common classroom

There are a lot of things that we learned as we made our way through high school. We went to geography class, where we learned about tectonic plates and how Mt. Everest came to be. We went to chemistry class and learned about the periodic table of the elements. We went to cooking class and burned a few too many cookies in the oven.

However, there are so many important life lessons that I was never taught in high school and there’s a good chance that they weren’t taught to you either. Perhaps some of these lessons should be integrated into the existing curriculum, helping to prepare the next generation of adults for the challenges that lie before them.

How to Complete an Income Tax Return

Regardless of any further education that you may pursue, if you are going to be citizen in the developed world, you’ll need to understand how to file an income tax return. Yes, filing your taxes in Canada is going to be entirely different than what it takes to file your taxes in France, Japan or the United States, but for most Canadian kids, they’ll only ever need to know about Canadian income tax.

What’s fascinating is that we will spend all this time learning complex math concepts that may not find any practical use in the real world, but students rarely get much instruction on how to handle an income tax return… and that’s something that all of them will need to do. Every year. For the rest of their lives. And before you say that they should just hand things off to a professional, it should be noted that even if you do pass on that responsibility to your accountant, you should at least have a fundamental understanding of what’s what.

How to Apply for Student Loans

I am incredibly fortunate in that I never had to take out a student loan. I had part-time jobs, I enrolled in co-op, I earned scholarships and I lived at home with my parents. However, many prospective college and university students will need to go through that ordeal and they should get a fundamental understanding of what it means to take out a student loan, how to apply for one, and what all the numbers really mean.

We keep hearing horror stories of students who graduate overwhelmed with debt, unable to pay off the loan for far too many years. They say that the banks and lenders prey on the young (and under-educated) minds of teenagers who really don’t understand what they’re signing when they get that student loan. The debate goes on about the relationship with the banking industry, but if we simply spend the time to teach young people about loans, they’re far less likely to make a mistake that could cripple them financially for years to come.

As a natural extension of this, I also believe that young people should receive a better education on how to manage their money and how to use a bank effectively. They can easily get into habit of paying high banking fees unnecessarily.

How to Buy Your First Home

When we bought our first home a couple years ago, there were many things that we had to learn. We had to gain a fundamental understanding of the different types of mortgages and lenders. We had to learn what it took to qualify for these kinds of mortgages. We had to learn about what we should look for in a first home. We had to learn about the buying process and how all of that worked. There is a lot of information to digest.

Home ownership isn’t for everyone. For some people, renting just makes more sense for any number of reasons. That being said, it is still worthwhile to gain a fundamental understanding of all these factors and steps that go into buying a house or condo. That way, they can make a more educated decision when the time comes and be prepared for all the paperwork that ensues.

How to Vote

Speaking of making educated decisions, we are privileged to live in a democratic society where we have the right to choose our government. Yes, say what you will about politicians, but at least we have that choice. At the same time, we shouldn’t squander away that responsibility on a whim.

The actual physical act of voting itself is simple enough, but is the next generation of voters trained on how to make that educated decision? Do they understand not only how, but also why they should be informed voters?

How Not to Suck in Life

Several years ago, with tongue firmly planted in cheek, I wrote a course outline on “how not to suck in life.” I discussed the importance of hygiene and “the seriousness of being not serious,” among several other topics. And there are certainly many other lessons that can be taught at the high school level that are more practical in the real world.

What would you suggest?