In Due Course

Does anyone even remember the list of courses that were mandatory ones in their curriculum in high school? Were there any subjects that stand out in your mind as being crucial to your well-being as a functioning adult? Didn’t think so.

You learn life skills by living your life, not by signing up for a crash course in life skills 101. It’s one thing to make up a budget on paper based on a minimum wage job, a sad little apartment, public transportation and the rationing of milk and shampoo. It’s another thing entirely to actually live that life and wonder where your next meal is coming from and what you’re going to do when your shoes finally wear out. Lectures on money management and domestic skills and family planning can’t hurt, but they also can’t prepare a high school kid for all the eventualities of real life.

Some kids are already living that hand to mouth life. Others will never understand the concept of being without if they live for a million years. And the rest are somewhere in the middle where not everything is handed to them on a silver spoon, but where there are still some things that will never be theirs unless they learn to work really hard to get them.

What is sadly lacking is knowing the value of things, understanding sympathetically, becoming aware, and developing the power to bring about positive change.

How do you teach appreciation, empathy, compassion? Kindness and courtesy? Reverence and respect?

There’s no course in the world that could cover all that. These are things that must be taught by example, and learned by experience. We can’t stop the critical introspection, but maybe we could re-direct the results. Self acceptance is something a teenager fights for every day. If we can help with that first small step, the rest will fall into place. But it probably won’t happen in high school. More likely it will take a lifetime.

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