~From U.S History to English Composition, you learn a lot in the classroom. Elementary school through college is essentially a period of constant learning. Even though school does teach you a ton of information, I feel four life subjects need to be emphasized more. If these four things are focused on, we have the potential to decrease many problems we face in the U.S today.~
1. Mental and Physical Health
- “46 percent of Americans will meet the criteria for a diagnosable mental health condition sometime in their life, and half of those people will develop conditions by the age of 14 (Mental Health America, 2020).”
- Nearly 40% of American adults aged 20 and over are obese. 71.6% of adults aged 20 and over are overweight, including obesity. (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, 2020).
- About 80 percent of U.S. adults and children aren’t getting enough exercise for optimal health (Heart Health, 2018).”
Physical and mental health are the most important things on this earth. You can argue with me about this, but it’s true. Money, happiness, religion, family, education, all are extremely important in someone’s life. However, without your health, how can you put your full effort towards those things?
Given that both mental and physical health affect the way you live your life, I think it should be a priority to understand them.
Mental health has impacted millions and millions of people all around the world. In U.S colleges, it often takes 2-3 weeks to get an appointment with the counseling center. 2-3 weeks of chronic depression and anxiety can feel like a lifetime to many. Mental health issues are not determined by age/sex/race either. They are recurrent throughout individuals’ lives no matter what their gender or skin color is. You can be the richest and most educated person in the world but still suffer from depression. You hear it all the time. Famous athletes like Michael Phelps, Kevin Love, Serena Williams all struggled with depression at some point in their lives. It is a hard subject to talk about, but it is needed in our society today.
In addition to understanding mental health, I believe people need to learn how to talk about it. Being quick to judge almost always results in the situation being worse. I feel like people use the excuse of “someone has it a lot worse than me”, even if that is true, that doesn’t stop pain. It is false positive reassurance that is only temporary. We need to be taught at a young age how to talk to people experiencing depressive symptoms, and what we can do to make the situation better.
Course Examples: Meditation and Journaling, Understanding Anxiety and Depression, How To Talk To People Experiencing A Mental Illness, Recognizing Depressive Symptoms, How To Genuinely Think Positive.
Physical health, aka what keeps you alive, should also get more recognition in schools. After graduating college, many individuals get wrapped up in a 9-5 job. They have little time to workout and cook for themselves. This leads to poor decisions, like eating fast food and never going to the gym. Putting more emphasis on how to live a healthy lifestyle is very much needed in our classrooms. It should be consistent and take place as early as elementary school. A half semester of health in high school will not do much.
Learning how to cook a healthy meal, how to find time in your day to hit the gym, and even learning types of diets that give positive results. All of these can be taught in the classroom! Eating healthy and working out aren’t always easy at times, however I think they are priorities that individuals need to focus on to ensure a life free of preventable diseases. When you workout, you feel good about yourself…this is because your brain releases serotonin throughout your body (full explanation here). There are a ton of benefits associated with eating well and working out. We must place a heavy emphasis on these benefits in order to prioritize them in our lives.
Course Examples: The Impact of Working Out Six Days A Week, The Negative Effects Fast Food Has on Your Body, Prioritizing Good Habits, Meal Preparation and Cooking Basics, Exercising Without Weights or a Gym.
2. Financial Literacy
- “According to Experian’s 2019 Consumer Debt Study, total consumer debt in the U.S. is at $14.1 trillion, with Americans carrying an average personal debt of $90,460 (Calonia, 2020).”
- “Among the Class of 2019, 69% of college students took out student loans, and they graduated with an average debt of $29,900 (Student Loans Hero, 2020).”
- Almost 20% of people earning between $30,000 and $100,000 said they spent more than they earned — an increase of more than 4 percentage points from last year (Picchi, 2019).”
I learned more about money through two books than any other class I ever took in school. The first book is called Rich Dad Poor Dad, written by Robert Kiyosaki. The book teaches its readers that many are stuck in this so-called “rat race”. The rat race is essentially a continuous cycle of buying liabilities. Liabilities can be labeled as a house, cars, loans, and so on. When people get a promotion at work or start making more money on their freelance projects, they tend to increase their spending. You’ll owe more money when you upgrade to a bigger house, nicer car, faster computer, etc.
Kiyosaki urges individuals to invest in assets rather than liabilities. For example, Roth IRA’s, stocks, bonds, savings accounts, target date funds… basically anything that grows in value over an extended period of time. If you don’t, you’ll wind up paying 25% of your income to the government, and the rest of it to life necessities and wants.
The second book I read is called FU Money by Dan Lok. This book focuses more on the perceptions that people have about money. Lok says that money gives you the freedom to pursue things in life that you aspire to achieve. However, you should not seek money, you should seek financial freedom. He says that the majority of people around the world believe “money is evil” and “the rich are greedy”. Lok says this has been taught to us from a young age. Truth is, some of the richest people in the world are the most selfless people you’ll ever meet. “Money makes good people better and bad people worse.” Remember that statement! If you want to be rich, don’t let people with negative perceptions about money hold you back.
I firmly believe that if more financial literacy classes are taught in school, debt will be lowered and people will invest in assets. In addition, students will have a better idea of how to pay back their student loans, and assess their living expenses on an entry level salary. Filing taxes is just another example of something that young adults struggle with. You don’t need to be a finance major to manage your money properly. However, I do think you need to be taught good money habits in school.
Something to keep in mind: Making money should not be the end goal. It is a tool that you use to help you achieve freedom in specific areas of life. If you want to become a millionaire and donate 98% to cure COVID-19, it is your choice! That is the beauty of financial freedom.
Course Examples: Budgeting On A Low Salary, Filing Taxes, Interest and Loans, Why Lottery Winners Go Broke, The Perceptions About Money.
3. Independent Thinking
- “The Pew Research Center’s report also found that nine-in-ten (88%) of Americans also recognized that social media companies now have at least some control over the mix of the news that people see each day (Suciu, 2019).”
- The second most crucial skill to have in 2020 is critical thinking (Philosophy.HK, 2020).
- “Forty-one percent of young adults who identify strongly with a political party will use their favorite news source to make decisions about candidates, and 49 percent of these young adults will do the same when making decisions about policies to support (Knight Foundation, 2019).”
The stories you hear on the news are dividing us into what we pledged to not be, two nations. Dramatized news stories are intended to cause panic and fear within our society. Now we even have social media, which the majority of Gen Zers get their information from. Almost every current event is now political. It is hard for young individuals to decide which side to take.
As we grow older, we develop life experiences that shape what we believe. Progressive vs Conservative. Republican vs Democrat. Green vs Libertarian.
One thing I like to stress is that you do not need to affiliate with a political party to feel included. You believe what you choose to believe. I think schools do a bad job of emphasizing independent thought. Being a political science major in college, almost everything was about division. Republicans did this, democrats did that, you were forced to consume information on a daily basis about the wrong decisions that people have made. It’s hard to stay a centrist when the professors themselves are politically biased. Therefore I think schools need to focus on developing independent thinking without being ridiculed.
You can be pro-choice but also want a flat tax system. Or you can be a supporter of environmental regulations but also an advocate of capitalism. You formulate your own thoughts. It is great to pay attention to the news and read opinion posts, however I think people need to strive to understand both sides. Of course there will be some things that you feel super passionate about, and that is totally understandable. However, I disagree with individuals labeling and generalizing political parties without actually engaging in necessary conversations.
Fun fact: according to Gallup polling, 40% of Americans describe themselves as independent. However, third party candidates only received a combined 5% of general election votes in 2016. This seems somewhat illogical to me. American confusion or party dominance? Comment below your thoughts.
Students also need to be taught the impact of social media. If you say something on Instagram, realize that people WILL react. A lot of things over text can be taken out of context. Therefore it is very possible to grow an image on social media that people will dislike you for.! Assessing what you put on social media is part of critical thinking. I think Newton said it best, “For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.” If schools taught how to manage social media decisions, I think there would be less negative stigma surrounding these apps.
Course Examples: Managing Social Media, Introduction To Independent Thinking, Filtering Information, The Two Party System, Agenda Pushing.
4. Professional Development
- “[A] telephone survey of 1,002 employed adults found that 92% of Americans are stressed by at least one thing about the job interview process (Corinthian Colleges, 2013).”
- Executive applicants do not understand the dynamics of the job search process, from knowing their value, to their inability to connect their relevant accomplishments with the employer’s needs (Self, John. 2018).”
- “Learning to interview [in high school] builds a range of communication skills (Edutopia. 2020).”
In my senior year of college, I completed 28 interviews. 28! Was this due to a lack of certainty on my part? Of course. However, I was also extremely underprepared for my first couple of interviews. I didn’t know how to talk about myself, apply my past experiences to the job description, explain how I would benefit the company, what my strengths and weaknesses were, etc.
You go to college to learn and get a job. In order to get a job, you must interview. I was taught nothing about interviewing in high school. Even in college, I had no way to consistently practice for interviews. Therefore, I think it should be part of a curriculum to study interviewing, learn how to properly write a resume, and know how to network with company recruiters and managers. I personally think if I was taught more about professional development in my classes, I would not have had to do 28 interviews to finally find a job that I wanted.
In addition, I think applicants need to know when to accept and when to deny a job offer. A lot of college students hop on the first job offer they get out of college, which they wind up quitting within two years. A lot of these students realize too late that there are opportunities that would’ve been a lot better fit for them. Students should be taught about entry level salaries, relocation assistance, employee benefits, qualifications, expectations, and much more. This will help them assess if an entry level job is worth accepting depending on their circumstances.
Students also need to be prepared for, “I got a job offer in New York City, now what?” The ability to answer career oriented questions before your career actually begins is important. Given that many “entry level jobs” require years of experience, gaining an upperhand in any way possible is essential.
Something to keep in mind: Everybody can interview well if they practice. Interviewing is one of those things where you become better and better at it over time. Try not to get discouraged if you get denied from a job, keep improving and practicing. Think about your circumstances before you accept a job offer.
Course Examples: How To Talk About Yourself, Assessing Your Strengths and Weaknesses, Evaluating Whether To Accept a Job Offer, The Importance of Networking, The Art of Negotiation.
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