Raising the Issues: Difficult Topics to Teach Young People
When it comes to raising the next generation of young people, parents and teachers certainly do have a hard job. The modern world is full of complexities, and it's often the case that translating this work into actionable principles for young people to follow can seem like a mammoth task.
However, it's important that those who are in positions of responsibility over young people make a strategic effort to educate them about the ways of the world. This article will look at some of the hardest topics to bring up and discuss, including personal finance and sex education, and explain why it's so important that they are raised.
Perhaps one of the most difficult yet important issues to teach young people is personal finance. This umbrella term covers all sorts of important sub-issues and focuses on everything from the way that debt works to the importance of savings, investments and planning for retirement.
Some of the difficulty here comes from the complexity. According to one study, the US ranks only 14th in countries around the world when it comes to financial knowledge - with some far less developed economies showing better results. Even teachers can get into financial difficulties from time to time, and there's a certain sense that complex topics - such as interest rates or overdrafts - are just too thorny to explain.
However, if they go unexplained at a young age, they could remain unexplained forever. Debt in particular can begin young, with more and more online stores - including those aimed at teens - now offering borrowing functions. By using teen-friendly explainer resources or even wider contextual environments such as math lessons, these key concepts can be broken down and explained for the younger generation.
Civics and citizenship
In an age when accusations of vote rigging abound from all sorts of political parties and factions, it's never felt more urgent or pressing to give America's young people the chance to know about how their democracy works. Yet the events of 2020 and 2021 so far indicate that there is a significant gap in knowledge when it comes to why democracy is important - and a constant risk of polarization.
Civics has been taught in many American high schools for decades, and it continues to be a popular topic. It confers all sorts of benefits on students, not least on the young people who learn. In some cases, it could even inspire those young people to run for elected office or make a difference in their local area. However, the wider community also benefits. When more people are engaged with the democratic process, it means that there are fewer opportunities for fringe groups such as far-right extremists to make it into the mainstream. The pioneering work of anti-racism experts such as Dr. Bree Picower shows that even the best schools can have blind spots when it comes to important issues like these, and educators may learn from her work.
For parents, it may seem harder to confront issues relating to what it means to be a citizen. Unlike teachers, parents are not duty-bound to keep their personal opinions to themselves - creating a phenomenon whereby children tend, on the whole, to assume the same political opinions as their parents. However, by encouraging children and young people to ask critical questions about why all elected officials do what they do, parents can set them up for life by giving them an objective, inquiring mind.
Sex and relationships education
It's also important to make sure that young people have a good grounding in sex and relationships education. However, this is easier said than done. For parents, teaching about sex education can raise awkward questions that the parent may not be prepared to answer. And while teachers in schools might feel more confident addressing thorny issues, they may be faced with different challenges - such as the influence of religious pressure groups, or a lack of funding and support from the school board.
Yet it's more important than ever to ensure that children and young people have access to this vital information. Research shows that sex and relationships education can have a whole variety of positive consequences for all involved: it can prevent all sorts of problems, including teenage pregnancies, and also boost attainment. While it may cause some temporary embarrassment or delicate conversations with authorities, having a plan in place to teach young people about contraception, consent and more is vital.
In short, nobody denies that the modern world is full to the brim with hard questions about what children ought to know - and when. However, this doesn't mean that teachers or parents can shirk their responsibilities. From personal finance to civics and citizenship, young people need to be equipped with the knowledge they need to participate fully in the modern world.