Life skills

Posted: January 27, 2012

Life requires more than math and science

There are financial, practical and personal lessons that young adults need to know before heading off to college that are just as essential to success as high school Math and English

By Frances Hoekstra, Talon Staff Writer

How to pay taxes, how to create a budget, how to constructively criticize a friend and how to change the oil in a car. Which of these can you do?

The classes offered at Minnehaha and schools around the country provide valuable and necessary information, but young people aren’t learning basic life skills that are necessary for a generation predicted to be consumed by debt.

There are financial, practical and personal lessons that young adults need to know before heading off to college that are just as essential to success as high school math and English.

It’s safe to say that most Minnehaha students have never had to pay a mortgage or climb their way out of debt. According to a recent report by Demos, a public policy “think tank,” our generation, Generation Y (also known as the Millennial Generation and consists of those born from the 1980s to 2000), is the first in a century that is likely to end up less financially well-off than their parents. The report also stated that as a result of the recession fewer health benefits from employers and an increase in expenses and debt will be huge contributors to financial instability for Generation Y.

(According to the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis) Minnesota high schools are not required to offer personal finance courses, though proposed new standards would recommend covering this topic in a social-studies course.

Business teacher Julie Johnson makes sure to include a personal finance unit in her introduction to business class, which is not a required course at Minnehaha.

“Learn how to establish and maintain good credit,” said Johnson. ” Credit doesn’t have to be a negative or scary thing if you know how to use it responsibly.”

Johnson also advises not to impulse buy but rather think through if you already have the money to make a purchase.

Personal finance is an area that many high school students are unfamiliar with, which is an issue that needs to be addressed considering all high school students will be expected to manage their own finances at some point, and as soon as next year for many seniors.

“[Young people should know] the value of work and money, how to be responsible with a bank account and learning how to put a little [money] away,” said sacred studies teacher Dan Bergstrom.

Economics teacher David Hoffner has his own opinions on the most important aspects of personal finance.

“All students should know how to set up a basic budget, understand the terms to a credit card agreement and obtain a loan from a bank,” said Hoffner.

In addition to being aware of what is going on with their own finances, young people should also learn how to evaluate trends in the economy in order to make better decisions regarding their personal economic situation.

“[Young people] should know how to manage interest rates and how to watch the economy, so that you can tell when it’s a good time to make a large investment,”said English teacher Nelly Patterson.

Personal finance isn’t the only area of life that requires attention and a constant, conscious effort. Building strong personal relationships is essential to interpersonal success.

“[It’s important to know] how to constructively criticize a friend,” said Patterson.

How to effectively interact with others is a huge contributor to success in personal relationships, but how you appear to others should not be forgotten.

“Above all is humility,” said Hoffner. “It’s hard to be around people who don’t recognize how little they know. I think that the wisest people recognize that, and  [these] are the most endearing and lovable people. Those are the people you want to be around.”

Another overarching part of personal success is time management. It’s important to find a balance between working hard and finding time to relax and surrounding yourself with people who are different from you.

“[It’s important to have] an openness to say ‘You might see life differently than I do, but we can share our perspectives with one another,'” said Bergstrom.

Practically speaking, there are countless tasks that are necessary to live efficiently that many young adults still need to learn. A commonly recommended skill for young people is to know how to cook.

“I think learning how to cook and being able to feed oneself without fast food is a good practical skill,” said substitute teacher and cross country coach Christian Zimmerman.

Other good practical skills to have are a basic knowledge of sewing, how to change the oil in a car, and how to submit a résumé and interview for jobs.

Preparing for the future may seem like a daunting task, but life after high school is coming whether you’re ready or not.

Realizing what you don’t know is the first step towards gaining an understanding of basic life skills, and taking the time to address these issues will benefit you a few years down the road even if you can’t see how yet. Your future lies only in your hands, so prepare for it.

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