Crowdsourcing the ‘Global Life School’

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Yesterday, I was thinking back to my experience in high school. While I had some amazing teachers and treasure many of the lessons that I learned, I wish I had been taught more fundamental ‘life skills’ during my adolescence. That reflection prompted me to write the following tweet:

Less than twenty-four hours later, the tweet has been shared and liked thousands of times. It turns out the idea of teaching “life skills” in schools struck a nerve and catalyzed a thought-provoking discussion about what’s missing from the ‘traditional education.’ Hundreds of people from around the globe shared their perspectives on what should and shouldn’t be included in an education.

By late last night, it was evident that the community had begun to crowdsource a quasi-curriculum for a ‘Global Life School.’ Per Rusty Meadow’s suggestion earlier in the day, I recorded many of the suggestions and consolidated them into an organized list.

Before I go any further, I want to make a few things clear. I don’t pretend to be an expert on writing curricula. Nor am I an expert on the inner workings of our vastly complex and antiquated education system. Nor do I feel our teachers are failing the kids. Our teachers work their asses off, are stretched to the max and are grossly under compensated. They’re doing the best they can given the circumstances. And some do teach these life skills. Additionally, schools are not incentivized to stray far from the core curriculum because test scores matter and dictate funding. Upon reflection, it’s unrealistic and perhaps wishful thinking to expect traditional schools to teach a full menu of ‘life skills’ for a variety of very practical and philosophical reasons.

Here’s what I do know. People need and actually want to learn and / or revisit this material and these skills. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out. And we can’t let the responsibility solely fall on our parents, relatives and other members of the community. It’s not fair. First, not everyone has a support team. Secondly, not every support team is well-equipped with the range of skills required to succeed in life. It takes a village. The response on Twitter is clear evidence there is a huge gap and opportunity. I realize there are a number of companies, like MissionU and The School of Life, that are stepping up to fill parts of this void. I am hopeful these solutions and others like them are a precursor to new institutions that will teach life skills to a range of audiences using varied approaches.

Before I leave you with the crowdsourced curriculum that evolved over the last 24 hours, I’d like to share my philosophy on education. Institutions and teachers are critical and we need them to thrive as a society, but the pursuit of knowledge, values, and experiences should be a personal life-long endeavor. Just because you’ve finished a class, graduated with a degree, settled on a career or are a certain age, it shouldn’t mean you are finished learning. We are living in incredible times. Information and access are nearly free and ubiquitous. Billions of people are now able to access the internet from their pockets. Most people with an ounce of curiosity, passion, persistence and a healthy dose of skepticism can really learn anything they want. Truly amazing.

I’ll end with two asks: first, please review the curriculum and let me know if any topics or sections should be added, deleted, combined or modified. Finally, if any of the topics pique your interest, I encourage to go deeper and follow your curiosity. Rather than waiting for traditional schools to develop some of this content or new ‘life schools’ to emerge, you can get started on your own with a little nudge and guidance. Everyone, regardless of age, can be a learner and a teacher. Embrace that.

Global Life School

Personal finance

  • Basic budgeting
  • Taxes
  • Mortgages and leases
  • Basic banking skills (saving, writing checks)
  • How credit works (loans, credit cards, mortgages)
  • How to buy a car
  • Compute net present value of college (based on cost and potential future earnings)
  • Basic contracts (e.g. car lease, rental agreement)
  • Insurance (renters, life, auto)
  • Investing
  • Student loans

Health

  • Basic nutrition
  • Mindfulness (for mental health)
  • Basic first aid
  • CPR
  • Contraception
  • Sex education
  • Fundamentals of exercise
  • Quant self
  • Stress management

Key Economic Ideas

  • Opportunity cost
  • Sunk cost
  • Diminishing returns
  • Compounding
  • Game theory
  • Self-sufficiency

Relationships

  • Conflict resolution
  • Networking (online and offline)
  • Providing feedback
  • Respectful candor
  • Relationship acuity and qualifying
  • Listening
  • Maintain relationships without proximity
  • Basic social skills (e.g. put phone away for 5 seconds)

Business fundamentals

  • Basic business concepts (revenue, expenses, assets, etc.)
  • Entrepreneurship 101
  • Sales 101
  • Negotiation

Project Management

  • Creating a plan
  • Setting goals
  • Evaluating progress
  • Understanding dependencies
  • Sticking to a budget
  • Driving to completion

Emotional Intelligence

  • Mindfulness
  • Persistence
  • Compassion
  • Empathy
  • Ethics
  • Integrity
  • Honesty
  • Optimism
  • Gratitude
  • You are not your thoughts / feelings
  • Don’t take things personally
  • Self awareness
  • Situational awareness
  • Personal responsibility
  • Dealing with rejection
  • Growth mindset
  • Mental toughness
  • Resilience

Humanities / Art

  • Cooking
  • Religion
  • Art
  • Music
  • Wood/metal shop
  • Poetry
  • Sewing
  • Auto Electric Shop
  • Literature

Civics

  • How government works
  • Human rights
  • Voting (local, state and federal)
  • The two party system
  • How to serve and give back
  • Obey the law
  • Creating social change
  • How to destroy the state

Career

  • Determining a major
  • Selecting a career
  • Charting a career parth
  • Assessing skills
  • Resume building
  • Cover letter writing
  • Interviewing
  • Marketing yourself
  • Self sufficiency
  • Story telling

Learning

  • How to study
  • Finding any answer on Google
  • Read what interests you
  • Be an autodidact
  • Find various mentors
  • Embrace lifelong learning beyond classroom
  • Master the basics (80/20 rule)
  • Valuable heuristics
  • Verify sources
  • Media literacy
  • Interpreting current events
  • Systems theory
  • Data organization and management

Thinking / Decision Making

  • Critical thinking and reasoning
  • Decision making criteria
  • Metacognition
  • Calculating risks
  • Evaluating tradeoffs
  • Logical fallacies
  • Statistics 101
  • Multiple paths to answers
  • Debate skills
  • Determine credibility of information
  • Forming independent arguments
  • Appreciating difference of opinion
  • Bias (selection, confirmation, survivorship, unconscious)
  • Understanding, forming and breaking habits

Systems Thinking

  • Asymmetry
  • Systems ecology
  • Systems theory

Communication

  • Basic writing (clear and concise)
  • Basic grammar
  • Email etiquette
  • Public speaking

Globalization

  • Working and living in multicultural society
  • Language Learning
  • How to plan and book a trip

Equality

  • Anti-racism
  • Anti-sexism
  • Power dynamics
  • Gender identity and relations
  • Sexuality

Food

  • Growing Food
  • Nutrition
  • Cooking
  • Food systems

Technology

  • MS Excel for daily use
  • WordPress / blogging platforms
  • Html
  • CSS
  • JavaScript
  • PhP
  • RoR
  • Pyton
  • VBA-excel

The Author

A mindful VC in NYC

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