In a recent survey of 300 Ithaca teens conducted by YES, 50% reported feeling like high school does not prepare them for life after graduation. Additionally, 35% reported uncertainty, saying they think it might, but they just can’t be sure. Their resounding complaints about high school were summed up by one teen who said, “What’s the point of being able to find the surface area of a triangle if I don’t know how to do taxes?”
Many teens were concerned about taxes and tax forms. More still cited their lack of knowledge about numerous other practical skills, including building good credit, taking out loans, balancing a checkbook, buying a house, getting insurance, opening a bank account, and even fixing a flat tire. One person expressed a fear of all the independence and responsibility that comes with adulthood. He said, “At school, you’re babied. Your teachers are always reminding you when the next homework assignment is due, and there are restrictions on where you can and can’t go in the school. This doesn’t even prepare you for college, where the professors don’t care if you do your work and you have freedom to do basically whatever you want.”
These teens raise some truly valid points. Wouldn’t it be nice if high schools taught about building good credit in place of the quadratic formula? Home buying instead of Hamlet? Taxes rather than the capital of Texas? Sure.
But that 15% of teens who feel like school is actually doing its job and preparing them for the future seem to agree with one respondent who bluntly stated, “I think people vastly overestimate the excitement of the real world.” To these teens, high school is the real world. It’s a step along the way that teaches you what you need for what comes next, which will teach you what you need for what’s after that, and so on.
From these teens, here are 5 Ways High School Prepares You for “The Real World.”
1. Meeting Deadlines
It is so unfair that your Math teacher scheduled a test on the same day your English project is due, and your Science teacher assigned three pages of homework! Unfair, sure, but realistic. When you graduate from high school, you’ll still be expected to meet deadlines, and many of them will overlap, like paying your electric bill, phone bill, and rent all on the same day, or finishing a project at work the same day as your family is supposed to come into town so you have to get things ready for them. Life is full of deadlines, and knowing how to balance them to complete tasks on time is an invaluable skill.
2. Critical Thinking
When was the French and Indian War fought? Where is Bangladesh? What is an ion? Chances are you don’t know, and that’s ok. School isn’t there to make sure you retain useless information. It’s meant to teach you how to think about the facts, discuss them intelligently, and draw your own conclusions. This is the heart of critical thinking, and you’ll use these skills when making important decisions, like where to live, what career suits you, and even who to vote for for president (too soon?). The more you use your critical thinking skills while you’re young, the easier it’ll be to use them as you get older.
Don’t you hate it when your teacher assigns another group project? There’s always that kid who just doesn’t pull their weight, and it’s so annoying to be graded on the work other people are doing. In the real world, you rarely get to choose who you work with or what task your team may be tackling. Your success as an employee may be based on how your team performs as a whole. Group projects may not be your favorite, but teamwork will always be a part of your life.
4. Attendance and Punctuality
There’s nothing worse than getting lunch detention for showing up late to school too many times. Oh wait. Yes there is -- getting fired from your job for skipping work or being late every day. Simply getting in the habit of attending school and being on time prepares you for the real world and the responsibilities you’ll have as an adult.
5. How to Learn
Homework. What is the point? It may seem redundant or difficult, but ultimately homework is there for you to practice learning on your own. School is where teachers give you the tools you’ll need, and homework is where you use those tools to uncover your own knowledge. High school may not teach you how to do your taxes or where to buy car insurance, but it does provide the tools you’ll need to learn to do those things on your own. When the time comes for you to do all of the things you never learned in high school, you at least have the skills to do the research, find the class, or at least watch a YouTube clip to help you learn it all on your own.
High school is full of homework and hormones and uncertainty. High school can’t give you all of the answers to life’s questions, nevertheless you will gain many skills that you can apply to life after you graduate. At YES, we understand that some things are best learned through experience. If you’re looking to gain some valuable life experience outside of high school and in the workforce, YES is here to help. Visit http://yesithaca.org for more information.