Danah Boyd has a nice list of things that the youth ought to learn as early as possible in order to become better members of society or more like to function as responsible adults, eventually.
- Learn to manage your own money including situations where you don’t have enough money for something really important;
- Work to make your own money;
- Learn how to come up with money for monthly bills;
- Learn how to cook, clean, and do laundry;
- Learn how to take care of small children;
- Learn how to handle sickness and doctors;
- Learn how to travel (airplane, bus, etc.) on your own;
- Learn to travel respectfully to foreign cultures;
- Learn how to handle being drunk;
- Experience being bullied, embarrassed, ridiculed, taunted, beaten up;
- Be exposed to people really different than you and learn tolerance and respect;
- Face failure and learn disappointment + face success and learn humility;
- Experience heartbreak;
- Manage significant emotional or physical pain;
- Handle the death of someone close to you.
While I can’t consider myself a good member of society–except for when I know that I’ve paid my taxes or didn’t jaywalk to get to the other side of the road–a lot of these things I’ve learned even before I’d hit 13. As a grown-up, I would endorse learning the first two items, as well as item numbers 11 to 14. Number 15 is something that we will eventually have to, often painfully, deal with whether we like it or not and only a few lucky ones can avoid #14.
I guess I would have to add love of learning to the list. While it’s already cliche that life is mostly a long learning process, in my opinion nothing makes life interesting than discovering the follies and foibles as well as the challenges that it offers. And yeah, communication, belief in oneself and having dreams or goals should also be included in the list. Those and the bullshit detector that one of the commenters suggested.