Famously known for his inventions, Thomas Edison once said, “The three great essentials to achieve anything worthwhile are: hard work, stick-to-itiveness, and common sense.”
According to Merriam Webster, common sense is defined as “sound practical judgment that is independent of specialized knowledge, training, or the like.” On the other hand, the same dictionary defines intelligence as the “capacity for learning, reasoning, understanding, and similar forms of mental activity.” Moreover, common sense can be defined as keeping your hands on the wheel instead of texting, putting on makeup, drinking and driving, etc. or looking both ways before crossing the street.
In fact, many high school students focus on earning the best grades and moving through elementary, middle, and high school for 12 years before choosing to pursue a post-secondary education or enter the real world by starting their career early. Although they can take classes outside of the four core courses—math, science, English, and social studies – students are required to primarily focus on these subjects each year.
Most schools have trained students to focus primarily on their academics, not necessarily on the skills that they will need for interviews, public speaking, socializing, or even dealing with issues like peer pressure. Not all schools focus on many of the leadership and general life skills that students will need in the near future, or more importantly, “common sense,” which can easily be taught through civics or science classes that provide more information about real-life topics including drugs/alcohol, leadership, forensics, etc.
As students enter into adulthood, they become more independent and will have no one there to justify their actions or explain the difference between right and wrong. They will stand as individuals in this world and to prepare them for what they will see, students need to start learning outside of the school environment.
But, students should receive some basis of understanding of the outside world during their high school career. Of course, teachers have to follow certain guidelines and instruct courses required by the district curriculum and national core standards. However, classes that teach students about the real world are beneficial in that they can guide students in making the right choices and should also allow students to have some understanding when it comes to the real world. Although classes like Drug Abuse Resistance Education (D.A.R.E.) were taught in elementary school, students change as they grow older and many have started interacting with the wrong groups who prioritize partying and using harmful substances. High school is a different stage of life, and these topics should be reintroduced to prepare them for life after high school–to use their heads to analyze potentially dangerous situations.
Unfortunately, some of the smartest people in high school have absolutely no common sense. Their effort in academics consumes all of their hard work and time, making them lose focus on the skills they will need outside of high school—social skills, communication skills, leadership skills, etc. for the real world. A 4.8 GPA does not guarantee that you are street smart—it just shows that you take your education seriously. But, if you had an important job interview for a prestigious law firm, would you come into the interview room wearing shorts, flip flops, and a t-shirt, then sit down immediately, without introducing yourself? Of course not! You dress formally and firmly shake the hand of your interviewer. Unfortunately, some students don’t understand that dressing well is important for an interview; instead, students believe that their intelligence and their resume will automatically put them in acceptable standing, yet their communication and presentation skills are just as important.
However, it’s important to learn in school and have a strong background in the four core subjects. But, school should be a place for students to grow intellectually and civically. Finding yourself is important, but understanding how the world works and being practical is far more important for the near future, especially as students start to become individuals within society. It should give students the right training to prepare for their future careers and teach them that everything will not work in their favor. Obstacles will act as barriers between themselves and their goals. But, these problems should not be a reason to give up, but rather the motivation to fight on and keep going as a well-rounded student.
Instead of offering open periods during a senior’s last year of high school, one solution could be that all schools fill this time with other classes that will prepare them for the real world. There could be a class on finding a job or civics, where instructors will teach the essentials in community and public life. There could even be a political science class, where students will truly learn about the meaning behind politicians words and speeches–how everything can be seen as an allegory and how they aim to promise so much, yet do so little. Once in awhile, teachers can bring in guest speakers to provide a different perspective and more information on these skills.
Being intelligent is truly incredible and necessary for the future, but unless students also learn how to function in the real world, they can expect to be lost in a world where practical skills and common sense are everything.