Saturday, November 13, 2004

For a few years now I’ve been wondering what subjects I would have liked to learn in high school. I got very little out of Literature or History, but I love learning history from The History Channel. Typing was a great class. I hated it at the time but it has been quite a valuable skill. Physical Education (a.k.a. Gym) made me hate exercise. :-( I’m quite happy I took Math and English. Two subjects I wish were mandatory:

  • Personal Finance: Balancing your checkbook, keeping out of debt, the value of saving (compound interest!), the cost of borrowing (compound interest!), risk/reward, ways to keep and save your money (checking accounts, savings accounts, brokerage accounts, CDs, money market, stocks, bonds, mutual funds, etc.), ways to pay for things (cash, checks, check cards, debit cards, smart cards, credit cards, paypal), what insurance buys you (reduced risk), and so on. Marginal Revolutions has a post about educating people on these topics.
  • Advertising: The power of brands, strategies and tactics used in marketing (celebrity endorsements, infomercials, glamour/macho, misdirection, etc.), analysis of commercials (have the kids watch TV and then discuss the commercials), sales & bargains, price discrimination (name brands vs. generics, for example), fashion, seasonal pricing, sneaky deals (“sign this check for $3.00 and you agree to subscribe to our service ”), bundling, cross-product promotion (American Express promotes MCI, MCI promotes Continental, Continental promotes American Express), sales tactics/psychology, ways to compare products (UL, Consumer Reports, epinions, newsgroups), etc.

I think these two subjects would help people much more than most of the traditional subjects taught in school.

1 comment:

David Alpert wrote at Sunday, November 14, 2004 at 5:23:00 AM PST

How about:

Understanding Statistics (not a whole course, but the subject of a few weeks): how to evaluate statistics you hear on the news and understand their credibility. The difference between correlation and causation. What the 95% confidence level means and why polls or medical studies can often be wrong or one study needs to be reinforced with other studies.

Civic Participation: how political movements work and what gives them power. What lobbyists do. Political movements in the last century and why they mattered. How to write your Congressman and other ways to make a difference.