What should EVERY American adult know how to do?

A few weeks ago I saw someone’s blog post (I don’t remember whose, nor where it was) that listed that person’s top 50 things that he though every person should know how to do.

Inspired by that, I started thinking about it, and developed my own list (below).

So how 'bout you? What things do you think every adult American should know how to do?
MY LIST (in no particular order):

  1. Think critically.

  2. Use proper spelling and grammar, or know where to go to find the answer to a grammatical or othographic question.

  3. Use a computer, which includes finding specific information on the Internet, sending & receiving e-mail, creating and working with office software files (MS Office, Google Docs, etc.).

  4. Hold a friendly, interesting conversation with a stranger or group of strangers.

  5. Change a diaper, and calm a crying infant or child.

  6. Create a good, professional résumé.

  7. Select attractive, color-coordinated outfits.

  8. Iron your own clothing (without melting it, burning yourself, or setting fire to anything!).

  9. Tie a necktie.

  10. Braid a little girl’s hair.

  11. Take a good photograph.

  12. Play a musical instrument (the human voice counts, as long as you have the musical training to “play” it knowledgeably).

  13. Speak a foreign language.

  14. Somewhat related to the above, have some grasp of Latin, or at least a basic conceptual understanding of the modern Romance languages.

  15. Dance decently well.

  16. Play poker, chess, checkers, baseball, football, and soccer (or at least know the general rules governing these three sports).

  17. Sew (well enough to replace a button or mend a tear).

  18. Cook basic meals.

  19. Select the best fresh produce.

  20. Put together a healthy diet.

  21. Exercise properly.

  22. Care for a plant, and at least one kind of mammalian housepet.

  23. Drive a manual-transmission vehicle (a “stick-shift”). And, drive defensively!

  24. Change a flat tire.

  25. Check your car’s oil level, and change the oil and filter, yourself.

  26. Buy a good used car, avoiding lemons, and not paying too much.

  27. Identify Venus, the North Star, the Big Dipper (Ursa Major), and Orion.

  28. Shoot a firearm (this includes safe weapon handling, loading/charging, and proper marksmanship basics).

  29. Identify key figures, eras, and places in American history.

  30. Know the locations and names of the earth’s continents, and which countries (generally) are on each one. Oceans, too.

  31. Survive for at least a couple of days in the wild (ie, have a grasp of very rudimentary survival skills).

  32. Identify threats, security risks, and physical hazards, wherever you are.

  33. Defend yourself in case of bodily assault (no black-belt required; just know a few fundamentals of self-defense).

  34. Swim.

  35. Skip a rock across a natural body of water.

  36. Fish.

  37. Perform CPR, the Heimlich maneuver, and basic first aid.

  38. Develop (and stick to!) a household budget.

  39. Write a check (you know, those slips of paper that folks used to use to pay bills, before e-bills and online bill paying?).

  40. Argue a point rationally and convincingly.

  41. Stay confident and assertive in all situations, even if it means faking it.

  42. Identify your two Senators and your Congressional Representatives, and know who presently holds the Offices of President, Vice President, and Secretary of State.

  43. Polish boots/shoes.

  44. Distinguish north from south, east from west, all by yourself, using natural cues (no GPS, cell phone, map, or signs!).

  45. Read an actual road map and plan a driving route. No MapQuest, no GoogleMaps!!

  46. Understand the theory behind old-school land navigation (map & compass).

  47. Know your family’s general history, and the names of your ancestors at least 4 or 5 generations back.

  48. Respect your body’s limits with alcohol.

  49. Floss your teeth properly.

  50. Tell time on an analog clock.

What do I win?

I’d add another:

-Have safer sex. And along those lines, know how to have GOOD sex in general (emphasis being, how to satisfy a partner).

I yield the floor.

A few of those skills are already archaic but I’m not going to argue. I have a few to add though.

  1. Understand basic first aid, and how to manage everyday wounds and sicknesses.

  2. Read, understand, and be able to navigate with a map. (reiterated for emphasis)

  3. Along the same lines, understand how to navigate in a general direction without the aid of a compass, or other device.

  4. Cultivate a visual knowledge of and minimal level of comfort with local wildlife. For example, you should be able to tell an alligator from an iguana if you live in Florida.

  5. Cultivate a high level of comfort with a wide variety of foods.

  6. Be able to prioritize based on the situation and adapt accordingly. This is a skill that can be taught. Not everyone will be good at it, but logical thinking is something we are SORELY needing more of.

Ignore pointless subjective lists.

Ah, you’re just pissed that you can’t braid a little girl’s hair ;).

And/or that I’m not a little girl. :wink:

Lots of things we all should know, imo, but I’m going to stick to one:

Know how to research/look up information to confirm or disprove “facts” someone presents. Seems quite a few adults lack this skill and believe things which are verifiably false because someone said it on their radio program or in a mass email they got.

And just to look up something in general.

As Einstein once said (to paraphrase) knowing everything is impossible and not the sign of intelligence…knowing how to FIND information is key. How to use a library, a search engine, a phone book, etc…and WHAT, exactly, to look for to find what you need to know.

I guess that covers a hell of a lot, actually, since it enables someone to learn how to do damn near anything.

I’d boil it down to essential Heinlein: *Take orders. Give orders. *
The way people talk these days, we’re going to be in some flavor or another of martial dystopia sooner or later, so we all might as well learn to function in one.

Here’s a few:

Whadya? Got me on ignore or something?

Know how to approach and deal with a strange dog (including ettiquete for petting a dog not your own).

Conduct basic research in a library.

Correct a skid.

Weatherize a house.

Use an axe to chop wood.

Start a fire and cook over one.

I don’t know why I’d have to change my own oil- that’s not going to happen, ever.

Agree. Every U.S. citizen should not only know how to shoot a rifle, but should *own *a center-fire rifle and at least 1000 rounds of ammo…

Look out, C_M. The next thing you know, we’d be Switzerland. And you know how namby-pamby they are. Hell, they haven’t had a civil war since before ours!


That could be dangerous.

While I do know how to change a diaper, having babysat as a teenager, I don’t see how this is a basic adult skill that everyone should have.

Ditto for tying a tie. I’m female; I don’t wear them.

I think fishing is boring and gross. No thanks.

I have no interest in changing my car’s oil. Ever. (I do know how to check the level.)

I don’t play poker and don’t see why I should. Nor do I know all the rules of football; I find it mind-numbingly boring and I’d rather read a book.

And braiding a little girl’s hair? Every American should know how to do this? Mr. Levins has never had long hair or a little girl; why on earth should or would he know how to braid a girl’s hair?

I strongly agree with many of the additional suggestions proffered so far, especially:

-Look stuff up. (InterestedObserver)
-Use an axe correctly. (Tranquilis)
-Build and maintain a fire. (Tranquilis)
-Take orders and give orders. (Heinlein, via Beware of Doug)

Once we get this list complete, all we gotta do is e-mail it to all school districts, administrators, and teachers in the country, and PRESTO! We’ve changed the world! :wink:

Fishing is a useful survival skill that provides a maximum food reward for a minimal effort. Knowing the basics of fishing and enjoying it are two different things. It is a great skill to have if you find yourself away from civilization for any length of time and near water.

Knowing how to change oil is something I’m divided on. In most modern vehicles, doing so requires a jack, a pair of grips, and possibly some other tools. Most cars can go WAY over the mileage before there’s going to be any sort of problem as well. Even in a survival situation, I don’t see myself changing the oil in a vehicle with any regularity. I’d replace this with understanding how the battery works, and how to identify and solve related problems which would be a far more useful skill.