December 11, 2018

BY BRANDY FULTON

I turned 20 at the beginning of this month. I have been living an hour and a half away from home for two years now, and I am pretty self-sufficient when it comes to getting to school and work, spending wisely and understanding basic life skills. However, a couple of days after my birthday, my parents decided they wanted to have the ever so dreadful and painfully confusing tax talk. For roughly two hours we discussed how to pay taxes, how to file your taxes, what can and cannot be written off and basic things to keep myself organized throughout the year.

Since then I have been thinking a lot about what we are taught in school, and how it doesn’t prepare us for the real world.

The average person spends roughly 15 per cent of their lives in school, not including the time that they are in post-secondary. Students are taught math, science, history, geography, English, gym, French and arts as well as different high school electives.

However, out of all this time that is spent in school between the ages of four and 18, I have never been taught real life skills.

Now this goes back to the talk with my parents. It was like teaching a kid their ABCs or 123s. I was asking what seemed like dumb questions, and although I was given an answer I still had no clue what I was doing. Unfortunately, this goes further than just paying taxes. My mom’s friend referred to balancing a chequebook while we were talking and I had no idea what this meant. I had to pretend to check my phone so I could look it up on Google.

Did you know that if you don’t pay your taxes, you could be fined anywhere from $1,000-$25,000 and face one year in prison, according to the Canadian Income Tax Act? Few people know about these kinds of laws. If I wasn’t so open to my parents about what was going on in my life, I would have never understood that I was working at a job that was discriminatory toward my religion and desire to go to church, because I was also never taught about basic human rights.

In 2014, high schools in Oklahoma added courses to their curriculum that taught students 14 life skills in personal finance. This included balancing a chequebook, saving for retirement, rights and responsibilities for renting and owning a home and identity fraud and theft. Other schools across the U.S. have been making these changes as well.

I urge the government to add these to our curriculum. I think that these need to be taught in high school so students who are preparing to leave their families and move out will understand what is coming. Isn’t it better to teach a subject that affects everyone’s life, rather than one that only affects a few?

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