Seven Things They Ought To Teach In School

They may have taught you reading, writing, and arithmetic, but is that really everything you needed to know? Let’s fill in the gaps.

1. How to wash and dry your hands

Jay Hsu / Via Flickr: ajay13

You’d be disgusted to know how many people don’t wash their hands after taking a dump. I’m sure you wash them, though. But are you washing up correctly? Two pieces, one by Dr. Atul Gawande in The New England Journal of Medicine, the other by Joe Smith in a TED talk, will teach you the best practices in washing and drying your hands. Whatever you do, just don’t sneeze.

2. How to communicate effectively with the police

The police are here to protect us, but sometimes we need to protect ourselves from them. How can we be respectful while maintaining our rights? First, watch a talk by a former criminal defense attorney (now law school professor) and a criminal investigator, who tell us why you should never talk to the police, even if innocent, even just to answer “Do you know how fast you were going?” Correct answer? “I don’t know.” Next, watch Judge Billy Murphy tell us about ten rules for dealing with the police. You’ll be an expert in dealing with our frenemies in blue.

3. How to lace and tie your shoes

Skip, skip, skip to my lou, can you lace and tie a shoe? You’ve tried bunny ears, velcro, or maybe you just gave up and went barefoot for a year or two. But did you know that there are hundreds of ways to lace and tie your shoes, some better than others? Meet Ian, who runs a site dedicated to methods for lacing and tying shoes.

4. How to stay safe on the internet

So your hands are clean, your mouth is zipped, and your laces are tied. But is your password for everything on the internet “password1234” or something similarly terrible? Are your computer and internet accounts secure? Probably not. Let’s fix that. Experts at Mozilla will tell you how to create a strong password, experts at Google will tell you how to enable two-factor authentication (here’s a list of other sites that allow it), and Nova’s Cyber Security Lab even has a game to help you learn the fundamentals of staying safe online. All that’s left is deleting your browser history and staying clear of Nigerian princes.

5. How to avoid common misconceptions

Did you know that the forbidden fruit wasn’t necessarily an apple? That Buddha wasn’t obese? That Vikings didn’t wear horned helmets? That Columbus never set foot on the mainland U.S.? That dogs don’t sweat by salivating? That bats aren’t blind? That waking a sleepwalker won’t cause death? That humans have more than five senses? These are just a few of the many misconceptions people commonly have. For efficiency’s sake, why not read them all in one sitting? On the recommendation of xkcd’s Randall Munroe, here’s Wikipedia’s list of common misconceptions.

6. How to apologize

It’s easy to mess up, but harder to fess up and say we are sorry. And it’s harder still to make our apology meaningful. Luckily, it’s something you can practice. Here’s JoEllen, an elementary school teacher, on a better way to say sorry.

7. How to fold a fitted sheet

So you noticed someone else’s silly misconception, corrected them, pissed them off, and then apologized gracefully — all in a day’s work. Now it’s time to make your bed. Literally. It may be a pain in the ass to fold pillow covers, blankets, and top sheets, requiring an extra hand or two, but at least we all know that it can be done. However, just like a piece of printer paper can’t be folded more than seven times (wait, was that one on the list?), it was long thought that a fitted sheet could not be neatly folded. How could it? Where would it all go? In this video, Martha Stewart throws down the gauntlet, folding a fitted sheet so neatly you’ll be left echoing Clay Davis’ famous line.

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