either going to be paying down or one to be the lender to someone else. In just the last year or so the Federal Reserve has counterfeited some 40% of the US dollars in circulation which as we’ve seen is quickly rippling through the nation’s price structure severely. What is not taught to schoolers is such inflation unfairly benefits the borrower while unfairly stealing purchasing power from the lender — which is why after FDR in 1933 first confiscated privately held gold from the population (while sparing his wealthy buddies holding collector gold coins or any gold outside of this country), private lending quickly dried up …which laid the groundwork for federal Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac operations.

    Because it’s not possible to accurately predict how bad inflation will become, it would be helpful for high school era people to understand the history of hyperinflation in places like the Weimar republic, in Zimbabwe, and in Venezuela to learn how some people survived and why many did not.

    Another topic I’m guessing is not addressed in the “75 items” book is the train wreck headed at us as a part of the globalist plan for cashless economies worldwide to destroy our constitutional protections for property and privacy. The evils of that are covered in this article:

    https://earlking56.family.blog/2022/08/29/the-threat-of-cashless-societies-a-cashless-society-truly-is-a-scary-world-picture-everything-that-youve-read-about-in-history-books-within-other-totalitarian-regimes-and-youll-ge-2/

    A third topic would be multiple reasons for setting up one’s US passport. In the 1940s a typical hospital bill for an uncomplicated childbirth was about $75. Today with the ghastly effects of LBJ’s Medicare, that childbirth figure has risen to about $10,000. (Similar things happened to the price of higher education following the 1958 “National Defense Education Act” making today’s final bill out of reach and reason for millions of people.) One of the single greatest fears of Americans these days is that of being bankrupted by sky high medical bills.

    In contrast to that US $10,000 figure, a similar childbirth cost in Panama runs about $100. That’s just one of countless examples of the extreme benefits of “medical tourism” that people have learned to save their sanity and their financials. That is one mega-reason for keeping one’s US passport current in case of medical emergencies.

    Another possible reason for maintaining that passport is the possible need to bugout offshore, whether short term or very long term (which is often abbreviated as INCH, which means “I’m never coming home.”) I had ancestors who did an INCH bugout (although that terminology wasn’t used in the 1870s) when to avoid being drafted into the Russian army from Ukraine, those who could afford to travel, fled to the US. Their descendants (of those who didn’t emigrate) in Ukraine were starved to death by Stalin in 1932-1933).

    A final topic (which I don’t know if it’s addressed in the “75 items” book) is the wholesale distortion of American history not only by government but even today by the “woke” cult. If you think that Lincoln freed the slaves, you’d be a victim of government court worshiping fake historians. (Lincoln offered the South the right to keep their slaves if they’d just peacefully pay the outrageous taxes Lincoln was trying to collect — and the South refused that offer in February 1865 peace negotiations). What really freed the slaves was Lincoln’s assassination that freed his successors to reinterpret his wartime only proclamation about slaves only in Southern states (that Lincoln didn’t control) into a nationwide declaration of freedom for all slaves. When shot, Lincoln was still in communication with England in his search for some country to DEPORT the slaves to — since the South had refused his offer a few months prior.) Trying to get that accurate history from any government-supervised school book today isn’t going to happen.

    So what does the distortion of history that long ago have to do with high school grads today making decisions that might affect their personal future …if partly based on today’s government announcements on anything? The lesson is that governments lie and lie as a matter of course for their own benefit and future political survival. Making any personal decision if related to such government announcements must be either confirmed or denied by independent evidence.

    –Lewis

  • Aden, I do remember questioning WHY WHY WHY??? do I need to learn this or that. I told myself I will never use this in my life. Guess what I am 74.5 and I have rarely, if ever used much of it, and I found that it was such a waste of time. Cooking, sewing by hand is beneficial, arithmetic and basic history, basic science, my typing classes so I could learn to touch type, SPELLING, ENGLISH (very important) a foreign language if you are going to that country, otherwise why? How to manage your finances, how not to go into excessive debt would be good to know, how to keep a relationship/marriage together would be beneficial. Skills a guy could learn in FFA (future farmers of America) or FHA (future homemakers of America) good learning. Common sense sure came in handy for me. I’ve been okay READING, SPELLING, MATH (MOST IMPORTANT) BUT ALGEBRA AND HIGHER AHHHH, NEVER LEARNED IT AND NEVER NEEDED TO EITHER!!! Shorthand would serve a court reporter and perhaps a few more but not your average person. My nephew turned 9 today so he’s not quite ready for your book!

  • Lots of praise and speculation on a book no one has read.

    A table of contents would be helpful. Without that my “What Life Has Taught Me”experience says buying this book is like paying for a dinner at a restaurant without a menu.

  • We had so many guys sign up for Home Economics, that they changed the name to bachelor living. We learned cooking , sewing and baking. We also learned to balance a check book in my freshman math class.

    Most life skills should be taught by parents. However, I do agree we graduated and didnt use the stuff we learned. we did learn to think in a logical manner though. We have forced our children to grow up faster and therefore take more college prep courses.
    Somewhere around the mid to late 80s we as a society started putting more value into College Education and less value in usable skill sets. The average apprenticeship will take you 2yrs and yield between $50-70K a year after graduating and a garaunteed job. College degrees take 4+yrs and yield you $100+K in debt and maybe a job.

  • I use a lot math skills in my job – not so much formulas but problem solving. And the driving 90 miles driving mom to bring was on steroids by 2004. Fed Ex of the latest video game, calling to wake up said college student, cleaning dorm rooms and doing laundry. I also suspect a few helicopters that emailed professors and/or audited classes in which their boy (and yes, there were ALL boys and likely still not men) was taking.
    Both my kids took Consumer Ed, as did I – mandatory for graduation in our state.
    Some of the life skills mentioned in the comments *should* have been taught at home.
    And yes, even college classes aren’t real life. Very few are given a project and n weeks to do it WITHOUT umpteen changes to the specs of said project.

  • Great topic!

    I will add (or chime in on) the following:

    * Basic computer and internet literacy. Research skills. Critical thinking. A formal study of logic. Typing (so glad my parents made me take this class).

    * Consumer math: checkbook (or Quicken, some kind of budgeting system), taxes, wise use of credit cards and debit, how loans work, basic saving and investing. Budgeting.

    * Basic food stuff. Planning, shopping for, preserving or storing, safe handling, a few basic dishes (scrambled eggs, red sauce for pasta, rice and beans, roasted chicken and veggies). Meal planning.

    * Basic car maintenance: (for someone like me who still can’t change my car’s oil): changing a tire, windshield wiper replacement, various fluids and their replacements, changing oil.

    * Basic sewing: fixing a fallen hem, patching or repairing a hole, toes of socks, sewing on different kinds of buttons. Basic laundry care. Maybe some shoe repair or construction of simple garments.

    * Basic first aid: bandaging, burns, eye wash, splinters, sprains and strains, insect bites, pain relief, sunburns, etc.

    * Civics. American and world history. The Constitution and Bill of Rights. Appropriate reading material to supplement.

    * Basic home stuff: clogged toilets, AC filters, fireplace/stove safety, electrical boxes, pests, water.

    * Some basic horticulture: growing food in pots or a garden, compost/pests/fertilizers, preserving food. Basic care for pets and other animals.

    It occurs to me that a lot of this isn’t traditional high school curricula. But these were some of the things I wish I had knows as I entered the real world.

  • When my kids were little, I decided to teach them age appropriate chores. By the time they graduated high school, they knew how to:
    write thank you notes
    cook simple dinners
    balance a checkbook
    clean the house
    outdoor chores such as mowing, basic gardening skills
    money smarts such as thrift, budgeting
    how to find a good mechanic (don’t laugh, I couldn’t teach them squat)
    do laundry
    how to pick battles and when to stay silent
    the difference between fact and opinion
    worship and church duties
    kindness, mercy, and trust in God
    every other practical daily chore

    Also as they were going out on their own, I gave them a complete tool set including a hammer, level, a set of screw drivers, a drill, etc. They are now in their forties and fifties and doing fine, still using the things and skills learned at home.
    That’s my point. Much of this should be taught at home. Do not blame the schools.

    I will add this: teach your children how to think for themselves. With what is going on in school now, I wouldn’t trust the education system (an oxymoron to be sure). And Aden is correct. A lot of it is drivel, pure and simple.

  • My son is currently in 6th grade and I can already see what a waste some of these classes are. Yet they only have PE twice a week and art once a week. In my opinion using your artistic mind is extremely important for development and no one can deny the importance of exercise. He goes to a Lutheran school so of course they focus on religion. Last year was the first time he brought home history homework. Upon looking at his book I realized the history he’s learning is religious related, not traditional American/world history. We’ve decided it’s a better trade off than what they’re teaching at most public schools these days. He’s a critical thinker like us so I don’t worry too much about him being persuaded in any direction. He also wants to be an archaeologist so he has the science mentality and wants proof of everything lol.

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