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things school never taught me girl at desk reading

23 Things School Never Taught Me – An Honest Opinion About the Educational System

You’ve probably seen me around here complaining about school, about how much I used to hate it as a kid and so on. Well… the moment of truth is here! I mostly hated school because I had to wake up early almost every single morning. This was killing me. For someone who loves getting a good night sleep and wake up (almost) naturally, it was excruciating. Later, when I got a little older, I realised that school was not teaching me anything useful for real life.

Related: Why Becoming a Morning Person is the Best Thing Ever

Before you start fracking out, let’s clarify something:

I do not hate or dissagree with the idea and concept of education. I truly believe that education can do a lot of good, but you need to learn how to educate yourself, rather than be educated by others. I’m not against the education, but the system.

Good. Now that we clarified this, there’s another point I feel I should emphasize. Some things on my list I actually learnt in school, but they were not the major focus, so I choose to include them in the list anyway. Here are 23 things school never taught me and I wish it would.

things school never taught me girl at desk reading

1. The good manners in society

And I don’t mean any fru-fru royalty manners. Basic things like men should take their hats when they go inside, while ladies shouldn’t, who salutes first and so on.

I know what you will say: “Buy your parents should have thought you some good manners!”. True, I agree. They did. But once you start going to school and pretty much live with other strangers in a classroom you need some new social knowledge.

I was lucky enough to have a wonderful teacher who was giving us some tips and tricks about good manners. She was actually reading us some fragments about good manners and I thank her for that; she made me wanna learn more about it.

2. How to be proactive

Stressed out teachers can send only negative feelings.

3. What productivity means

I think we actually learn what productivity is in a hard way during school. With all the classes, projects, homework and maybe some social life, you kind of have to be productive if you want to survive school.

4. How to identify my personal values and stick to them

5. How to deal with money and a budget

I guess we’re not taught how to master a budget because no one actually nails his finances.

6. How to write my CV

7. How to behave at a job interview

School it’s said to ‘prepare’ us for the labour market. Or at least that’s what they told me, they told you something different? When I went to my first real job interview, I realised school taught me pretty much everything but not how to get a job.

8. How to cook

I know this is a skill that you kind of learn by yourself, but… aren’t you suppose to eat in order to survive?

It can be difficult indeed to host cooking classes on a regular basis, but a partnership with a restaurant that will allow bringing a class a few times per year won’t be impossible.

9. How to get directions

Thank God Google Maps was invented meanwhile because I have no idea how to read a traditional map. I know! I’m embarrassed with myself, but I have 0 skills when it comes to directions. That’s probably because I spent almost 20 years being ‘educated’ only indoors.

10. More in-depth social skills

11. How to vote

I’m really annoyed by this one. All they tell you is that it’s your right and you should go vote! But no one tells how the F is done! How do you take the correct decision? Which takes us to my next point…

12. How different political currents actually work

I’m not a fan of politics. But if you study some (real) history, things have the tendency to repeat themselves. Which basically means if you study how and what different cultural and political current did throughout history, you might actually know what decision to make.

13. What and why we pay taxes

… to keep the economy going is not a good enough explanation for a teenager.

14. How to start your own business

I actually had a class that was meant to teach us some basic things about legal issues to start a business. Of course, literature and math were more important so we didn’t get too much time to actually study the subject properly.

15. Our own rights (and obligations) as an individual of the society

Obviously, behave yourself, be nice don’t steal from other people and so on.

I had a class about human right’s and ECthR (The European Court of Human Rights) in the 4th grade. Do you know how old I was in 4th grade? 10! I remember literally nothing because 1. it’s been a long time ago and 2. at 10 I did understood the concept of human rights.

16. How to do groceries

I pretty basic skill for an adult who lives surrounded by other people, I would say…

17. How do document yourself for real

I truly believe that information is power. Being able to document yourself properly and tell which information is actually good and real and not let yourself completely brainwashed and manipulated can prove lifesaving.

18. How to draw the line for pretty much everything

Lots of adults don’t or can’t say “No” and they end up being burnout.

19. Basic psychology knowledge

Maybe they couldn’t anticipate that in 30 years we’ll all be crazy and that they should start thinking about it 50 years ago about this.

But we live in a crazy world where, while someone is dying because they don’t have food to eat, someone else kills himself because – even if he has a home and food to eat – he’s not happy. Mental health is real, is an illness like any other and can be treated. So I think it can be vital to identify when you or someone dear to you start showing signs of depression.

20. Decent public speaking

And saying a speech by heart or read it in front of the class is not public speaking.

21. Everything banking related (credits, debit cards, exchanges rates, etc)

I’m still scared of banks and credits. Because I never actually understood what they’re doing. I’ve always seen the banks as something shady.

22. A good investment mindset

23. First aid procedures

I have a Red Cross First Aid Certificate, which basically means that in case of an emergency I’m capable and certified to apply first aid procedures, in case there is no medical support around. The main reason I decided to learn first aid techniques was that I didn’t want to be useless to the community I was living. I wanted to be able to help someone – stranger or loved one – in case they needed help.

Meanwhile, I also discovered that it made me feel safer and more confident because I know if I’d suffer an accident (and I’d still be conscious) I know what I have to do.

So, what do all these mean?

… you would say. Does it mean that I shouldn’t go to school anymore?

Definitely not! What you’ve just read is the ugly truth of the educational system. If you’re still in school, you probably started to ask yourself questions like “How are all these complicated math equations going to help me figure out life?” or “Why I’m letting someone else labelling me as brilliant or idiot based on a grade?”. We have all been there. Including our parents.

And here is the second ugliest truth of them all: you still have to do it. Why? Because that’s how society works. Without that diploma, your chances of succeeding in life will be lower.

Then what should I do?

Well, as someone who got rid of school all I can tell you is to enjoy it and make the most out of it. Enjoy spending time with your friends and your favourite teachers. Try to identify the good part in everything. In my case, for example, I hated math. Until I realised (even if the things we were learning were not very useful for everyday life) that it was helping me to develop a rational mindset and think more strategic.

Last but not least, use these years to experiment and realise what path you want to follow in life. If you want to become an engineer or a doctor, you’ll need those math and chemistry classes. Also physics.

What are your feelings regarding the educational system? Maybe you’re a parent and your kid is in school. How do you keep him motivated to get to school? What pieces of advice would you give to your younger self about the educational system?

Which other things school never taught you?

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  • I guess I was fortunate to get at least some of these skills in high school. A lot of them were electives though, so it wasn’t required for everyone. But we had public speaking, psychology, college prep (which taught stuff like resumes, interviews, as well) as options. And everyone had to take a government class their senior year, which taught us a lot about how to vote (and had everyone fill out voter registration forms) and human rights. But I think schools are definitely lacking more “life skills” lessons, like groceries, budgeting, credit cards, etc. I’d love to see that integrated more.

  • Fiona Jing

    Did you go to school in the States?

  • I enjoy school…but then again, I was homeschooled up until college, so I’m pretty sure that influenced my mindset. Cooking was definitely part of our school, as we cooked lunch and dinner for the family every day! With the result that when I got married I never worried the least bit about being able to grocery shop and prepare all the meals for my new household. I did public speaking competitions in high school and really enjoyed that! I think public speaking is a very important skill! The “life skills” sorts of lessons are very important to me and I definitely work to incorporate them with the students I get to work with!

  • I gained a lot of these skills in high school and college. But I also went to a college prep school, so they wanted use to learn more than just the basics to get by. I do feel like some basic necessities aren’t taught like real life budgeting, but I also feel like it’s apart of life and you learn. School isn’t there to teach you everything about life, but to help you gain the knowledge to figure out what will work best for you in the future.

    The Felicia Renee | a minimalist lifestyle & beauty blog

  • I got to learn some of this in school depending on which subjects I decided to choose from. I went for a few public speaking and debates which was sort of forced but still ended up doing it, not that I’m that good at public speaking in any way. Schools are different depending on where you to high school or college, but at the end of it all life does teach us a lot of stuff.

  • Corey Wheeland

    This is a great list. I think it’s amazing that schooling these days doesn’t even really begin to teach essential life skills like those you listed. How to “adult” is so much more important than complex math problems!

    • Agree! Also, I think it’s easier for “the system” to treat everyone as equals (when we’re obviously very different as individuals).

  • I definitely agree that the public education system is lacking. I think a lot of public school is about 1) Getting a place for kids to be all day so adults in society can work 2) Teaching the bare minimum. While I am all about public education, it wasn’t until college that I developed critical thinking and I am still learning a lot the adulting tasks. You’re so right school doesn’t teach cooking or budgeting or personal values. I think education leaves a lot of that up to parents and/or individuals so I guess we have to ask what are the goals of education and how are those being met?

    • Couldn’t agree more!
      Well, honestly I think the goal of the educational system is to ‘brainwash’ the kids so they will ‘fit’ in the society (get a 9-to-5 job, pay taxes etc.)

  • We are currently having an election in NZ and so when it came to voting I was like what the heck do I do? I was actually juts thinking that they should have taught us more about this stuff in school! I’d also would have loved to have learnt how to budget properly.

  • Courtney Hill

    This is a great list, its good to see that I am not the only one who thinks this. I learned how to balance a checkbook in 5th grade, but after that it was never brought up again! I wish they focused more on what is expected of you after you finish school than history and math. Yes they are useful subjects, but knowing how to pay taxes and fill out paperwork to get a loan or mortgage I think is a bit more important.

    • I agree you can take up subjects like history or literature by yourself. You can actually learn history from the internet, documentaries or books, but only if you truly want or have too. It’s so sad because everyone seems to be aware of these issues, but no one does anything to improve the system.

  • This is exactly why I don’t teach High School English anymore! I felt like there was so much more beyond analyzing grammar structures that I wanted to teach my students, but had to work on hitting all of the state standards and school evaluation markers in order to keep our state-funding!

    • This is so sad. Maybe agreeing with the students to spend an extra hour after school to learn about this kind of things will help. It’s true that extra time needed from both sides (teachers and pupils) but it shouldn’t be wasted time is they learn something valuable.

  • I think most education completely lacks on everything you listed about. I wish there was more education in school on the basic adulting type things. Even something as simple as how to write out a check or balance a check book most young adults have no idea how to do! There should be some sort of class in high school that teaches these basic life type skills.

  • Just today I was thinking that project management should be more of a focus. Not just deadlines but learning how to make the moving parts of a project and life come together.

  • John Mulindi

    I agree with you, there are things we only learn as soon as we step out into the real world.

  • Very interesting article. Totally agree with numbers 12-16, and all things that I think should be essential curriculum topics. It feels to me as if the world is changing very very quickly, and the job market with it, but education is lagging behind hugely… Rx

    • True, the labour market changes quickly, but the basic skills needed to get a job, interact with a group and so on won’t change so much.

  • Venessa Hryhoriw

    AHHH this article is so refreshing because it says everything I’ve always thought. There are so many things lacking in our education systems right now that are actual useful life skills. It’s almost like you hit adulthood and all of a sudden you have to learn hundreds of new skills no one prepped you for.

  • chasingcalmblog

    Soooo interesting! While I have a lot of respect for education, we’ve become so focused on standardized testing that curriculums are narrow and fluid conversation around childrens’ natural curiosity is compromised. Old fashioned home economics (see cooking and grocery shopping) are a thing of the past. Thoughtful article!

  • Kay

    There’s SO much stuff that I had no idea about before going in to college. And now that I am graduated I’m having to go back a reread some things to make sure I’m all good on student loans and stuff. Real life is hard! Lol.

  • Maya Maceka

    This is SO accurate Cristina! School doesn’t really teach you how to be an adult or even function in society! It’s a very backwards system. You’re starting quite the interesting discussion here!