Remedial Life Lessons Need To Be Taught In Schools

Yesterday, Michael Bloomberg published an op-ed on the website which he owns that reached some conclusions different than what I was expecting to see—I wasn’t expecting the guy that wants to legally restrict the size of our soda containers to write a piece glorifying the need for freedom, but then I came across this passage of his:

There is an idea floating around college campuses — including here at Harvard — that scholars should be funded only if their work conforms to a particular view of justice. There’s a word for that idea: censorship. And it is just a modern-day form of McCarthyism.

In the 1950s, the right wing was attempting to repress left-wing ideas. Today, on many campuses, it is liberals trying to repress conservative ideas, even as conservative faculty members are at risk of becoming an endangered species.

Perhaps nowhere is that more true than here in the Ivy League. In the 2012 presidential race, 96 percent of all campaign contributions from Ivy League faculty and employees went to Barack Obama. That statistic, drawn from Federal Election Commission data, should give us pause — and I say that as someone who endorsed President Obama. When 96 percent of faculty donors prefer one candidate to another, you have to wonder whether students are being exposed to the diversity of views that a university should offer. Diversity of gender, ethnicity and orientation is important. But a university cannot be great if its faculty is politically homogenous.

While it’s probably true that Ivy League parking lots aren’t the best place to break out your Barry Goldwater bumper sticker, these debates often seek out answering the wrong question: they seem to focus on balancing the political aspects of the college experience rather than focusing on equipping students with the life skills that focus on the practical skills that are necessary to maximize our potential in life which exist independent of politics.

If I were the President of a college or university, I would create a “Life Skills” class requirement that was a mandatory first semester course that was graded on a pass/fail basis in which the students needed to attend at least 75% of the classes and score at least 75% on the final exam in order to pass.

The class would teach you a quick-and-dirty list of basic things you need in life:

(1) this is how you find a good deal on car insurance,

(2) this is how you open up a brokerage account (which is only useful if you can make more than you spend),

(3) this is why people get life insurance and here is how you do it, this is where you look for coupons and how you use them,

(4) these are the ten mental models that advertisers will try to use to seduce you into buying a product,

(5) spending heavily on a car is one of the greatest impediments to building wealth that commonly traps people in this nation,

(6) these journals are great sources of information if you want to learn how to diet and exercise in an intelligent manner,

(7) you should build in an hour or so into each week for personal reflection so you can see if your life is moving in the direction you desire or if you are just letting life happen to you,

(8) when you encounter people with petty, jealous, and dishonest character traits, you should be trained to get away from them as quickly as possible,

(9)you should set aside an hour every Sunday afternoon catching up with old friends so your link doesn’t wither away because keeping an old friend is often more important than making a new one,

(10) the manner of how you deliver information is often more important than actually being right,

(11) people that work for themselves often report the highest levels of happiness out of anyone in this nation (why do you think that is?),

(12) if you ever find yourself in dispute with a private person, entity, or government agency, the most sure way to get a reasonable result is to be reasonable in how you address them yourself,

(13) you should avoid unnecessary debt as much as possible because this is how compounding works in reverse,

(14) if you drink and smoke in your teens and 20s, this is what you are doing to your body, and these are the legal implications if you get caught,

(15) this is how you do laundry, fix basic household appliances, and demonstrate proper etiquette when eating (for starters, don’t be the first person in the group to dig in),

(16) if you are not sure what you believe about God and Jesus, here are some great places to look to help you reach your own conclusions,

(17) this is why you should create a to-do list to tackle each day,

(18) the single greatest determinant of financial and emotional success is a long-term marriage (what about your personality gives you long-term appeal?),

(19) this is how you negotiate for the price of a house or car, and

(20) these are the five steps you should follow when presented with adversity.

This is the type of information that is useful if you are black or white, male or female, rich or poor, conservative or liberal, Christian or Muslim. Instead of chopping people up into different groups and pitting “us” against “them”, I would build a foundation of useful material that can apply to everyone, giving students a toolbox that is important regardless of whether George W. Bush or Barack Obama is president, whether you leave the college to end up in California or Texas, or whether you are a member of the NRA or ACLU.

If I had to reverse some of my own life decisions, I would have taken some of the time spent studying abstract theory and historical facts and instead taken classes that offered more practical tools that could later be applied in my life. That said, I am especially glad that I took in-depth classes with excellent historians of WWII. With the saviors of our civilization slowly dying off, I find it important to keep in mind the evil that man is capable of, and the glory that also resides inside of us to stand courageous and fight back when the situation calls for it. It’s also a useful trick to have at the top of your mind when you are facing your own adversity, as a broader perspective can lend you a calm and cool when thinking about the full scope of adversity you could possibly be facing. It is the skills that grant us the power to survive, thrive, and maximize our potential that are important, as well as our ability to coat those skills with the necessary courage and gratitude that those skills demand.