What should EVERY American adult know how to do?

If you drive a car, know how to drive in snow/icy weather. Recognize when the weather is so bad that you have no business being out on the road trying to drive.

Know how to read a road map. Yeah, I know you have a GPS, but still…

How to turn the water OFF wherever you are living. Same for electric. Yeah, I don’t care if you rent; you still should know where the shut-off valves/circuit breaker is. Don’t wait for an emergency to investigate. If you don’t know, look now. Yeah, now.

Basic cooking. You don’t have to be a chef but you should be able to put a decent simple meal together for yourself.

How to do the laundry.

I know how to check the oil in the car, but I’m not going to change it myself. I’m not going to be changing a tire either. I wouldn’t have the strength to get the lug nuts off that have been put on with a power thingie and I’m not going to try. That’s why I have AAA and a cell phone and don’t venture into the wilderness alone.

And I’m glad I live in NJ so I don’t have to pump my own gas regularly. Yeah, I’ve been to other states and know how to do it and have done it.

I’m no gun control nut, and own firearms myself; Still: Are you insane? I wouldn’t trust half of my fellow citizens with a slingshot and boyscout knife, much less a firearm. I agree that we should teach a basics / safety course in school though.


You don’t need strength, you have the power of leverage to assist you. Step on the other end of the tire iron and the bolts will break loose. You should do this yourself at least once so that you understand the entire procedure should you find yourself in an area where reception is crappy. You can spend a half hour changing your own tire or og knows how much more time walking to somewhere with a land line.

Every adult American should be able to read or at least listen to the BBC world news.

Heh, this is wrong in so many ways.

Here’s a joke:

Two Muslims immigrate to America. They make a bet about who will be more American after one year. A year later, the first Muslim says his family converted to Protestantism, his kids are going to Catholic school, and he has a job selling hotdogs at Wrigley field. The second Muslim says, “Get away from me, you f’in terrorist.”

What every American should know: nobody has the right to tell them what “being American” means.

Why does it matter if I can change a diaper, braid a little girl’s hair, play a musical instrument, dance, sew, drive stick, survive in the wild, etc?

Methinks you’ve been whooshed.

This thread has nothing to do with American national identity.

It’s just things that people who happen to live in the US should know, for practicality’s sake. In fact, the only reason I mention “Americans” is just to limit the potential learning items to a specific (and to most of us, familiar) time and place.

Because those things are part of being a generally well-rounded adult.

If you can’t do them, well…you kinda suck. :wink:

(And no, de-bugging 30,000,000 lines of code or developing a better CAD program–or whatever micro-specialized skills you possess–are NOT things that a generally well-rounded adult needs to know how to do.)

Therefore, if I don’t know how to fish, I’m not “most of us?”

You might be right if “change a diaper” and “braid a little girl’s hair” hadn’t been a part of that list. I call shenanigans.

Anyone with more money, influence, or firepower than you has the right to tell you what being American means.

I’d leave in driving a stick to cover all cars but I also don’t get the rest of these. Sewing a button is too generic. That’s like listing drinking from a cup. Sewing up a wound, now there’s a skill. Braiding hair is too specific. Stuff like playing a musical instrument or dancing falls under a collective bucket list and should be listed separately under “things to experience”. To that list I would add things like roller skating and skiing.

I’d add to the current list:

  • remove a “P” trap in a sink and use a snake to unclog a pipe.

A diverse and deep knowledge of the various uses of duct tape, from wound closing to birth control, should be mastered by all people.

I would say being able to think critically, being able to deal with setbacks and interpersonal problems somewhat constructively, being able to ask for help and admit vulnerability, etc. are all important.

Basically interpersonal and intrapersonal soft skills.

The point is that a well-rounded person knows how to deal with babies and children, as well as auto mechanics.

My comments are interspersed in the quote in boldface type.

I’m bored. Sorry if this is overly picky, but I enjoyed thinking about what you said.

Well, if I can criticize your list, I should throw some ideas out, so that you can criticize mine. It’s only fair. I think I’m only going to do ten though, since it’s getting late.

Also, before I get started, I think this may be the link that inspired you.

Or maybe not. I found a number of lists with items similar to yours. Anyway, without further ado, the list:

  1. Typing. I have too many bad habits when I type that do nothing but slow me down. Knowing how to type properly is most useful in this day and age.

  2. Practical epistemology. By that I mean, you should understand (broadly speaking), what it is that humanity, overall, knows; what is currently out of reach and why; how mathematical knowledge differs from scientific knowledge differs from historical knowledge differs from aesthetic knowledge and so on; and have some idea of how your life, professional and personal, fits into this. This goes with thinking critically, but I don’t think it’s quite the same thing.

  3. Empathy and negotiation. I think it’s wise to have some ability to put oneself into another’s place, even if you find this person odious, to have some idea of why they do what they do. These skills also let you get what you want and need as well as to understand when a deal (economic or personal) is fair.

  4. Expressing anger or disagreements more generally. I know too many people that let these things fester. Nothing good comes form that.

  5. Basic numeracy. You should have some ability to work with estimating, especially with orders of magnitude; how numbers fit together; why multiplying is more than repeated addition; and the limits of statistics.

  6. Structure of government. This includes knowing the basic stuff like the three branches, federalism, and so on; but also how laws really get passed, the ways that interests get their voices heard, gerrymandering, and other important, but unofficial ways the government works.

  7. Using tools. How to use drills, hammers, knives, measuring tapes, and the like for basic household repairs and hanging decorations and whatnot.

  8. Health. What is health? How do you get healthy? What are the effects of a bad diet? What food is good for you, in what quantities, and why? What are the best ways to deal with stress? Things like that.

  9. Your rights. Especially in regard to police investigations. I mean things like, never consent to a search, assert your right to remain silent, what counts as a confession, and so on.

  10. Scam prevention. Know the basic scams, especially the internet ones, as well as the general techniques behind the most common sorts of scams to avoid being taken in.

Why the driving-related items on your list? Plenty of American adults get by just fine without cars.

Just as valuable, in a society that is often suspicious of softness and intellect:
-knowing when not to think critically.
-knowing when not to admit vulnerability or the need for help.
-knowing when not to be constructive, but simply to kick ass, including your own if required.

I’ll add a parallel to something I posted earlier about the need to give and take orders – namely, the need for bullshit:
-being able to bullshit.
-being able to believe your bullshit.
-being able to at least swallow others’ bullshit.

Because sort of like swimming, there isn’t any real reason to not be able to drive. While it may not be something you do often, or hardly ever, should you find yourself in position where you need to use a vehicle you should be able to do so.