Where do people get schooled in common sense?

I don’t find common sense to be that common. Okay, let me just confess that I find myself gullible and naive more often than I need be. And I don’t think of myself as a practical guy either.

I see the world as a place of new possibilities and unpredictability, and I dislike being in the driver’s seat or controlling time, things, or other people. Then I get called on it– that everyone has control issues.

Thinking back my educational life, there were many courses on reading, writing, and arithmetics. And there was a mix of science classes about how things work in the created world, history classes about what has happened in generations before us, and in higher ed, more specialized knowledge imparted in political science, communications, philosophy, sociology, theology, technology, law, medicine, economics, engineering, arts, architecture, music, business, and so on.

Notably absent: every day life in the areas of relationships, personal finances, housekeeping, using tools, cooking, life management. Let’s assume these topics don’t belong in academia, where topics of studies are mostly cognitive. If not in schools, then where do people learn this stuff of life?!

I can think of a few: at home, from media like television and movies, and how-to books.

In the world we live in, be it America or elsewhere, broken homes and domestic messiness, home doesn’t seem to be the best place to learn good things. Movies and television aim at entertainment, whether sensationalism to feed our warped sense of curiosity or storytelling about the human condition.

Maybe this is why book series like Idiot’s Guides, Books for Dummies, How-to books for do-it-yourselfers, and self-improvement take up more shelf space in bookstores and libraries. Books written by self-proclaimed experts.

The source of common sense remains a great mystery… God help us all.

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8 Responses

  1. david_pickett says:

    2 quick comments:
    First, I got most of my common sense from my Dad, who got it from his Dad. You're right- it was never taught in school. My Dad taught me the practical things that you've mentioned, and I realized way too late the value of it. I miss him.
    Second, I was NOT taught common sense in seminary. I thoroughly enjoyed my time in seminary, loved many of my professors, and the spirit of fellowship around academic pursuit, but I didn't learn how to use most of the tools that I need for my job as a pastor- common sense things like effective implementation and administration of programs, how to identify and cast a vision, leadership and leadership development, time management, conflict management, the list goes on and on.
    The source still remains somewhat a mystery, but God help us all to make some common sense changes where the need is obvious.

  2. dc says:

    Good question, DJ. Great question, in fact. My first reaction is to say, “at home!” But homes are a lot harder place to learn things now than they were in previous generations. Most families have 2 working parents – so we can afford the cars, house, lifestyle, etc. we're accustomed to. We always want to trade up, not down so consequently we get busier and busier. Kids just aren't exposed to their parents and extended families to learn common sense and tradition they way they used to be.

    But if not the home, then, as you suggested, books, TV, watching other people. But just as homes are more disjointed so is the rest of our culture. No longer is there one show everyone watches. No longer is there one man everyone trusts. No longer is there one set of morals and principals we all believe in. Even the nursery rhymes and old sayings full of wisdom we used to hear from our parents seem to be fading into the sunset.

    For whatever you believe, there's a church for you. For whatever your interests, there's a cable channel. For your unique ideology, there's an XM station talking about it. And whatever your greatest sinful temptation, it's probably no more than 3 clicks away online.

    So I guess my best answer to “where do people get schooled in common sense” is actually another question … what's “common”?

  3. Steve says:

    “Notably absent [in education]: every day life in the areas of relationships, personal finances, housekeeping, using tools, cooking, life management.”

    Very good point. Two observations:

    Relationships – I think the church is very good at teaching spiritual life in a theoretical sense but not so good at teaching how to actually be Christ-like in our everyday relationships. People who swear they love Jesus have no problem carrying years-long grudges against neighbors, speaking ill of their co-workers, acting like the whole world is out to cheat them… and let's not even talk about the divorce rate among Christians.

    Personal finance – The public schools have failed us here, and maybe the private ones too. And it's beyond balancing a checkbook. We have a lot of people today who feel entitled to live like Americans but know nothing about how we achieved our standard of living except what schools have taught them about corporations being evil and successful people being greedy.

  4. jeff says:

    I hope people will still read this even though the last comment was posted 15 weeks ago. I came accross this post to see what the anwser was to this question. I really feel like a decent amount of commonsense is very difficult to find in a person these days. I grew up on a farm and ranch and i feel like im one of the few besides my dad and grandpa with commonsense. The problem is that alot of people are born too rich; so they don't understand the importance of money, work ethic, and all around good morals that only get you ahead. I should belong in another country because this one is almost to free. I'm to young for my generation maybe.