Kristin van Ogtrop writes about a common core of education -- not the one touted by politicians but the one she has developed for teens to grow into better people. Her common core is about being in the world, about being a person. I'd like to respond to her ten requirements for high school seniors to fulfill in order to claim their diploma:
1. Write a letter. Exactly. A real letter on paper in your handwriting that begins Dear Sue or whomever. If you don't know how, ask your grandparents.
2. Learn to cook a good meal that can feed the entire family, no matter what size family you have. This skill was the most valuable lesson my mother taught me, even before doing my laundry and cleaning a house. Being able to feed yourself well and others is an extremely important life skill whether you are male or female. Remember, a lot of top chefs are male.
3. Hold down an unpleasant job that makes you hate your parents a little bit because they won't let you quit. You need to be able to deal with adversity as well as with all kinds of people. Having a stinky job teaches a person just how resilient he is. And you need to save the money, right?
4. Go somewhere for the weekend without your phone. Without the iPod, iPad, phone, and any other gadgets you have. No laptop. No internet. Go outdoors and walk. Notice your surroundings. The people you see. Sit in a room, alone, and listen to your thoughts. This is you.
5. Every time you get a new toy or gadget, donate your old toy or gadget. The landfills don't need them. Someone who can't afford a new toy or gadget will be grateful. And you'll discover how good it feels to give.
6. Take care of someone or something other than yourself. Whether it's a pet, a neighbor's pet, or a relative, it's important to learn that we are responsible for others, and caring for others is also giving of yourself.
7. Write a heartfelt thank-you note to someone over the age of 70. If you sit in a quiet room by yourself, I'm certain you can find something to thank an elderly friend or relative for. I remember loving to sit with my Grandma, who was over 90 at the time, and watch her crochet. That time with her was a gift I'll never forget.
9. Do something nice for a neighbor without expecting credit for it. This includes being quiet, considerate and respectful. We live in a rude society now where neighbors think nothing of blasting their stereos or car stereos at top volume. Or you could mow their lawn, offer to pet sit when they vacation so they don't need to take their pet to a kennel, or shovel snow from their sidewalks. Remember, this is not for credit or pay. It's just being a good neighbor.
10. Don't race to the top. Life is all about the journey, not the destination, and the people you meet and experiences you have along the way.
And I would add two more for the perfect dozen:
11. Learn what it means to have good manners, especially in public spaces, and cultivate them. This is a huge pet peeve of mine. Loud teens on the city bus is so rude. If you don't know what good manners are, find out. You'll be amazed at how much easier life can be when you are exuding sweetness rather than vinegar.
12. Imagine yourself in someone else's shoes, especially during conflicts. I don't know if this is part of the school curriculum, but it should be when discussing current events. It's also about empathy, understanding how the other side thinks or feels. My favorite scene in the movie of To Kill a Mockingbird is when Atticus Finch tells his young daughter about the importance of being able to walk in someone else's shoes.
Thank you, Kristin van Ogtrop, for writing your column for Time. As you can see, I agree with your first ten requirements. I hope you agree with my two....