Ask Hackaday: What Skills Would You Give A Twelve Year Old?

In several decades of hanging around people who make things, one meets a lot of people fascinated by locks, lock picking, and locksport. It’s interesting to be sure, but it had never gripped me until an evening in MK Makerspace when a fellow member had brought in his lockpicking box with its selection of locks, padlocks, and tools. I was shown the basics of opening cheap — read easy from that padlocks, and though I wasn’t hooked for life I found it to be a fascinating experience. Discussing it the next day a friend remarked that it was an essential skill they’d taught their 12-year-old, which left me wondering, just what skills would you give to a 12-year-old?

Your Skills Are Most Numerous When You Try To Remember What They Were

The pic of a reader from George Dobbs' Learnabout Electronics. That was the peak of my 12yo electronics attainment.
The pic of a reader from George Dobbs’ Learnabout Simple Electronics, that we reviewed last year. This was the peak of my 12yo electronics attainment.

My instant thoughts turned towards the practical, and what I could do back when jumpers were goalposts, which probably wasn’t as much as I would like to think it was, and certainly didn’t include lock picking. Aside from the stuff a British village primary school teaches you I could solder, badly, I understood the basic electronics of germanium transistors and regenerative AM radios, I could code in Sinclair Basic and elementary Z80, and I could inexpertly bash nails and saw pieces of wood to assemble rudimentary constructions for outdoor forts and the like in the recesses of farmland hedges. All practical skills, and in more developed forms later in life those which have stood me in good stead.

But what I missed in that round-up were a load of other skills I had that are every bit as lifetime-useful as those I listed. I was a voracious reader, which set me up for a lifetime of literacy, a career in publishing companies, and ultimately to write for Hackaday. I had all the farm-bred mix of curiosity and practicality, which breeds an innate knowledge that you can make or fix anything. And I could grow things, my sisters and I had been tending our little vegetable plots since early childhood. There is nothing quite like eating a tomato that you have grown, when you are a kid.

Clearly the question of what skills a 12-year-old should have is a lot more complex than at first meets the eye, so in my musing I asked the rest of the Hackaday team what they thought of it.

Enough To Be Dangerous In As Many Broad Areas As Possible

It is embarrassing how bad Anglophones are at other languages, something driven home at international hacker camps such as SHA 2017.
It is embarrassing how bad Anglophones are at other languages, something driven home at international hacker camps such as SHA 2017.

Probably the best single quote came from Jonathan Bennett: “Enough to be dangerous in as many broad areas as possible“, Which made me laugh, but has a basis in truth. What was particularly interesting was that it was an even mix between the type of practical skills I first launched into, and more life-skill type of knowledge. Both Al and Mike homed in on something I’ve struggled to achieve at a basic level in the years since my twelfth birthday, to learn a second language. We Anglophones are bad at that, and I am constantly shamed by my Continental and other friends with their perfect English. I speak French and Welsh badly after enormous effort, and I am diligently studying to add Dutch to that list. If I had a twelve-year-old, I would do everything I could to expose them to languages as early as they can hear them.

A common concern was skills that you might loosely term as essential for surviving a zombie apocalypse. Whether or not this relates to any real feeling that an apocalypse will soon be upon us or not is moot, but it could also touch on the pervasive sense that as a society we are losing touch with those basic skills that our ancestors might have taken for granted. Though it might be beyond a twelve-year-old, a modern twist came in one of those skills being the ability to synthesize or extract essential drugs such as insulin in the manner of Eva and Victor Saxl in wartime Shanghai.

We had quite a discussion on this matter, and came up with far too many ideas to easily condense into a single article. But it’s an interesting exercise whether you have kids or not, because it combines both nostalgia for your own past and the chance to assemble your perfect future — and make no doubt that the needs of the future are constantly changing.

Tell us in the comments what you’d equip your twelve-year-old with, but as you do so be careful. Your parents probably also saddled you with things you’d prefer not to have, make sure you don’t follow their example.

84 thoughts on “Ask Hackaday: What Skills Would You Give A Twelve Year Old?

  1. As long as homo sapiens is on this planet, the most useful skills remain to be the social skills. And for a teenager who is dealing with a lot of that, this is exponentially true. So the skills I would give? The ability to communicate efficiently, cooperate, express yourself clearly, convince others, shrug off attacks and see past superficial communication patterns, etc. — that would give them a huge upper hand in anything, and let them learn any other skill quickly.
    Those are also the skills most worth practicing for adults, I believe.

          1. I’d rather it was moved out-of-line with the Reply, eg to the top right. That way there is only the Reply to be clicked on at the bottom of a post. And Reply should remain first, because in general we are all a bunch of fair-minded people here, with relatively few bad comments (that I have seen, anyway).

    1. +100000 ……. physical skills pale into almost total insignificance. I’d give the 12 year the skill to be able to psycho analyse all the so called ‘responsible’ adults around them.

    2. I clicked to say exactly this. No steam/art/creative/anything skill will serve a 12 year old (or any human being) as much as strong social and communication skills.

    3. With those skills, they’ll become a politician or a TV celebrity because you’re giving them the equivalent of video game “charisma” and setting them up for a life that leverages those skills.

      What you’re thinking is “Wouldn’t it be great if I, or someone like me, had more charisma so I could achieve my goals?” What really ends up happening with people who already have those skills is, they won’t develop the skills you have because they find they can apply those skills elsewhere and they don’t need to first develop a great understanding in your field to succeed in life. Rather, they become social butterflies who end up abusing other people of just being generally pointless people who survive because they can make other people believe stuff.

      Rather, ask for the persistence to change that which can be made better, and the understanding to accept that which cannot.

      1. +1 – Given high social / communication skills early on, political or sales trajectories seem much more likely. Those skills can help technical fields, but given too much on the social side early on, there might more likely never be interest/time for technical skills. Like you said…

      2. > With those skills, they’ll become a politician or a TV celebrity

        I wish that it was true. Unfortunately research shows that political career is mostly hereditary, and even a very brief review of the most prominent politicians shows a severe lack of social skills in that demographic.

        I think you are falling for the stereotypes here, and for a very naive interpretation of “charisma” — as if taken directly from some simplified game system, or something.

        Actual social skills include empathy, grace and the ability to lead people without taking credit for all their work.

        The best rulers are scarcely known by their subjects;
        The next best are loved and praised;
        The next are feared;
        The next despised:
        They have no faith in their people,
        And their people become unfaithful to them.

        When the best rulers achieve their purpose
        Their subjects claim the achievement as their own.

        1. >Actual social skills include empathy, grace and the ability to lead people without taking credit for all their work.

          Those are social virtues, not skills. Narcissists and sociopaths can be highly socially skilled, yet they lack the social virtues and turn into Machiavellian monsters. They appear to have the qualities of good leaders – to those who already believe in them. To everyone else they’re incompetent and shallow manipulators.

          Confucius couldn’t solve that problem either. He also advocated for a society governed through “shame” – by playing on the peoples’ own prejudices and traditions in order to create a state where the people police themselves to avoid this social shame. That’s the thought behind your quote – a sort of ultraconservative state lead not by the rule of law, but by an appeal to”natural order” that can be subtly manipulated by the leadership to pit people against people to achieve the rulers’ ends.

          The “best leader” leads by inaction – letting the people oppress themselves.

    4. Teach kids to respect but not fear electricity, if a kid is taught to fear wires and lug nuts, you have the makings of dependent. Teach your kid work ethics and that if they don’t show up , they may not have a job. Teach your kids to learn and to enjoy learning, give them resources to find for themselves and they will shine beyond your dreams.

        1. Yes, back in the ’80s when I got my degree, we all used the physical books/journals/etc at the university library. More recently I took some classes at a different college, and a lot of the material is only available online.

    1. “Critical Thinking, how to use reason.”

      Absolutely! That comes naturally from a STEM education which is why that should be taught to every kid no matter whether they plan to go into a STEM field or not. I suspect one of the primary reasons so many hate or fear science courses is that rather than merely requiring rote memorization they require the critical thinking skill they never learned to that point.

      Lock picking? Give me a break. Like teaching Breaking and Entering 101. There are plenty of “ADULTS” who should never be taught that skill.

      “I think people in power have a vested interest to oppose critical thinking. You see, if we don’t improve our understanding of critical thinking and develop it as kind of second nature, we are just suckers ready to be taken by the next charlatan who ambles along… there are lots of ways to gain power and money by deceiving people who are not skilled in critical thinking.” – Carl Sagan, radio interview, May 1996

      “Despite the favorable opinions of undergraduates and alumni, a closer look at the record… shows that colleges and universities, for all the benefits they bring, accomplish far less for their students than they should… Many cannot reason clearly or perform competently in analyzing complex, non-technical problems, even though faculties rank critical thinking as the primary goal of a college education… Most have never taken a course in quantitative reasoning or acquired the knowledge needed to be a reasonably informed citizen in a democracy.” – Derek Bok, former 20 year president of Harvard University in his book “Our Underachieving Colleges”

  2. So many skills to learn, so little time…… For a start:

    *********General*************

    Clear communication (in speech and in writing) is at the top of the list

    Sketching (pencil on paper), though this is really part of communication

    Focus– the skill of study (of a problem, of a topic, etc) or directed work (on a solution to a problem, building something, etc) in spite of distractions. Yes, it is a skill that can be learned.

    *********Specific*********

    How to use hand tools (for wood and metal. Saws, files, hammer and nails, screwdriver and wrench) correctly, and how to choose the proper tool.

    How to sharpen a knife

    How to find and prepare food (read this how you want, anywhere from navigating the supermarket for affordable, tasty, healthy meals to identifying edible plants in the field and how to catch, skin, and prepare small animals)

    How to sew, at least to the level of repairing and maintaining clothing.

    How to swim

    At least one physical skill that is otherwise not practical but requires practice and decdication- juggle, ride a unicycle, walk a tightrope, do a standing backflip, walk on hands, do a card trick, or….. A skill to have for its own sake rather than to make money or win competitions

    How to change a baby

    First aid

    How to change a tire, check the oil, and whatever other basic operator repairs and maintenance the vehicles in the childs life may need

  3. Concentrating on the basic skills, not on the more philosophical ones :

    – Another language(s)

    – Nowadays, it seems important and unreasonable that schools do not teach everyone the “sign language” ( to speak with mute people, do not know the name of the language in English ). But it is something people should simply learn at school.

    – Basic cooking.

    – Basic sewing.

    – Basic tool using.

    – Good notions of economy. Children today seem to grow believing money magically appears in a credit card, and are later confronted with the harsh reality, sometimes when it is too late.

    – Dancing. Like Cliff said above, something to learn for themselves, good for the body, not needing a reason. Couple that with some music knowledge/practice.

    – A very important lesson : the only place where money comes before work is in the thesaurus.

    1. Agree especially with the musical instrument part. Not only because everyone needs to be able to make music, though there’s definitely a lot to be said for that.

      Playing an instrument is a skill that does not come quickly. But with consistent daily practice, sustained over time, most people can make significant progress. There’s a meta-lesson in that. There are many worthwhile skills that cannot be acquired in a week-long intensive training course, but fifteen minutes or a half hour per day can work wonders.

      If you can learn to play an instrument, you can learn a new language. You can learn morse code. You can learn to juggle. You can learn algebra. You can learn to paint a realistic portrait. These things won’t come quickly, and progress won’t always be easy to see each week. But small effort, sustained over time, will work.

      And that is the lesson I want my kids to experience.

  4. Self-discipline and self-restraint.

    Cooking from scratch. My parents had a very easy way to ensure my brother and I learned basic cooking: They simply stopped making or buying any deserts. If we wanted cookies or cake, we’d have to whip them up ourselves.

    Basic carpentry.

    Sewing – at least enough to get a button back on a shirt or repair a ripped seam.

    Basic car maintenance – how to change a flat tire, oil changes, etc.

    Managing money and living within your means.

  5. At twelve? I taught my self 6502 assembly language on the ATARI … An exception? perhaps. I had a good mentor, my Dad, but he only provided me the tools. I still had to figure everything out on my own.

    1. I was reading a book recently (How to survive in the woods?), and yes, keeping your wits about you during an emotional, physical, intellectual challenge is the key to surviving.

  6. How to determine if a story (read news item) is fact or fiction.
    How to form your own opinion based on what you know and don’t be afraid to augment it if you acquire new information.

  7. How money works. Not just go to work and get a paycheck, how the whole monetary system works so they know how to invest and have their money work for them. There’s a difference between “poor money” and “rich money” and they need to understand how to get “rich money”.

    Survival skills, Les Stroud-style. Hunting, fishing, foraging, shelter, fire, tracking, first aid, etc.Self-sufficiency. Never know when the zombies will rise up.

    At least one foreign language in common use. Learning Klingon has limited value unless you’re in Starfleet.

    Not-so-basic home repair – Plumbing, carpentry, electrical, masonry, etc. They may not need to perform the repairs but they need to know enough about how it’s done to keep a contractor from ripping them off. They should be able to replace a hot water tank with no hesitation.

    Same with auto mechanics. Know what the parts of a car are and what they do. They may not be able to change a drive shaft but they need to figure out a ballpark value of what changing one should cost.

    A musical instrument. Kids with musical skills are often more well rounded and more intelligent individuals.

    Self defense. Learning a martial art aids coordination and is good exercise. Kicking a bully’s ass is a bonus.

    Science. Principles of physics, chemistry and biology are important building blocks.

    1. >Les Stroud-style.

      Wasn’t he the guy who made a documentary about going off-grid in the woods to live “naturally”, and ended up hauling pre-fabricated wall elements for his cabin with a helicopter because the logging road to the place couldn’t support a semi?

      Then he had a technician install a solar electricity system, admitted that he didn’t have the first understanding of how it worked, and hauled in canisters of propane for the stoves and hot water, pulled in with snow mobiles from the nearest town.

      Les Stroud can live in the wild for as long as he can pop back into modern civilization every few days or weeks, but that’s not “survival” – survival is about sustaining yourself in the long run and establishing a future. It’s not merely staying alive until the producers send a helicopter to pick you up. He wouldn’t be of any help in a “zombie apocalypse” situation because he doesn’t have any idea about self-sustenance – the man is a survival tourist.

  8. Teach them how to live on what others throw away, because if you have to compete with them you will eventually lose.

    Teach them that no matter how much money you have, it will never be enough to win favour, so don’t focus on earning money or status, instead be a useful tool to have around.

    Teach them not to be a target whipping boy, by giving them stoic independence, even in the most dire situations.

    Teach them to treat daily life as a form of war, and about attrition and triage.

    Focus on goals in life, not on their own weaknesses or strengths.

    1. Bob, this is an excellent list and I would add two more.

      Teach them that they can learn anything themselves.

      Teach them to take responsibility for their own actions.

  9. There are some great suggestions about life skills above, but this is Hackaday, and NOBODY yet has said programming?! Early teens is the perfect time to introduce kids to tech skills and show them they it’s not that scary, or necessarily hard, to build really cool things using the tools our modern world puts at their fingertips. A non-exhaustive list of skills to work on:

    * Programming and algorithmic thinking in general. (Python)
    * Basic electrical principles. (Arduino projects)
    * Fabrication and repair skills using hand tools. (Fix stuff around the house)
    * Hand sketching to convey what’s in your head to someone else, and don’t forget the dimensions.
    * CAD skills and 3D printing, laser cutting, etc, if available. (TinkerCAD, resources at Makerspaces or public libraries)
    * Image and video editing. (GIMP, Inkscape, no particular recommendation for video editor)
    * Where to look online or in a library for help; how to distinguish a good resource from a bad one.
    * How to know to stop looking for the answer in a book or online, and think for yourself. I spent far too long in my life expecting to always find the answer somewhere, when I should have had more confidence in my own ability to solve problems.

    Of course, all of this needs to be motivated by helping your kid with something they themselves want to do; forcing something on them would just make them resentful. The earlier a person’s exposure, the less likely they are to be intimidated when they want to dive deeper into a topic later.

    – Soon-to-be mom looking forward to my kid kicking ass at age 12

      1. Yep, that’s pretty much the way my dad felt. As a result I swore up and down I wanted nothing to do with being a programmer throughout my teens. Pretty much killed off all interest until I was 21. Getting people interested in programming is a great first step. Seeing the need to understand boolean logic and process flow comes naturally afterwards.

    1. No, the world is full of people that can “operate” a firearm, it would be so much better to teach them the safe procedures on picking one up and handing it to or receiving it from another person, that way if they do ever operate one it should be slightly safer than it currently is.

  10. Honestly? Finding the right activities to enjoy exercising and being active – everything is so much easier when you are healthy, physically fit and energetic.

    Not to mention how many things we all enjoy which involve running away from an experiment gone “just slightly” out of control…

  11. Patience
    Concentration
    Money and investing
    How to recognize impossibilities
    Number and Algebraic sense
    Practical firearms and explosive devices skills – Precision shooting.
    Drawing/sketching including the kind of hand-writing that lets you take sketched material straight to blog/publication.
    Medical skills beyond first aid.

  12. Skill of …
    – Deductive reasoning.
    – learning and accepting that a (past) assumption/thinking is wrong.
    – applying the scientific method.
    – detecting manipulation ((subliminal) ADs, Influence, ….).
    – “converting” all religious people to reality, science, facts, philosophy, atheism, pastafarianism and so on.
    – “looking beyond the horizon”
    – understanding others / their points of view / “looking through their eyes” / empathy.
    – trying new things without (too much) fear.
    – (basic) understanding how reality/nature works (physics, biology, math, …).

    read the article AFTER writing the above. Well some of those “fit” don’t they?

  13. A key combination of Knowledge and Skills that is sorely missing in USA Education 20xx but was known by many kids in 1920 is MATERIALS. What is the difference between Maple and Oak and fir plywood? What is the difference between steel, brass and aluminum? What is the difference between Poly Vinyl Chloride , Acrylic, and Epoxy? MOST important, how do you CUT these things, How do you JOIN these things? What are their PROPERTIES?? I believe that no young person in America should graduate from High School (preferable Middle School) without knowing these things!
    Regards, Terry King
    …In The Woods in Vermont, USA
    terry@yourduino.com

  14. When I was 12, I wished for 10% more general IQ points – so it would be that much easier to figure things out.

    True story. Because I recognized that it’s not what you know, but how you know it that matters in the end. You can never know what specific things you need, but it’s mighty important that you can process what you need when you get to the point where you need it.

    Do you think I got it?

  15. How to learn. Anything else is just an application of this skill, and yet we don’t seem to teach it directly. It varies from individual to individual of course, but give a 12-year-old the insight to know how they best learn is the best possible thing….I think. If it’s hard, maybe we need to teach them about deferred rewards? So auto-didacticus and deferred rewards. Or just go all Aristotelean on them (ok maybe Aquinas) and teach them virtue ethics.

  16. I’m a father of seven, including sons, daughters, biokids and adopted. First thing you get right is CHARACTER. If you teach skills that give a child an advantage without first addressing character, you are teaching an emotionally unstable kid from Tattooine how to use a lightsaber.

    Once you get character solid, you can dump on the skills. I’m a military technologist by trade. I started with core life skills and built up, so I would agree with previous statements about social skills, written/oral communication, household skills, etc. That said, I taught my kids a wide variety of technical skills from simple circuit design, hunting, programming in C/Bash, and how to rebuild old servers collected from dumpster diving expeditions.

    The primary need for a 12 year old is to be with their parent, working closely and learning to imitate adult behavior and skills – so whatever you are doing, let them do it with you.

  17. I think the most important skill would be how to teach themselves, how to learn. Everybody is different, young and old, nobody has all the answer, sometimes the answer given aren’t quite right, or complete. We all have are on interests, hopes, and dreams. With our kids, we hope they follow our footsteps, continue on, where we left on, maybe achieve some of the things we never could. That doesn’t often happen, the world changes, kids often have their own ambitions.

    Work is a skill essential, and the value of a paycheck. All kids need daily chores, and need to take a hand in every aspect of living in a functional home. They are going to need all those skills, when they get their own home. Everything cost money, the more things you can do for yourself, the more money you can save for the things you want. Learning to be responsible, is an extremely important skill.

    A parent needs to lead by example, shouldn’t force things on kids they don’t do themselves.

  18. From the viewpoint of a native English speaker, the value of languages other than English is overstated in today’s world. English is currently the language of science, transportation, diplomacy and trade. It’s likely to be the last language to obtain this status. There is a point to this, other than being provocative. Translation software has made monumental strides in the last decade and that trend will most likely continue through the next few decades as well. I will most likely live to see the day when most of the major languages can be translated in real time, making all those years of studying French mostly worthless. (Probably should have studied something obscure instead.)

    That’s more than okay, it will be a great day for humanity. We have a taste of it today, and its wonderful. Looking at the direction of technology, if I were a 12 year old today that didn’t have a fundamental grasp of programming and wasn’t reasonably proficient in at least one programming language, I would feel very slighted indeed. If I were muddling my way through a Spanish course that I could easily see would be useless instead, I would be angry. The whole future is going revolve around people that understand the things that make that new world work.

    The ability to conduct actual research would be a super power for a twelve year old in today’s world. Identifying a legitimate source is an ability that so many in our world need. It wont make them popular, but popularity is another thing that’s overrated.

    1. I agree, we anglophones can coast along safe in the knowledge that everyone else speaks our language. I can cross Europe without having to use my poor French, Welsh, and Dutch, or tiny bit of German.

      But there’s more to ti than that, and it’s a question of attitude and reception. In most of the non English speaking world you get along a lot better if they see you’re making the effort to try to speak their language.

    2. Language cannot fundamentally be machine translated. Words can be, but a language comprises of an entire culture and history, along with the idioms and thought patterns, word-plays and puns… You can never truly understand a person through google translate unless you have an idea of what their words mean.

      It’s the Wittgenstein’s Lion: If a lion could speak English, we wouldn’t be able to understand it anyhow because it has such a different frame of reference that we can’t see its point.

      The of course there are languages which are “synthesizing”, i.e. they have the ability to conjure up new words on the spot, that work through onomatopoeia and commonalities between ideas, which of course won’t translate at all but are readily understood by a fluent speaker. Such languages as Finnish or Hungarian.

      1. Or, like the old story of CIA trying to machine translate captured soviet messages – until they tried their translating algorithm backwards. They put in the phrase “The spirit is strong but the flesh is weak.”, translated it to Russian and then back to English, and out came “The vodka is good, but the steak is rotten.”

    3. I couldn’t disagree more with the idea that machine translation makes language learning obsolete. It may allow you to read road signs, but probably not while driving. Will it ever allow you to listen to a public address announcement that happens at an unexpected moment (when you don’t have your translation app switched on) in a noisy foreign train station? Will it allow you to overhear a conversation at the next table in a restaurant?

      When you get beyond the basic “where’s the bathroom?” level of a language, there are many phrases that simply can’t be translated with all their nuance and connotation, no matter the skill of the translator. For example, a current movie is titled “Love Remains”, with the intentional double meaning of the word “remains” as both a noun and a verb. The phrase can refer to what’s left of a relationship after love has died, or to the idea that love persists. You can’t preserve that double meaning when translating it into a language that doesn’t have a similar double meaning of the word “remains” (and most languages lack that).

      Google “Por qué no te callas” for another such phrase. It means “Why don’t you shut up?”, but the use of the familiar form of “you”, which we don’t have in modern English, gave it a particular sting that was unprecedented in the context of politicians on the world stage. It became an overnight sensation in the Spanish-speaking world, while many who don’t speak Spanish didn’t notice it and still don’t know who said it in what context.

      Many jokes, puns, and even insults rely on subtle connotations or double meanings, and these do not translate well between languages. In a foreign country, watch a subtitled Hollywood comedy with an English soundtrack, and notice how the subtitle-reading audience doesn’t get so many of the good jokes, and yet laughs uproariously at moments that aren’t funny. It’s because they’re reading the subtitles — and that means they’re watching a different movie.

  19. Kindness first and foremost. I’d rather they have no tech skills whatsoever but be a good person than the other way around.

    After that, the ability (and freedom) to learn and explore on their own. Teaching someone how to fish is better than just giving them a fish, but I think teaching them how to figure out for themselves how to fish is even better.

  20. I can’t believe what I read about SOCIAL skills, not on a site like HaD. I regard social nonsense as the nearly most useless of skills. I teach my kid to be able to cope with herself, not to need any other people, as most people are dumb as fuck and unreliable. Clear, unambiguous communication is important though, that I teach her.

    1. If you had access to no other resources, would you rather have a powerful computer with no networking capabilities, or a slow computer with the ability to talk to any other computer?

  21. Two words:
    Problem solving

    Its great to learn kids new stuff, but its even better to have them learn how to figure new stuff out on their own. Especially with future generations seemingly doomed to be stupid (or maybe thats just me being negative about social media etc) i think its important we learn kids the basics of problem solving above all else.

  22. A proper sense of SCALE, i.e. a billion is not just a somewhat larger million, or 10x a million, but 1000x, and a trillion is a million millions. This is really important to understanding how the world works, and in my opinion it’s sorely missing from most of the general population.

  23. Some of my own ideas, plus concise versions of concepts I read in the
    comments boiled down to one list. I’ve tried to teach these to my 6
    kids, but they were all adopted from bad environments in their teens,
    so only partial success. The oldest knows the most of these.
    My parents taught me many of these. They’ve served me well.

    Critical thinking
    Scientific method
    Problem solving
    Understanding probabilities (Lottery!)
    Curiosity and learning skills
    Persistence
    History
    Responsibility
    Understanding how advertising and other manipulations work
    Confidence in one’s abilities,but not arrogance
    Communication and social skills
    Empathy/kindness
    Research skills
    Math, especially arithmetic and trigonometry (but other fields as well, all are useful)
    Passion for whatever interests them
    Work ethic
    Environmental Consciousness
    Basic skills with tools
    Basic skills in at least one technical field. Will build confidence if other fields are wanted/needed
    Art

  24. The skill to fail.
    To fail, get over it, learn from the fail and try it again. Right away. Not to wander back to it in a week.

    And later, the skill to go to the edge of failure, push over that edge, wabble a bit, then pull it all back without excessively loosing control or getting so emotional such that you can’t go on with the project.

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