Opinion | It's Time to Rethink K-12 Education

Samuel Sullivan

Preparing Students for the Future: Integrating Finance, Gun Safety, and Psychology into the Curriculum

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As a middle school teacher, I often reflect on how to prepare students for life beyond the classroom. As a result, I have some “radical” ideas that reflect our society and could positively impact students’ lives.

The vast majority of efforts to reform education over the past seventy years since the landmark Brown v. Board of Education case was decided by the Supreme Court in 1954. Equality and equity are fundamental in education but can’t be our sole focus in K-12 schools. I could write a dissertation on structural problems that must be addressed. From teacher pay to school day changes and beyond, those are for another article. 

So what am I talking about? I am talking about content. Here are (a few) areas that should be incorporated into K-12 curriculum:

  • Finance
  • Gun Safety
  • Psychology

As artificial intelligence changes the world, it will become an aspect of every class students take. This article focuses on more “radical” topics to better equip students for success in an ever-changing world. 


Algebra 2, Trigonometry, and Calculus are all great, but basic finance might have more impact on student outcomes. I am not just saying that because I am an English and Humanities teacher either, I have a finance degree, and I remember the basic concepts changing how I thought about money and the world. I understand the argument that upper-level math helps you learn how to think, but I don’t believe all students benefit the same way.

Basic finance is a must to operate in the world. Unfortunately, this is not an option at many high schools, or there is a watered-down class with few skills. Learning the basics before entering the workforce could pay literal dividends for people down the line. So many people must learn from financial mistakes the hard way, ruined credit and crippling debt. Teaching finance could help alleviate that issue. 

Managing personal finances would be a good start, but introducing concepts such as the time value of money and sunk cost fallacy would be prudent. In addition, it would teach people how to think like a business person and help avoid early money mistakes.

You need to take Finance 101 in college to learn these basic finance concepts. Learning finance could address some equity issues in society. For example, not all parents understand finances equally, but exposing all kids to the lessons could level the playing field. Forming good habits around money is essential, and it could influence more people to start businesses and be successful.

For example, students might become more wary about taking on unforgivable student loans. Of course, education is paramount to success, but there might be alternatives to traditional paths that require students to enter the working world with tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt. 

It’s egregious that our society allows teenagers to saddle themselves with so much debt without education on the consequences. This type of education would help create equity.

There would be obstacles to creating an effective curriculum, such as finding teachers with the expertise to write lessons, but we exist.

Gun Safety

I wrote a piece about the history of the 2nd Amendment and where it stands today. News flash, guns are not going anywhere in America. We must educate high schoolers about handling guns and the risks. 

There are hunters in my family. Before I went duck hunting for the first time before my first year of high school, I had to complete a hunter’s safety course. It’s like driver’s ed, except at the end, you can wield a gun safely. It teaches you the gravity and responsibility of having a gun. Still, some essential safety tips, like never, under any circumstance, pointing a gun in the direction of another person, loaded or not. 

According to Pew Research, accidental gun deaths for children are 5x that of adults. Not to mention gun deaths among kids are rapidly rising. So if we refuse to do anything to curb the availability and access to guns, we can at least teach kids what they will be facing in the world. 

It might sound radical to suggest, but maybe it’s naive at this point to expect the government to solve the problem. Many schools offer driver’s education classes, and states require people to take a driver’s education class before getting a driver’s license. So gun safety classes seem logical to address a growing problem. 

I recognize that creating a curriculum would be challenging, given the political climate in the country, but there are ways to keep politics out of the class. For example, early iterations could be modeled after hunter’s safety courses and not include politics. 


mental health has been a focus among schools over the past decade, and things are improving. Social-emotional learning is rightly becoming a more significant focus in schools. I posit, however, that learning can be more formalized, and K-12 schools should go further to include psychology and human behavior.

Introductory psychology would be beneficial in middle school as part of the curriculum. In my first semester in college, I took Psychology 101, which was empowering. However, I would have benefited from learning the basics earlier in life.

Understanding our behavior in different circumstances could help us cope with the world. Learning that both internal and external stimuli impact our decisions is essential to make high school students aware to help them navigate the world effectively.

Most kids see anxiety and depression as a big problem, according to Pew Research. Equipping students with psychological tools to address the issues they already face in life could go a long way to lessen the growing impact of these issues. Of course, it would not solve the problem, and professionals would still be needed, but earlier education in these areas could help students identify faster when they are struggling. 

Introducing these concepts at an earlier age would allow students to think critically about advertisements, internet posts, and news articles and help them form their own opinions on the world around them. 


Education content should be adapted to better serve students in the modern world. For example, finance and psychology should be required in high school to improve student outcomes. This would enhance equity in education and help students have better outcomes. They would have a better chance to manage themselves directly after high school and help them avoid debt and personal crises. 

Gun safety classes would save lives. The government is paralyzed to act on this issue, and kids are dying at alarming rates. Many schools already offer education on drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, and sex. Even though many are illegal, our society knows that these topics impact kids’ lives. Unfortunately, guns fall into that category. Gun education might be hard to digest, but it could save lives. 

The stagnation of the education system in America is troubling. As a teacher, I would like to know if the content we teach our kids is the most pragmatic and impactful on their lives. Overall, K-12 schools are getting better year to year, but our priorities could adapt better to the present world. 

I understand the limited nature of resources in education, but if we invest in our kids appropriately, the outcomes of our society will be better. Finance, gun safety, psychology, and human behavior are not as “radical” when you consider what our kids face. However, these ideas are only a starting point for an honest discussion that needs to take place about updating outdated curricula.  

What are your thoughts? What content areas should be implemented in K-12 education?

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Lifelong learner & Teacher sharing insights on history, life, and beyond.

Bethesda, MD

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