Does the School System Really Prepare Students for the Real World? (by Anna Puetz)

annapicSitting in class, memorizing facts to later regurgitate onto a test in order to get a good grade is the school system boiled down to one simple sentence. It is the place where you learn bits of all subject matter and try to relate each subject to one another. However, is this really how the real world works? Adults do not sit down and learn lessons they later execute during a test; in fact, it is quite the opposite once you go off on your own in the real world. Students don’t learn how to pay taxes, the function of the economy, how to professionally behave in the workplace, how to succeed in a job interview, and how to pay bills in middle or high school, but as adults, we are expected to know how to do all of these things. Instead, we learn the basics in math, science, art, history, language, computer science, and English, which are supposed to prepare us for the real world. The school system in place today does not properly prepare students for the real world because the curriculum does not teach students in a way people learn in real life; instead, students learn by memorizing facts, then repeating them for an objective grade.  

Students in today’s school system learn the surface level of basic subjects, but the school culture does not allow for a deep love and understanding for a specific subject for each student. In the real world, people’s careers are based off of their passions and interests, but the school curriculum does not allow for increased interest in one subject-matter above the others. As a result, students give minimal effort into learning each subject because they are do not understand the necessity of what is being taught. Instead, students should be more inspired to find their passions and deep interests during high school (Cutler 1), so that they have an idea of what path they want to go down during their college education instead of deciding what to study during junior year of college. Students now are taught that in order to succeed, they must be the most knowledgeable on every subject matter taught, rather than focus on what they like and strive to make a career out of that, like it is in the real world.

Another area of education the school system is lacking in is the ability to teach students how to market themselves in a professional, positive way. It is no surprise that children and teenagers know more about social media and technology than their teachers do, but students today are not looking at the big picture as to how social media can affect their professional lives down the road. The school system needs to teach lessons in proper professional portrayal on social media, as well as resume building, interviewing lessons, and how to use their strengths and talents to stand out on college and job applications. This marketing can help students land jobs they would not have been able to otherwise, and more immediately, help them get stand out during the college application process. Lessons like these could also help students who want to go down a more creative and artistic path: learning how to market yourself on a website, or submitting essays to an online forum are examples that only begin to touch the surface of what can be possible with lessons like this to current high school students (Cutler 1). Once schools start helping their students market the knowledge they have worked hard for during their education, students will become better professional workers and work harder to get noticed because they know how to market themselves.

Students in today’s school system, and the adults who are products of the same traditional school system have to work harder not only in school, but also out of school, to earn the education and knowledge needed to become a successful adult with a striving career. Hard work is needed out of school to focus on those lessons not taught in the basic curriculum, like sparking passion and interest, marking oneself, and further surviving on their own income, with bills, taxes, and other financial requirements. This is all not to say that what students are currently learning in school is useless, but there needs to be a change in the way students are motivated to learn, like changing the grading and testing system, and widening the subject matter taught in schools to basic skills needed as an adult that are never taught in school, like paying taxes, the stock market, mortgages, and perhaps maybe even basic survival skills, like how to change a tire. It is a matter of giving children a well-rounded education to prepare them for not only what is explicitly expected as an adult, but implicitly expected of an adult in society as well.

Annotated Bibliography

Cutler, David. “Top 5 Life Skills Schools Don’t Teach.” Spin Education. N.p., 07 Jan. 2014. Web. 10 Aug. 2015. <;

This website publication highlights the five biggest holes missing in the high school education system. The arguments focus on expanding the more street-smart side of students schools neglect to focus on. The skills Cutler finds most important to teach are: marketing themselves to the public and future employers, the importance of concentrating on a specific passion or interest, failure is a learning tool, not something that requires harsh punishment, how to manage personal finances, and how to perform basic repair and maintenance skills. While I did not use each of these arguments in my blog post, I believe the article as a whole contributed to the point of my argument, which is that schools need to expand the scope of what they are teaching students so that they can be well-prepares adults. This article shows different ways to go about that change, and I used some of the solutions in the article as examples of how to change in my essay.

“Does School Really Prepare Students for Adult Life?” Does School Really Prepare Students for Adult Life?, n.d. Web. 10 Aug. 2015. <;.

The source is a published debate that opens the discussion up to anyone willing to write as to what their opinion is regarding the structure and solidity of the school system today. This source is particularly useful because there are so many different opinions, ranging from very positive to extremely negative. While conducting my research, I found this source to be the most helpful in deciding what to focus on and argue, even though I did not directly quote it, the multitude of opinions and variations of debate helped get the ball rolling during my writing process.

Harte, Oliver. “Does the High School Curriculum in the U.S. Actually Prepare Students for the Real World?” The Huffington Post., 01 Feb. 2013. Web. 10 Aug. 2015. <;.

Oliver Harte is a student still in high school who argues the importance of expanding the scope of what is taught in high school to encompass more real life lessons, similar to the 5 life skills schools don’t teach. His argument is very genuine, and he recognizes how near impossible it is to change the school system, which keeps a very real tone throughout the article. He proposes a shift in focus from testing well to becoming more overall knowledgeable citizens of a community and greater society. My overall argument is very similar to Harte’s in that I understand the unlikelihood schools will change just because people believe it should but challenging what has been the norm is healthy and it makes people think, so that maybe in the future, the school system can really change, which I believe is Harte’s goal in this article as well.



  1. JoAnna

    I really like this subject because I think education is one of the most important part of someone’s life. I love learning and continuing my education. I really did not enjoy high school. I too felt like everything I was learning was going to have nothing to do with my future career goals, even though I didn’t figure out my career goals until three years after high school. I skipped school a lot and never tried very hard. I can honestly say not much from high school has helped me get where I am today. I was fortunate that our economics teacher did teach us how to do taxes, I just had forgotten by the time I actually needed the information. I think schools could do a better job at preparing our youths but there is also a limit on what they can do.
    I think learning how to market yourself and how to be a professional is learned at home. Yes, there are plenty of kids out there that do not have good examples at home but we have to work with what we got. I was lucky that my mom taught us how to behave around superiors and how to treat others from a young age. Besides the home factor, sometimes it is hard to reach teenagers. I think a lot of the time it doesn’t matter what you are teaching, they might not want to hear it. I know teenagers think they know everything and a lot of times when we try and push “information they need to know for their future” they will completely shut down and stop listening. I completely agree that schools could be teaching a lot more helpful information but I think there is also a need for parents to teach their children how to act as well.

    • JoAnna

      I also have to add that I think your writing was very strong. I can tell you are passionate about this subject. I think you did a great job at keeping focus as well. Again, you are a great writer and I think this piece was great.

  2. Nathaniel Bilton

    Hi, Anna, I liked your topic. I am in high school still so I can relate to the argument. My volunteer service was with a Youth Council which is a leadership group for youth that is involved in the community. While reading your blog, it made me think of the ways some of these practical skills can be learned by youth in their extracurricular activities if they don’t get it in school. But, I agree, I can think of a lot of things schools don’t teach kids that they should know. Great job on your blog.

  3. Nina Rockwell

    These are all really great points. Standardized testing and streamlined curriculum don’t help our students learn anything about the real world. Finding a healthy and functional balance would be an incredible step for the education system and would prepare kids for college, work, adulthood, etc.
    How do we do this? More training for teachers? Appealing to school boards with our own experiences as students and how the system failed us? Raising funding for public schools is a huge part of changing the way things work.
    Thank you so much for writing about this. It’s definitely a huge problem and I think it would be really effecting and healthy for the system to shift it’s focus.

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