High School Tax Class

I don’t know about you, but the stuff I learned in high school was total bullshit. I realized this as I filled out my taxes this morning. In school I learned how to calculate the area of a sphere. I learned the political and literary merit in the works of Joseph Conrad. I learned gerunds, Reconstruction, frog anatomy, Socialism, and the countries of Europe. I learned the importance of push-ups and the thrill of forced competition. I even learned how to give CPR to a mannequin. None of that helped me fill out my taxes.

Which isn’t to say that high school is a useless pursuit of inapplicable skills. The things I learned definitely broadened my view of the world, gave me a basic understanding of my place in history, and helped me to understand the physical workings of the objects around me. Unfortunately I went to a small Southern high school that felt the arts weren’t important enough to include in the curriculum, or I might have found a place to channel all the frustration and turmoil of growing up too.

But all this aside, I never learned anything about how to stay alive. It took me years of mistakes, getting ripped off by people who took advantage of my ignorance to “learn me good” about how the world works. It is for this reason that I offer the following service to high schools interested in teaching a course about how to live in America without getting totally fucked over and bitter at the world before you’re 25.

The Driver Course In Agressive Living

Lesson 1: How to Get A Job

This class covers everything from correctly filling out applications, to what to say at the interview, avoiding phrases like “I’m slumming here until I find something meaningful to do”, “I’m starving to death, I need to buy food”, and “I’m a problem drinker and I steal a lot” . Using the power of psychology to your advantage, you’ll learn to find your future employer’s shortcomings/insecurities and tell him/her what s/he wants to hear, hopefully impressing them enough so that they won’t call your references and find out what a bastard you really are.

Lesson 2: The Renting Nightmare/Landlord Survival

Getting a place sucks. It takes a lot of time and it can be an expensive ordeal when landlords charge you $35 to even look at your rental application. This lesson starts out slowly with “crashing on a friend’s couch” and moves to “moving in as a roommate”, eventually progressing to the renting dream “your own place”. The course also covers dress for landlord meetings (no “Born to Ruin Refrigerators” T-shirts), suggested employment lies (computer programmer works the best), and how to put landlords in their place by effectively using local statutes, building codes, and the health department to your advantage.

Lesson 3: Moving: You Never Knew You Had So Much Junk

Even worse than getting a new place is moving out of the old one with your deposit intact. Believe it or not, that bastard of a landlord has kept track of every late payment and will charge you for everything s/he can because they have your money and will decide how much to give back to you. This lesson covers the “beer and pizza” payment plan for friends helping you move, patching nailholes with toothpaste, breaking lightbulbs to mask closet damage, replacing windows yourself, and getting various stains out of carpets. And don’t worry about the toilet, they’re gonna hire someone to clean it anyways.

Lesson 4: The Broken Car

So you have a job and a place to live, but your car (if you have one) breaks down. You don’t know a spark plug from a headgasket and your mechanic knows that. Lesson 4 will help you find a place that won’t rip you off fixing your shit. Basic car systems are explained and prices based on national averages are given so you don’t pay $1200 for a brake job. Phrases such as “Show me what’s broken” and “Will my car explode in the next six months without this new repair” are explored, as well as advanced concepts such as what to do when your mechanic takes your car apart and holds it ransom or does $5,000 worth of work without your approval.

Lesson 5: Basic Scams of Total Bastards

Like cars, there are many things you will have to make decisions on that you don’t really understand. You can fake your way through stuff like most people, or you can learn the basic scams to look out for when spending your money. Fake contests, flattery, exploitation of your greed, good guy/bad guy, the pressure sell, and avoidance of all that seems too good to be true are covered, as well as the prison sentences and karma damage caused by using these tactics to pay your rent.

Lesson 6: What Happens When You Don’t Pay Your Bills

This is a basic lesson that takes many people a long time to learn: you have to pay your bills. The institutions you owe thrive on money and are not going to forget that you owe them. Midnight calls from bill collectors, damaging letters, even garnishment of your wages (and you thought that was a phrase only heard on afternoon TV) disrupt your life and make you sad. Unpaid utility bills result in that utility being shut off. To be turned back on will usually cost the balance of what you owe plus more money. Interest charges, reconnect fees, late fees, and attorney charges sometimes double the money you owed in the first place. This lesson attempts to shock the student into paying bills on time, using many “Blood Runs Red On The Highway” type films to drive the message home. Bad credit doesn’t seem like a big deal until you’re denied an apartment because of it.

Lesson 7: How to Say No To Everything and Everyone

The world wants to sell you so much crap and until you are a multi-millionaire, you have to say “no” to most of it. Forget that the slogan “Just Say No” is directed only towards drugs – a little pinch of illegal narcotic causes a fraction of the damage that taking on a car you can’t afford will. This lesson will teach phrases like “No, I’m not interested in buying an entire side of beef”, “No I don’t give a shit about saving on my long distance”, “Your newspaper is a reactionary apologist for the system that keeps me down”, and “You can take that Good News Bible and shove it up your ass” and how to apply them at the beginning of a conversation to save you time and money.

Lesson 8: Working For The Man: Budgeting a Future on $6.50 an Hour

You make minimum wage, how the hell are you supposed to live? Lesson 8 pulls from previous lessons using concepts such as living with roommates and applying for better paying jobs. Making it on such little money is hard, but face it, working at McDonalds pays more than getting stoned and sitting on the couch bitching about how unfair your life is. In all actuality, you’ll probably have to get 2 jobs and like it, but at least you can’t spend money when you’re working. Lesson 8 will also cover unofficial employee benefits like eating food when the boss isn’t looking.

Lesson 9: Stress Management: Don’t Go Postal

Dealing with all this can be tough on you. Living in a crappy place, working a lousy job for a boss you hate with people you can’t stand. Coming home to a mess of dirty dishes, fast food wrappers, and empty beer cans. No love, starving for companionship, desperately reaching out for a television to fill the hole you feel getting bigger every day. We’ve all been there. Lesson 9 takes us to the next level by helping us channel our negative energies into positive results through drawing, writing, painting, making music, or even getting drunk and driving 127 mph on the wrong side of the highway ensuring we get on the news and the attention we deserve. Lesson 9 also includes many photos of the homeless, disease ravaged bodies, and starving babies to help the student realize that as bad as stuff seems, things can definitely get worse and much of depression is created in the head. Students are encouraged to “shut the TV off, quit feeling sorry for yourself, break the downward spiral and go do something.”

Lesson 10: Having Babies Before 30: How To Ruin Everything

Nothing will mess you up more than bringing a baby into the world that you aren’t able to take care of. Not only is it expensive, time consuming, and emotionally draining, a baby will keep you from working. No one deserves to be brought into this world with you as a parent; you can’t even take care of yourself yet. Lesson 10 will discuss the absolute importance of birth control 100% of the time, the options of abortion and adoption, and explain why a puppy is a much better companion than a newborn.

Lesson 11: Saving Money: The Truth Corporate America Doesn’t Want You To Hear

And finally, the most important lesson will be covered: Saving Money. While money may be at the root of all evil, it is also the medium this world has chosen to keep score. You need some of it, and if you’re not screwing anyone over to get some there’s nothing wrong with having some. As troubling as it is, a pool of money means freedom, mobility, and a slight level of security in today’s tumultuous environment. This lesson will break the student’s life into categories of “needs” and “wants”, eliminating unnecessaries such as cable TV, Cap’n Crunch, nice clothes, a new car, jewelry, and any other material trapping that might mean a compromised future. A case study will focus on an actual friend of mine who gained employment in a Fortune 500 company. Following a party line of “Nice car, nice house, nice shoes” his large paychecks were soon small payments that left him in a terrible position when he was downsized 2 years later, $10,000 in debt.

We teach our kids some good stuff but we leave them ill prepared to deal with the real world, which eats them for breakfast, lunch, and dinner 24 hours a day. This doesn’t have to be the case, we can reach them before they hit the streets and stress the importance of good credit, self-confidence, and the proper “Fuck You” attitude that will get them through the days ahead. If any curriculum masters out there would like to purchase the course, I take money orders and checks issued by state institutions. For God’s sake, let’s do it for the children!