6 classes every well-rounded person needs

bookWhat are the best subjects to learn for business – and life – success?

If anyone sat down to identify the perfect secondary (and maybe college) education, I doubt they would come up with today’s average American curriculum. While there are plenty of courses in basic skills (reading, writing, mathematics, and so on) many other just as critical basic skills are overlooked (personal finance, homemaking, health/physical education). What are some of the critical components missing from our national curriculum?

From my own personal experience, I can suggest a few, but there are probably many more you can think of easily. I could also bash a few courses I took, but an argument can always be made for “knowledge for knowledge’s sake.” I believe that sincerely. I have never, for example, “used” A Tale of Two Cities in my day-to-day life, but I’m glad I was forced to read it, stuck with it and finished it. Experiences like that created a love of reading for me. Other subjects I guess can be chalked up to “generally good to know although not terribly useful.” For me this included subjects like biology and mythology (one semester of “English” was actually spent studying mythology, which apparently means “Greek mythology” since we didn’t study anything else). While both were interesting, I didn’t learn much from either except that I don’t like biology and that you shouldn’t steal fire from the gods.

Here are a few subjects that would be very useful, and why:

1. Typing. Out of all of the courses I’ve taken in my life, this one has made the most profound difference in my daily life. I took a typing course in high school, back when it meant learning to pound out “the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog” 500 times on a MANUAL typewriter. However, the experience taught me how to type, and very, very well, which means I can blaze away typing even while carrying on a conversation or reading something else. Really.
2. Speech. I took a public speaking class that changed my life. Before that class, like everyone, I was nervous about speaking. After it, I was still nervous, but I learned that it was a temporary nervousness and that anything was possible. We had to give speeches to groups, recite monologues, debate, take questions and almost any type of “speaking in front of a crowd” activity you can think of. To this day I am relaxed and confident speaking to any group; I have addressed 2000 people or 10 board directors with equal calm.
3. Personal finance. I didn’t ever take a personal finance course, and I wish I had. Everything I learned about finance before college came from my parents, my grandparents or my own reading. A course that taught me things they weren’t as familiar with or not as proficient with – real estate dealings come to mind – would have been a great learning experience for me. That having been said, I’m sure personal finance would use textbooks sponsored by Capital One and tout the benefit of home equity loans to consolidate credit card debt.
4. Physical education. As a varsity athlete I was exempt from physical education, but I wish I hadn’t been. Learning to do some very basic “normal” training would have been helpful. I focused all of my energy on preparation for one sport (tennis) rather than general fitness. This had disastrous results later in life.
5. Homemaking. Don’t laugh. I think learning how to cook could save this country billions in health care costs. Imagine if people could actually prepare healthy food at home. My mother is a terrific cook, and I never had any motivation throughout high school to learn how to cook. I went straight from there to a fraternity house where meals were provided. When I finally started living on my own, my gourmet best was frozen pizza…
6. Civics. I took a civics course, but it was ridiculous. My wife, who is an immigrant, was required to undergo detailed testing before she obtained US citizenship on the Constitution, US history and civic life. Now, it may not be necessary for everyone in this country to know how many Congressmen there are or how many Supreme Court justices there are (although they should) but everyone should know the Bill of Rights and their civic duties (jury duty and so on).

You could go on, but these are some basic courses that would make a big difference in the US population. They are not taught often enough, and it’s a shame they aren’t. I am amazed to this day when I see people hunt-and-peck on the keyboard – not because I blame them, but because that’s not a basic required course for graduation from high school today. The same goes for the other 5 subjects up there. It’s hard to say when they will be required – or if they ever will be – but we can hope.

  • http://www.moneysmartsblog.com/ FourPillars

    Great list – I couldn’t agree more about the typing.

    I would imagine most people would be taking typing courses in school these days? (I hope).

    Mike

  • http://www.moneysmartsblog.com/ FourPillars

    I would also suggest a course in maintaining a home/condo. This could be part of the home making course.

  • http://paradigmshifted.org/ deepali

    Completely agree! I’d add into the homemaking course a section on nutrition (or it could be part of phys ed). Now that would save tons on health care costs.

    And a double yes on civics. Where I live, a good number of the people that actually show up for jury duty are naturalized citizens.

  • http://fathersez.wordpress.com/ fathersez

    I am also in agreement, and I would like to toss into the hat, time management and sales training.

    Hope the educators are listening.

  • Pamela

    2 more I’d add – ethics and manners. I head up recruiting for a large company and I can’t tell you how many interviewees (AND interviewers) I have seen who don’t even know the basics of manners. Not taking a phone call during an interview comes to mind as does having a decent handshake (hate those dead fish handshakes), hand over your mouth when you sneeze or cough…and well I could go on and on.

  • t h rive

    Alrighty, I see what you’re getting at.

    I agree that the typing class is important; but I think a Business Writing course would be more fitting there. Formal and technical writing skills will take you far in the workplace.

    Speech. Yes, nice one. Presentation skills are something that shouldn’t be neglected.

    Homemaking, phys ed, and finance – though I wish I have more of em coming out of highschool (finance for sure) – can all be learning by personal reading on the internet and more. Especially with blogs like this, ya know?!

  • http://plonkee.com plonkee

    Yes, to typing. The amount of practice I’ve had means that I can practically touch type by now and at a good pace, it’s not super fast but it’s good enough. The number of men that I’ve seen that are still practically at the hunt and peck stage is pretty abysmal.

  • http://www.guinness416.com guinness416

    Where’d you do the speech class; was it a Toastmasters thing?

    Mike’s suggestion of a home maintenance class is great too. I work in construction, which you’d think would help, but after many years of apartment living I still get blindsided by something I “should be” doing every so often with the house.

  • http://www.bripblap.com Steve

    No, speech class was just a high school speech class. I think I may do Toastmasters soon, though.

    Home maintenance would definitely be another good one, and ethics/manners would be very good. I’m amazed by how many people have awful manners in this day and age, too. Time management and sales training would be good – I could use those myself.

    And to an earlier comment by Mike – I have no idea whether typing is more common nowadays. My sister-in-law, who is just finishing high school, never took it, and I don’t think any of her classmates did, either. You would think they would be taking it, wouldn’t you?

  • http://www.lazymanandmoney.com Lazy Man

    We were required to take cooking (or home economics) in school.

    I’ve been thinking of doing Toastmasters as well.

  • http://www.thefinancialblogger.com The Financial Blogger

    I don’t know how it is in the States, but in Canada, I only learned “typing” and I did sport at school. For everything else, I had to learn it by myself (personal finance and speaking being rougher to learn by your own!)

  • http://www.dollarfrugal.com Dollarfrugal

    How about a nutrition class? Or maybe this could be incorporated into their P.E./homemaking class. So many kids these days (as well as adults) are overweight, and it affects everyone’s healthcare costs.