Essential Skills

by Krishna on December 20, 2006

One of my worst nightmares is going back to school and being forced to learn organic chemistry again. I loved physics and mathematics, but organic chemistry made me crazy, because there were so many different variations and rules for different elements and compounds that it drove me up the wall.

But I did have to finally learn it as it was a mandatory part of the curriculum. Which brings me to the question: How many things in school did you learn that you actually use in everyday life?

Actually more to the point would be: What should you have been taught in school that would have enabled you to live a much better life and handle various situations better? Here are some suggestions:

How about teaching people how to drive properly in school itself and have them pass that before they get their high school diploma? Why? How about the fact that 1.2 million people worldwide are killed in automobile accidents every year and 40 times that many people are injured. Not to talk about the near-accidents, road rage and frustrating driving habits of a vast majority of drivers.

Another really poor job that schools do is teaching good personal financial management. How to save money? How to make it grow? How to control expenses? Why you should care less about the Joneses? How to pay less taxes without evading them? The concept of risk versus reward. The statistical probability of winning the lottery.

A final one is how to handle conflict. In school, you either get bullied and learn to shut up, or you become the bully. You seldom get ahead in a work environment doing any of those. You have to learn to work with people, some of whom may be close to you and others cool or hostile to you. You have to learn to navigate minefields, take setbacks in your stride and continue to push your vision.

Don’t tear up the curriculum just yet. School teaches many technical skills that will be required in one’s career and life. Yes, we do need chemists! It is just that there are so many other things that are so important and common to everyone that is just ignored in school. It is really sad that you spend the first years of your adult life and career learning things the hard way.

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