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Are young adults today lacking life skills that inhibit them to determine an individual life track?

So I'm an Asian American raised under immigrant parents who came to this country to start a family. Therefore, I wasn't taught much about the system pertaining to everyday life skills. For example,

*How to do taxes
* What taxes are
* How to vote
* What political parties are
* How to write a resume/cover letter/anything related to getting a job
* How to write a check/balance a check book
* Anything to do with banking
* How to do loans for college
* How to jump start a car or other basic emergency things
* How to buy a car or house

We are distracted with the free flow of information that we forget how essential these skills are in order to promote confidence for independence.

I understand that these can be learned through parents or as you go on, but what about the 99% protesting on Wall Street? If they knew about credit scores or interest rates, would so many students have taken out those loans?

Throughout my study, I found most high school graduates who are going to college don't have any idea of what they want to study. I believe it is because they lack the confidence to believe in themselves to pursue a higher purpose in life.

I hope I explained my idea clearly enough as this is my first conversation here on TED. I hope to hear from most of you!

  • Aug 12 2013: As a parent of a special needs child as well as two neuro-typical children I am intrigued by the thread in this conversation concerning confidence. Confidence comes from success. Success comes from overcoming failure. We have so aggressively pursued high self esteem in our children that we foolishly defined success as the accomplishment of any goal no matter how small. We have all felt that sinking feeling when we have been praised for doing something that we know was too easy to deserve praise. If we set harder tasks for our children and higher praise for overcoming failures and genltle chiding for choosing tasks beneath our childrens level of capability, we would have children who aspire to greater things. We would have youth that take on tasks of greater importance and invent their own futures instead of trying to decide what to study. I am of an age where it was common to have your first job when you were 13 or 14. That is when I learned from my Dad how to file my taxes. My kids learned that as well when they had their first jobs at 14. I learned to jump start a car when I bought the car I could afford with the wages from the job I got when I was 13. And, those lesson continued then as they do now. I firmly believe that the failure of our children to have a passion to pursue their future is often result of a failure of parents to set a higher bar than just high self esteem.
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    Aug 1 2013: Just pointing out that many things are learned by doing them. I did not know how to do most of those things when I was a young adult either. I learned by getting a job, managing money, buying a beater car, buying a house like most people my age did. A little experience goes a long way.

    I'm pretty sure today's young adults will learn that way too. Either that or look it up on the internet.
  • Aug 7 2013: You are right. As a college professor of more than 25 years of experience, I would say that American young people have been shortchanged in the last 30 years by an increasingly failing educational system--K to College. Right now our system does a poor job of teaching the facts as we know them, good critical thinking skills to deal with those facts, and a good work ethic. When I was young we got life and school lessons every day. We were basically presented with a simple equation--the harder you work, the better you will do. This still true today, but hard work is 'so last year man....', and young people grow up not ever learning what only hard work can teach you about yourself. In other words, mowing the lawn is just as important as knowing your times tables. One way to look at this goes to your point about knowing interest rates and would that have meant those who couldn't afford them not taking the loans. The answer is NO, it would not have affected the outcome significantly. Why? Because when you grow up never having faced the consequences that only hard work can show you, then you will not take the threats of bad things happening as a result of certain behaviors seriously. Simply put, hard work is a great metaphor for life. If you aren't careful and fall off the ladder painting the kitchen wall, you never forget it. Those physical experiments and 'burnt fingers' help us understand the abstract hypothetical consequences of not having enough money. But when we don't have any of those physical experiences, we are less capable of generalizing to other life events. Another way to put it is that hard work teaches us common sense, and common sense would tell you not to take money you can't pay back. Also, hard work helps us develop confidence in ourselves. No matter how smart you are, nothing teaches you how to meet the fair and unfair challenges of real life like hard work. Time to stop the fluffy nonsense in US education and get back to hard work and basics.
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    Jul 16 2013: Abraham, you are very observant.

    As an immigrant myself, I also was not taught zippity dooda.

    I had to learn to do things on my own once I left high school.

    It has served me well.
    I do not depend on anyone to resolve issues.
    I know how to live independently, and I'm self motivated.

    I think as you grow older, you will realize that you cannot justify ignorance.
    You have to learn on your own, and look for things on your own.

    Expecting others to do the leg work for you is not healthy.

    Today in the information super-age.....there is just no excuse for not knowing.
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      Jul 16 2013: Yes you are absolutely right that we all learn on our owns how to solve problems through interaction and hands-on experience. However, I believe that teaching children and ensuring they go the right way is the responsibility of schools and parents as well. No one was born with knowledge in his head, but we gather information as we grow and interact with people around us and it is these people that shape us who we are.

      We can't just leave our children to learn everything by themselves. We've got to guide them or else they may go the wrong way. You maybe lucky that you got on the right track but there are hundreds or even thousands of kids out there who don't. There are youth crime, teenagers suiciding, drug addiction, high youth unemployment and so much more. We can't just assume that children will learn best through the Internet. Information over the net is overloaded this generation, with a vast majority of the content are unverified. Moreover, the mind of an adolescent is complicated, and unlike that of adult, they are turbulence and struggling with inner-self problems. As a teenager I understand how hard it is to be on your own and unknown of where to start and which is the right way to go. We already have a hard time defining who we are and how we fit into these worlds. We've got a lot of questions to ask but we don't know who to get to and who would listen to us.

      I think children need to be prepared before they are thrown into the harsh world. You can't just leave them to figure everything out by themselves because maybe they would have broken down before they make it that far. The idea is to prevent bad outcomes before they happen.
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        Jul 16 2013: Hello Son Huynh,

        As a teacher, and a mother, I really have to agree with what you say.
        My parents could not help me because they spoke Spanish, and we were in the United States, at a time when there were not too many other speakers of Spanish around to help us.

        Once I learned English, then I served as interpreter, and helper to my parents.

        I answered Abrahams question directly.....because he used the experience of being an immigrant, and that resonated with me.

        But, I agree with you, as a parent, I have been helping my own children to be independent when they start to live on their own.

        Something I did not have, but that would have helped me tremendously.

        I think something that did help me, was the fact that my parents taught us morals and values.
        Right from wrong.

        I want to continue to exchange ideas with you.
        You speak with a lot of insight.

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          Jul 17 2013: Thank you Mary. I think you have great parents there.

          Also thanks for addressing the "immigrant" side of the conversation that most of us haven't paid much attention to. Personally in my view, the walls that are obtruding the immigrants from integrating with the host society are the language barrier and culture clash.

          But you are right. If this question is more directed to the "immigrant" side, then we have a whole different problem. Because normal kids without life skill is less worrying than immigrant kids without any preparations.
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        Jul 18 2013: Oh, you're welcome Son Huynh, thank you also for your thoughts.

        You know, I thought, that the point of Abraham's introduction was to point out how he lacked certain skills due to having immigrant parents.

        I will say, though, that many young people lack certain knowledge because of a lack of communication between their parents and them.

        I don't think it is mutually exclusive to immigrant families.

        As a matter of fact, usually children of immigrants master the English language before their parents, and are in a great position to end up helping their parents with all these life skills.............and in a way, this helping of the parents, helps them also.
        I remember having to translate letters for my dad, and reading signs, and instructions in manuals, and also making phone calls for him.......wow, I just now remembered all that!!

        Each family is different.....the important thing is that there is good open communication.
        And, that parents take advantage of teachable moments to expose their children to life skills which they will need as adults.

        This is a wonderful conversation.

        I hope more young people participate.
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      Jul 16 2013: Mary M, You make me shy. Now i'm 24 years old and i am student. Although I have some part-time jobs but i still have to live depend on my parents. Because 4 years ago, i caught a strange disease, it was called halluciation of hearing. But i didn't agree to give up my university to cure myself. Near 3 years later, my result in University was so bad, so my parents forced me to reserve one year in university to cure myself. One year later, i returneId my university, everything with me is very strange. My friends graduated. I had no friends. I liked a fresh student.
      Everybody say that I am lack of life skill so much. I often create trouble for other people and don't know how to deal with problems in the real life.
      I admire u so much. You are a mirror with me. I have to learn many things from u so much.
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        Jul 16 2013: Le Hoai, thank you for answering my simple comment.

        You are so very brave.

        I am on my way out of my home now, but I will come back and write some more later today.

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        Jul 17 2013: Le Hoai, let me just come back and say that we humans are a work in progress.

        Sometimes we feel like we are creating trouble for others, but in reality, we are in need of help until we learn to handle things ourselves.

        Be patient with yourself, and continue to reach out to your family.
        Family is very important.

        I hope you will learn much from participating in our TED community.
        There are a lot of kind individuals on here with a lot of years of life experience.

        You might not agree with everything you read, but you can always take what you find useful, and ignore the rest.

        It is nice meeting you.
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          Jul 19 2013: Thank you so much. Your advice is very useful for me. Now it is my summer holiday and I am working in a company.
          My wish is simple: to have fresh new start. But if I want a new beginning, it has to start from within. I’m not a perfect person. In fact, I’m a perfectly imperfect person. Being perfect is not something I seek, because it is not possible. But do you know what is? Becoming a better person. That’s something we can all do. Becoming a better person than I was yesterday is a beautiful promise I can make to myself. And I wish: have a new beginning with TED. Because I will know and learn many things from many people like you and other people...
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        Jul 20 2013: I am looking forward to reading your comments on TED.

        Welcome, and see you around Le Hoai!!!
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      Jul 16 2013: Hi Mary,

      Here's an interesting, humoristic comment on what may happen if it is indeed school or so-called carrers advisors that become a part of the bigger picture and have responsibility for the development of the children, you can stop at 0:52:


      The schools and parents and other sources of influence do have do have some responsibility, I agree with that, but they also need to be caring, respectful of individuality and be competent.

      You say "Today in the information super-age.....there is just no excuse for not knowing." . - agreed. But what happens if the people who are supposed to take care of you don't really care to get any knowledge? I'm not speaking about my parents or schools. And assume things that are not true because of their own inhibitions or just lack of interest or knowledge? I can write pages on that.

      And you're right. There is no excuse for not knowing and not caring. There is no excuse for assuming, lying and staying uninformed and wanting to stay uninformed by not asking the right questions or being engaged. And there is no excuse for trying to categorise somebody by a faulty system of either loans and economy or culture.

      There is no excuse for saying 'that's just the way it is' without questioning.
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        Jul 17 2013: Very valid points Anna.......I enjoyed the video link.

        You know, when kids are small, sometimes they believe what they are told.
        And if they are told that they will not amount to much, well then, some might choose to believe it.

        Other children, despite not having loving parents who encourage their growth, might have a wonderful teacher who cares, and who mentors, and who inspires.

        Many famous people speak of that special teacher who made a difference.
        Remember Rita Pierson's TED talk on how teachers can inspire?


        I just think that today, children have a lot more information at their fingertips.
        They don't even have to leave their home or call anyone, like I had to do, to get information.

        There are so many options.

        Our public schools do a pretty good job of counseling kids about college and other options.
        It starts in the junior year of high school.
        What about in your country?
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          Jul 17 2013: Thanks for reminding me of the talk, Mary. Very important points there about connections, influences of the community and not giving up.

          "What about in your country?" - it's complicated. I'm sure the teachers are doing the best they can, but they cannot fix the world or the system. I've of so many unbelievable and sad stories from both countries I have a connection to. Here's something about a good teacher and one of the sad stories, just a link, but it shows a lot of what was mentioned in Ritas talk about champions, mentors and feedback:


          I posted this link before, it's just a perspective but it reminds me of my teacher of Polish, she had a very hard time in class (kids can be cruel...). I showed her some of my scribblings once, I wish she had more time for me, the only things she had time to say during a five minute break was "This aspires for higher goals than just that." I wish he had said it differently or had more time for a conversation or counselling, as you describe it. But she still got flowers from me on graduation day, that was the only time I saw her smile. I wish she could read this now :)
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        Jul 17 2013: That was some link Anna.
        She is a very talented comedian.....I had no idea that she had that experience in her background.

        I think, as a teacher, we sometimes want the students to trust us and share thoughts with us.
        And, also students, wish teachers to take interest in them.

        I think writing in a notebook, back and forth, between students and teachers, to be a very wonderful way to get attention.

        I used to make my second graders do book reports on the weekends.
        On Mondays, they would turn in their composition books with their reports.
        I would spend the week writing my reaction and thoughts in the book reports, and asking questions, or making observations that made them think.

        After a month or so of having implemented the assignment, I noticed the kids really looked forward to Friday, so they could get their notebooks back, and read what I had to tell them.

        The whole thing was great, because by the end of the school year, it was like a journal of thoughts. And they got to take a nice keepsake home from their second grade school year.

        Writing is very therapeutic. I think that is why I enjoy TED so much.
        I get to write my thoughts. And, I can go back and reread what I wrote.
        Sometimes I am astonished at my own words..........I think.........did I really write THAT??
    • Jul 17 2013: Thanks Mary! And thanks for all the feedback you guys!

      After reading ALL the comments, I came to the conclusion that there is indeed, a problem. Whether it's trough society, culture, or education, we all seem to be attempting to finding the culprit of this conflict. However I found it wise through TED Friend's Comment that we should look at our history. Simply taking the concept of how previous generous were raised back then, can tell how they are parenting now. There is a lot of logic behind his comment so go take a look.

      Now I want to start reading some solutions to this problem. We've identified it as the lack of self identity or incentive to learn. Or even be lazy in some terms to the point where it affects our ego and become spoiled. (I'm talking young adults to adults?)
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        Jul 17 2013: You're welcome Abraham.

        Like everything else in life, I think we can not put everybody in the same bag.
        I think "some" young people lack life skills, but others don't.

        It is good for you to discuss this topic out in the open.
        I hope you learn quite a lot.
        It is good that you, as a young person are worried about these types of questions.

        I hope you find some good TED videos to shed light on your dilemma.
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    • Jul 16 2013: Wow.
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      Jul 17 2013: You know what they say, TF. It's not the crises that make people lose their homes and jobs. They only reveal the cracks in the foundation of the system. You're speaking of both some of the cracks and the possible negative outcome.
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      Jul 17 2013: Good points.

      I think common sense has to kick in sometime.
      My parents did not go through the great depression, but still they knew the value of a dollar.
      We were taught to save money, and live within our means.

      It has served me well.

      Unfortunately, looking around, common sense is not so common.
      A lot of people are up to their eyeballs in debt, some have lost everything......this is very sad.
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    Jul 16 2013: YES, we are "distracted with the free flow of information that we forget how essential these skills are in order to promote confidence for independence." We also live in a highly specialized society where people succeed by acquiring an increasingly specific set of skills. The alternative to this would be a generalist culture, where a person is more independent and self-reliant, simply because they have acquired a wide variety of skill sets. A life long passion for learning is the best attitude for being a generalist. In a specialist, it would be a life long passion for learning more and more about the same thing.

    I'll unpack the meaning of a hugely relevant quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: "Insist on yourself; never imitate. Your own gift you can present every moment with the cumulative force of a whole life's cultivation; but of the adopted talent of another you have only an extemporaneous half possession." It's from an essay called 'Self-Reliance' and what it means to me in the context of this discussion is that it remains better to do something yourself than have others do it for you; it's better to know how to do it on your own than to adopt the talent of another.

    Young adults live in a society where everything is outsourced. You can pay someone to change your oil or tire. You can pay someone else to mow your lawn and do your taxes and paint your house and cook your meals. I think it would be far more beneficial to generations young and old alike if they were taught the values of self-reliance, or self-sufficiency, or whatever name you want to give it. Focusing on their one area of specialty is a life skill if it allows them to pay for someone else to do all the other things on your list. But then they are dependent. They want life skills that make them independent. And that comes from experience, as I mentioned in my reply to Son Huynh.

    Thanks for the topic. I had to reconsider what I thought about it before I could answer, which is good.
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    Jul 16 2013: In my opinion, young adults generally are not well-equipped with life skills that would help them to live an independent life. However, I don't believe that those skills that you have listed above fall into the life skill category. I do believe that those skills mentioned are quite common in our society today. Most teenagers can open a bank account, make a credit card to make purchases online or even ask for loans. I mean anything to bank, there is always the information desk there to help. No one is born with the banking know-how but we all learn as we interact.

    What I think the adolescent truly lacks is something like cooking at home, fix your own bike or car, or do something manually without using computer or google. Jamie Oliver did an experiment and found out that many kids in primary school does not know what an apple or banana actually look like.
    Nowadays young people rely too much on technology where there is a vast amount of information to take in. As a kid growing up, we don't know what information to take in and what not to, so we tend to go with which that interests us. Parents leave their children to be educated in school, which is place where they value academic ability more than anything else, let alone basic life skill or even emergency skill.

    These are the skills that not only the youth but also the grown-ups cannot do very well. I have met a famiily where 3 generations are not taught to cook at home and all of their food are either processed or fast food. It is a problem of how we educate our children. Home used to be the place where most life skills are passed on from generations to generations. But look now, families are getting smaller and smaller. And parents have to work all day to make a living. Who will be there for the kids?
    • Jul 16 2013: You're totally right.

      I agree that because parents have smaller families and more work hours, the next generation is unable to think for themselves and thus become independent. I think most parents want to believe that public education will be enough for a child to make to college.
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      Jul 16 2013: I like the assertion you make in the first sentence of the second paragraph: "What I think the adolescent truly lacks..." I'm thirty and throughout my twenty I envied the generations coming after me for having access to so 'much technology where there is a vast amount of information to take it in' as you put, but now I see the downside to it, which you pointed out as well. They are inundated with all this information, which is in and of itself useless unless you can process and apply it. If you can't remember something you know when you need to know it, you're really no better off than if you didn't know it all to begin with.

      Experience is what is lacking. Trail and error. Hands-on doing. It reminds me of what Confucius said: "TELL ME AND I FORGET. SHOW ME AND I REMEMBER. LET ME DO AND I UNDERSTAND."
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      Jul 17 2013: Hi Son,

      I agree. Althought I don't think there is anything wrong in searching the web, this may also expand your knowledge. You cannot learn everything in the world from the parents, that's just not feasible.

      Daniel - thanks for the quote, one of my favourites.

      Son - searching the web and yuotube may also teach us something. You can read, see and explore on your own, then do it and then understand even more than your parents could (at least my parents, they didn't have internet). There is cooking there as well, with ingredients my parents didn't even know existed.

      Funny thing is... there is little to find there on how to plan your life economy effectively.
  • Aug 14 2013: How about:
    How to clean.
    How to cook.

    Cleaning is now optional for some folks (I've seen it), and "cooking" is now "open cans and boxes and use the microwave--then wonder where your money went".
  • Aug 13 2013: I totally agree with what you have said.Schools and universities are lacking general or real life instruction to their students.That's because the system has moved drastically toward commercial activity and many things are taught through paid courses.But on the other hand the skills you mentioned are not very hard in my opinion.As you argued they can easily be learned through practicing them and getting hands dirty.
  • Aug 12 2013: They lack the confidence because they believe they don't fit in. Trust me i just graduated in june.
  • Aug 7 2013: Interesting! Well, coming from a developing country Nigeria, 85% of young adults here lack life skills. I work with young ones and am a life skill trainer/mentor. In my work, most parents don't get the need for letting their children undergo life skill courses. Secondly, like in most developing countries, we attach a lot of importance to grades that we forget every aspect of education. That's why we have graduates with good grades but with very poor attitude and low self esteem. I advocate that schools inculcate lifeskill education in their school curriculum. This will go a long way in helping young adults achieve a lifelong success.
  • Jul 31 2013: Most dropouts today miss their CIVICS class. If CIVICS are even taught today.

    We the parents and now the grandparents have been neglectful since when
    corporal punishment laws came into being. Like Unions they were to protect
    children from abuse. But they had a side-effect of allowing those same children
    freedom of expression when their underdeveloped brains need a swift kick in the
    pants. Those first kids grew up in the 60's, and most were brats. They had kids
    and guess what those kids were? hahaha

    Today we have Drugs all around. Kids get some juvenile jail time And the nation has
    lost it's American Dream. We build high walls on our southern borders. But there is
    no longer a need for such, as the illegal immigrants know there is no American Dream.

    Using the tuitions partly funded by the Government's school loans - Colleges, Universities,
    and Online Schools, all large Corporations, offer classes without any guarantee of a proper
    education. Their Leadership's vying to beat Wall Street CEO pay and retirement's golden

    Still wet-behind-the-ears Students are given Educational Books, Housing, and Tuition loans,
    with no idea of how hard it will be to pay them back. ..And, how many of them stay the course?
    Dropouts are common.

    Are young adults today lacking life skills? They surely are.

    They by the way, are our Leaders of Tomorrow.
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      Aug 4 2013: I agree. More emphasis must be placed on this area of education in order to evolve a more complex and active society, especially where application of technology is involved. Such education will enable them to solve more social problems that engross us all.

      While watching a committee working to establish more detail in areas of solution for national transportation, more emphasise was given to the good time they had in Vegas than to the pre-written comments they read from. When it came to elements of funding, no one had any ideas, with the exception of the congressman from Illinois.

      If we were to demand more technocratic-minded , experienced legislatures, I feel we could accomplish more towards solving our social and infrastructural problems in many nations. Italy is moving in this direction. The state of Illinois appears to be moving in this direction. Many infrastructural problems are being resolved there with qualified people. They've moved well beyond any other state in the U.S.

      I would much prefer voting for a collection of people who were certified to run for an office than those who have a persuasive personality. I would very well like to know our young people can determine the difference from their studies at school.
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    Jul 29 2013: I agree with all what you say. I shall just add that one big problem with today's youngsters is that they are bombarded daily with unprecedented amounts of attractions & distractions. This attack on their senses and minds, is a big hurdle on their way to reach stabilization. I had already wrote about this when commenting on Colin Powell's talk which was precisely about this. I think yo should add that talk to the list of the Related Talks of this conversation.


    My comment there:
  • Jul 15 2013: ...and a lot of innocent mistakes. Nothing teaches us better than the mistakes we make.
  • Jul 15 2013: Looking at the questions your have, I remembered all the feelings I had when the first day I came to my colleage. Helpless, is the first thing I felt. Cause I would have to face everything all by myself. Well, in fact, this is not the most scared thing at all. Deep in my heart, I want to be different, I want to be a leader, a person someone else could lean on. But how could I make it? I even hadn't used a credit card before. I was just a little girl lost in my fears. But what does that matter, I now am already an adult who is going to be a graduate this fall. No matter how many questions you have, time just goes on ignoring all the fears, all the achievements, all the loses. That's just life. The only thing to get rid of all the uncertainties is to active. Then you will have your ansewers waiting for you after all the wounds,all the tears, and all the joys which time gives you.

    Time is the best teacher, you needn't fear it firstly. When you look back a few years later, you may think yourself just a helpless teenager.

    Taking active rather than wondering, is the answer to everything. You would learn that soon after.
    • Jul 15 2013: I agree, most people need to just take action. But how can they do that without knowing what do?

      With trial and error there comes a point where everyone learns from their mistakes. But some of these life skills can cause huge consequences that leads to a life changing scenario. For example, the student loans.

      Philosophically speaking, yes time goes on and us humans are excellent in adapting and coping with setbacks. But stagnating the purpose of one life is a problem that can solved.

      If you knew how to publicly speak, use the credit card, then you wouldn't have any fear. In fact, you would feel confident no? Confident enough to perhaps know what you want to do for the next day, month, year, life?
      • Jul 16 2013: There are three kind of things: things you want to do, things you need to do and things you have to do. (Knowing what you want to do is totally another case which has nothing to do with confidence. Knowing is just knowing, and it doesn't mean you can or you need do that. In fact, it is just something in one's head if one does not actually do it.)

        If you want to do something, go ahead and do it. But if one doesn't have something like that in his mind, all he needs to do is doing everything needs to be done. Things like voting and taxes, they are only something you can learn step by step, the same way of learning how to use credit cards, or how to speak English. Commen sense is not that commen maybe, but one can easily learn that in daily life. Donot know how to put things right can get us anxious, well, the good thing is, we can learn quickly enough. I don't think they are problems...

        There indeed exist some rules which distinguish some people from others...

        But as 'How to buy a car or house', the answer is that you only need some money. I'm just kidding. In my mind, that kind of things, have something to do with your career, and is far more important of course. As I said, do things you want to do, and make that your career if you are lucky enough. On the other hand, most people are not that lucky, at least in China. Then one would find a job which can earn his living. This is the thing everyone have to do, for living. I admit if I can find passion in my job, I'd do it more efficiently.But,if reading books is all I want to do,then what? Can I earn the money by reading Harry Port? Interests and career are sometimes on the opposite side of the same coin.Good, they are together. If not, we have to make up our minds and choose one side.
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    Jul 15 2013: Hi, Abraham. I too was the child of immigrant parents, deep down in the 99%, but I don't know how much effect this has on whether you learn these things at home. The only one of the things you list that I learned at home was how to write a check and balance a checkbook. My father knew how, and I taught my mother.

    I learned how to do many of the rest of these things by reading instructions. I do not know how to do anything useful to my car.

    I learned about compound interest in grade school, as kids do now.

    I think it is practical to learn how to do many of these things when one needs to, as people will otherwise forget.

    Not knowing what you want to study is a different kind of issue. I think college students should be exploring different areas of study. Most advisers of high school and college students would advise the same, I think. You don't have to have your life all planned out at 17 or 18.
    • Jul 20 2013: Fritzie...I agree. The most important thing is to get out there and try different things until you discover what makes you happy and rewards you amply. Very few know at a young age what they want to do or be; just keep trying and you'll find it eventully. Rome wasn't built in a day!
  • Aug 13 2013: Interesting ideas. Here's what I think:
    Not knowing how to do what you mentioned depends on the type of education you receive. For me personally, I learned in high school how to vote, what taxes are, what are political parties and how to write a resume. But I do agree that schools don't teach the latter portion of what you mentioned because it can be easily learned. Also I wouldn't say that young adults lack confidence in themselves. As a current student, I can see that many young adults are engaging and participating in today's society to break barriers and take advantage of everyday meaningful opportunities. If you don't get how to do loans or fix a car, it's always best to ask people around you who do know and take the initiative to learn. Not everything can be learned in the classroom, sometimes it takes real world experience to be successful as well. In addition, I think the reason high school grads don't know what to do with their lives is not because of a lack confidence, but rather from societal pressure; so many people try to adhere to a cookie-cutter image of being perfect and having kids and whatnot. The thing is this whole pressure of deciding what to do in the future at an age that is meant for exploration is a mindset I think all youth struggle with and I think that is what leads to fear.
  • Aug 13 2013: Children of today should get an education.
    The most important thing they should be
    taught is how to change their country, take it back from those - their leaders of every industry and institution,
    from police to education, taxes, politics, military, religion, pharmaceutical, and medical-
    whose moral fiber has declined, eroded and rotted to nothing.
    But what do they actually tell you and your children?
    They tell them and you, it is the declining moral fiber of the people, not those in power!
    A total lie. Completely false and intentionally so.
    So you wind up educating your children with the same lies, then try to help them
    learn how to be successful in a totally corrupt system, by being what? Honest? Truthful?
    Ethical? The system you will send them out into, that will devour most of them without care, and
    without real care on your part for what will
    happen to them, and you don't advise them of this, will quickly teach them otherwise.

    Or, you can teach them how to become corrupt because in a corrupt system, the only way to be successful
    is to become corrupt and create your own network of corruption. The winning team.
    Certainly, some, very few, may become successful but most will not and you will then teach them that
    it will be solely their fault if they fail.
    What wonderful parents you will all turn out to be! Just look at your list:
    How to do taxes
    * What taxes are--theft of your $$$$
    * How to vote--it doesn't work
    * What political parties are--to screw you
    * How to write a resume/cover letter/anything related to getting a job---compete against 1,000's
    * How to write a check/balance a check book - with few jobs, no money
    * Anything to do with banking --a totally fraudulent system. Foreclosures are figured in for the bankers.
    * How to do loans for college --how to get deeply in debt for jobs that will no longer exist when you graduate.
    * How to jump start a car or other basic emergency things--how to steal
    * How to buy a car or house Many are losing their home
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    Aug 13 2013: We should consider the things that kids today already know, which we had to learn. How to type. How to program a cell phone. How to change shape on a transformer tool.

    If you are over 40, how long did it take you to learn how to use a word processor? typing exposes you to words faster and in greater quantity. Kids have learned this. Even the most uneducated of children appear to know how to spell more words than their parents. It's a product of the high tech world they grew up in.

    Kids have a lot of knowledge we had to learn the hard way. It is part of their everyday life and activity.

    They have the tools. They need some goals and the foundation to apply them. Providing that foundation should have been the job of their parents and grandparents. Instead we strapped them with debt.
  • Aug 12 2013: I have had the privilege to work with high school students for the past 22 years, and I have discovered the full spectrum (as you would expect) of students from those who have yet to discover their passion for learning and recognize their abilities to those who seem highly motivated, confident and equipped for whatever the future has in store. I am fairly convinced that our education system has been at the root of many of the challenges we now face within society. The "facts" that we have regarded as integral to creating an "educated citizen" are finally starting to be replaced by a range of competencies with a variety of opportunities for learning to be demonstrated. Teaching students how to become problem solvers is a lot more challenging than teaching them how to solve a "specific problem". I believe that when we bring "relevance" to the forefront of learning, and we take away the high stakes aspect of assessment, we will discover that many students will develop the confidence that they currently lack. The ability to see oneself as successful is critical! Some of the examples of "lifeskills" that you state seem to be the type of knowledge that one acquires through interest/necessity. How do students access this information? If they become problem solvers, then whatever the challenge is, they will have the skills to research, communicate, and pursue the information they seek. Curricula should always evolve, so we need to focus on the skills, attitudes, and competencies of our students, so they are capable of dealing with the challenges that accompany an unknown future.
  • Aug 12 2013: I have stated earlier some thoughts but before critical thinking (though it would be nice) are basic skills:

    1. go to any store, (especially true for fast food shops), turn off the pos terminal, they will not know the prices of items,, how to add, subtract, multiply, and how to calculate the sales tax.
    2., take away the calculator and many would not be able to approximate the tip of 15%. (most states with sales tax, just double or triple the sales tax depending on the state)
    3. I have hired very good engineers who can solve problems, either linearly or using critical thinking but could not write nor speak in a logical manner - necessary skills. By the way, these engineers graduated from very good engineering programs.
  • Aug 6 2013: I would not say that all adults lack life skills that marks their individual life track. It depends a lot on how the kid has been brought up. I think growing up in shadow of the parents who fulfill all the requirements makes the kids alienated to the outer world. Now the students coming out of school secure 98-99% in their final exam(at least in my country). i just wonder do they know everything that is there to learn. The same trend continues even after schools in colleges. Students learn for the sake of exam without any importance to the real world use of that concept. And why is that ??
    Because when our teachers were students they did the same thing and that is what we are taught.

    Now about the kids who develop basic life skills. In my opinion it can be attributed to two reasons. Firstly, the right mindset of the parents who know that their kids will continue to live after them in this world. Secondly, the kids belonging to middle class families who are aware of their surroundings and want to improve.

    P.S -The above said opinions are based on my own surroundings of developing India.
    • Aug 6 2013: Thanks for your response as you made some great points.

      Education has this problem of evaluating schools with numbers. This drives the wrong kind of pressures on staff and teachers to focus on the subjects that can be systematized the most. This meaning science and math and reading. This is where coming out secure but failing makes sense. The tests don't measure how successful the student is going to be in real life.

      Sir Ken also mentions that education formed during the same time for everyone which was during the industrial revolution. Education was meant to create good workers and not good thinkers.

      I also blame how competitive teachers and schools make it. This carries on to the bullying and social anxiety in teenagers.
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    Aug 6 2013: It is not until young adult faces independent life that he/she discovers how important life skills are. It is the education system and people's mindset that mislead children's upbriging,where life skills can be neglected while pursuing passing educational tests. Though those level-minded people are aware of this paralysis,it is the excessive protection children receive,provided by parents and school,in other words,young adults are spoiled in their path to adulthood.

    However,my contention is that childrem themselves are most likely to be responsble in their own lives,ultimately everyone has to write his own destiny.
  • Aug 6 2013: What do you guys think about this? Young adults are being influenced by the media and the information age -> they have a distorted view of reality. I sometimes feel that young people / people in general think things will just happen.

    What I mean by this is for example attitudes like "Im gonna become CEO" or "im gonna become the next Zuckerberg" or "im gonna become famous". My reaction is why dont you keep a job and pay your own rent for a year for starters.... Its not as easy as one might think.

    Im very ambitious and I work hard. Yet sometimes I still feel desperate and wonder if things are going to work out. But its scary how some of my friends "do nothing" and expect the world to come to them. They cant even jumpstart a car
  • Aug 6 2013: Yes, because the focus of education is not on basic skills any more. It is the pressure from the administration and parents that we don't fail kids. It is the pressure to pass the test.

    Schools do try and teach this in and among the requirements for passing these tests.

    The schools are also bogged down by the kids on the lower and and the higher end students suffer because of it. The system requires education towards college and not everyone meets that requirement. But every teacher must teach like every child is going to college, even though some should be held back and trained in job skills not higher education.
  • Aug 5 2013: There are schools that do teach this. Some schools teach all these skills but unfortunately they are the exception rather than the rule.

    When I taught in college, I gave my students a test on the 1st day of class and it was multiple choice. I could not believe how many could not add 1/2 + 1/3 and given 7+2*3 came up with the wrong answer. This was in the early 70's.

    A friend now teaches at a community college and teaches the remedial math course. The 1st course is addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division of whole numbers. I could not believe but the failure/dropout rate was over 3/4.

    Maybe the public school systems these students come from should pay for these remedial classes or provide it free - how did they graduate.

    I have seen when the point of sale cash registers fail (power or system failure) the cashiers (especially the fast food places) do not know how much to charge and they can not compute the total charge and doing the sales tax to them is impossible.
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    Aug 4 2013: I notice when I give the correct change at the cashier at a fast food place, they don't bother to count it. I guess the machine counts it for them. To check this out, sometimes I give them more than the amount. The result is the same.

    In households where there are a number of young people sharing an apartment. They appear pretty savy about these things. Those living at home with responsible parents have a large degree of common knowledge -what you specify is called common knowledge.

    I've noticed a distinction between young people with a low age of mental cognition -they make a choice when asked the question "which holds more, a short fat glass or a tall skinny one" and those that are more mature in mind, who answer it depends on the volume of the glass.

    I'd put the general mental age of a general 17 year old around age 13 to 15 and a young non-college, adult around high school age; with the ability to gain more common knowledge fast.

    As to the loans, what choices do they have?
    • Aug 12 2013: Its so depressing to see mental ages just like that but I really do see rich spoiled adolescents not knowing how to do things. They let themselves be dependent and they don't do things themselves like learning. But poorer people have problems at home with financing so it affects their grades due to shift in motivation. A good number of poor people aren't in a dual income like america's society demands. ( I am american). This way kids are faced with more problems to direct their attention. This alters learning. This gives poor people insecurity as well because they can't "keep up with the Jones' ". That distraction as well can hinder desire to learn. People need to change america's society by being happy synthetically and not having money hinder education and fitting in cause anxiety. If only It were true.
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        Aug 12 2013: It's just so hard to make ends meet these days. When I was young, a gallon of gas was only 30 to 50 cents a gallon and you could still pick up glass soda bottles and sell them for 10 cents each. It was possible to make a living by fishing and shrimping in Florida or cutting down lumber. Now, all those jobs are gone or impossible to get into with the proper bonding money and insurance. Permits are costly, capital is non-existent and resources are depleted.

        It's bad times for everyone with no help in sight. It's worse than it was just before WWII.

        The young don't have a chance. If your family is unable to help you, you are toast. The whole situation is ripe for a serious social break on a world wide scale.

        There is too much talk and not enough being done. To be truthful, I don't have any answers either. I can't think of anything to do to help young people anymore.
        • Aug 13 2013: I think it falls back onto culture of america. The independence that we have is what tells it. We feel that we should run our own lives in every way. The interdependence is there but it needs to be properly balanced with independence and it is lacking.

          I always hear of families not paying for their children's tuitions. Or people living at home with parents that don't know how to save money and have no intention in moving out. Parents do play a big part. The parents can be chief enablers in letting their kids stay at home or they can be so invested in work that they do not make sure their children have the skills to work on their own. Of course lack of two parents hinders this even more.

          I have an answer. Change the schooling. How can parents help their kids learn how to save, have skills to live on their own, or have emotional stability? If the parents still have those issues themselves then they're still learning it. This means the kids have next to no chance in learning it. School needs to have mandatory emotional stability, financing, and family consumer sciences courses.

          Teachers also need to learn to not cave in. Operant conditioning is a battle and who wins is reinforced.

          The U.S. government thought they pin pointed our lack in brains through the no child left behind law so they had a standard for the productive courses (sciences, math, languages)
          but they scapegoated truth or even failed to see that productivity depends on the amount of anxiety.

          If schools find the balance in helping students with learning to be independent, working togetherfor others, raising themselves but being interdependent and knowing F.C.S.so they can properly raise the next generation, tag teamed with scarcely anxious people will give the future more self actualized and transcended people.