Psychology should be required for middle and high-school students.


Psychology, when it’s offered at the high school level, is offered as an elective course — which means it’s not required to graduate.    Many, if not most, high schools, don’t even offer Psychology as an option.   It’s only offered at the larger high schools, and not usually until Junior or Senior year, after required courses in math, English, languages and history are fulfilled.    Abnormal psychology, which goes into more depth about mental disorders and includes personality disorders, isn’t usually offered until the college level, and only to those students who have chosen a psychology or sociology major.

I don’t understand this.  Knowledge about psychology is necessary for us to understand our own behaviors and those of our fellow humans.  It can help kids be able to detect red flags or signs of mental illness in others, including in our leaders.   In my way of thinking, psychology is a life skill and is so much more useful in our daily lives than things like algebra or trigonometry, which are rarely thought of again once a student graduates and only have practical use in the scientific or technical fields.   Do any of us in our 40s, 50s, or 60s actually remember how to do a proof in Geometry? Do any of us actually remember some of the dates we had to memorize in History or can reproduce the Table of the Elements without having to refer to outside sources?   Not that such knowledge doesn’t have value — it makes you seem smart or at least educated. But really, how are these things relevant to living a successful adult life unless you work in these fields or teach them yourself?

If Psychology were offered at the high school, or even at the middle school level, I think kids would be making better choices in their friendships, relationships, and even in their voting practices as they grow older.   They would know better what they are dealing with among the people they wind up going to school with, working with, and having to deal with day to day.

I think anti-bullying education should also be a part of a psychology program, especially for young middle school students, where bullying is at its most vicious and where kids are more vulnerable to the trauma caused by bullying than they are at the high school or college level when their sense of self is more developed.   Practical lessons in mindfulness or anger management could be adapted into a middle- or high-school curriculum as well.   I think all kids — not just kids with impulse or emotional problems — would benefit from such classes.  It would help them develop their emotional — not just their cognitive — intelligence.

We are now saddled with a president who is a diagnosed malignant narcissist (remotely diagnosed by actual psychiatrists, but it’s common knowledge now) and whose rash and impulsive actions are showing that he’s a greater threat than anyone could have imagined.   His cabinet picks aren’t much better.   I think if psychology (including abnormal psychology) had been a required course for kids, starting at the middle school level, as they reached voting age, they would reach adulthood with more emotional intelligence, and take into account the personality traits of the candidates and choose those who seemed more in touch with reality and more mentally sound, regardless of their political beliefs.


18 thoughts on “Psychology should be required for middle and high-school students.

  1. I agree with you that it should be required. It’s a very useful topic to study — especially in comparison to US history (which everyone here practically knows anyway) or something other. It would also help with the stigma around mental health and mental illness.

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  2. Hi ya! I have a lot of problems with your idea. For one thing, do you really think people’s personal choices of friends, relationships and candidates would be impacted by a class in psychology? I think you know your marriage was a bad decision because of your experiences, not academic knowledge of the field of psychology. Conversely, I think your belief in psychology comes from your practical knowledge, not the other way around. I took psychology in college and we didn’t study personality disorders (or any other form of abnormal psychology) at all. My class taught me more about how cats can be driven mad by making their environment completely unpredictable. The professor was a pill who was always making nasty cracks about religion. She would start a sentence with, “I don’t want to step on anyone’s religious bunions, but…” If you ask me, I think she was a narc, herself.

    But supposing they did teach about personality disorders in high school and supposing the kids did apply what they learned to their personal relationships. Wouldn’t that lead to kids shunning kids who had the disorders they discussed? Is this even ethical? My school didn’t have an anti-bullying program so I don’t know how they work. But I am skeptical that such a program would really reduce bullying. Maybe make it more covert or subtle. Polite adults can be hurtful without seeming like overt bullies. If anything, I can see a bunch of kids pointing fingers at each other calling each other “narcs” and “schizoid” or whatever other term they learn. There’s a big difference between book learning and street smarts. People learn to make the right choices by developing street smarts, not by learning the terms in the DSM.

    As far as politics goes, have you seen my latest blog about why I think it’s wrong to apply psychiatric categories to political figures. I start out mentioning my own history as a mental patient and the stigma that has followed me through life. I seriously don’t think an education in psychology reduces stigma. It is likely to increase it. The way psychiatric terms have been flung at Trump is a perfect example of using such concepts pejoratively. You know I don’t like Trump. But his politics are more than sufficient as a basis for criticism. Remote diagnosis is considered illegitimate, anyway. Don’t you find it interesting that just people who don’t like Trump’s politics call him a narc. Those who voted for him think he’s a dynamic problem-solver and we, who don’t like him, are “snowflakes” and “sheep,” manipulated by the media.

    Psychology has not managed to change people’s attitudes towards those who don’t fit in for whatever reason. I think it’s a questionable science, anyway. It should be treated as a part of philosophy instead. Humans are far too complex to understand with the tools of science. Not that we shouldn’t keep studying the physical aspect to psychology such as brain anomalies. But most high school students are probably too immature to get into that.

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    • I’m not saying a psychology class for high schoolers or middle schoolers would have to be like a college class. It’s not necessary to talk about experiments on mice and rats, or go into great depth about Freud or Jung or the history of it. Theoretical stuff has no practical value. But training in basic practical psychology, what the different disorders are, how they can be treated, practical skills for dealing with bullies (or avoiding being a bully), mindfulness, anger management, and general management of emotions would be helpful to young kids. Think of it as like a health class, only dealing with the mind and emotions instead of the body. Because that’s basically what it would be.


      • My point is that psychology 101 does not deal with “disorders.” If it did, members of the class who appear to have a particular disorder could be ostracized by the class.

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        • It would have to be handled in a sensitive way that does not stigmatize. Maybe labels shouldn’t be taught at that level, just practical skills for dealing with others and themselves. Like a health class, only for mental health.


    • I disagree with you completely nowve.

      Learning the psychology behind abuse is precisely what made me aware of – and encouraged me to escape – my abusive ex.

      Until then I misrepresented to myself my experiences as a purely spiritual or philosophical conundrum that was weirdly imposed upon me or I unknowingly “asked” for.

      As well, learning the traits of schizophrenia helped me identify, deal with and escape the manipulation of my genius schizophrenic mother.

      She too does not approve of use of the DSM to self educate, and I suspect if I kept one in the house while she was here it would have been destroyed with the other books and possessions of mine that she burned.

      Because they were.. uh… “tainted by the devil.”

      But knowledge of psychology and psychiatry did not make me an abuser – or compel me to call my mother “schizo” – or call any abusers – abusive names. In fact, it helped me to look beyond (but not tolerate) whenever abuse was hurled at me.

      It is only when one is aware of a genetic or triggered component, when one can even learn to identify DSM traits in those with whom we are most familiar – that one can maintain any boundaried compassion, charity and even love towards the “real person” beneath the disorder, while setting up boundaries against their behaviors to protect oneself.

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      • I agree with you. I say for kids, put the emphasis on practical applications that are useful for self awareness and getting along with others, and understanding others, without resorting to labeling or stigmatizing. A little education about the different disorders is fine, but the emphasis should be on practical applications of psychology in every day life, used to understand others and themselves better.


  3. Well said. It amazes me that public and most private high school programs focus mainly on pumping out semi educated workers to fit certain low level job profiles, or provide students the bare minimum to get then excepted into college.

    One would think (with all the politically correct electives offered along side this type of education) more money would be spent mandating basic life skills.

    Yes, a general education in psychology could include an overview of childhood trauma education, PTSD and abusive personality psychology. It’s not rocket science. Just saying “no bullying” does not give students the means to avoid, become aware, or stop abuse; it patronizes students as uneducatable.

    Think of how many young persons are now being traumatized by parents and others and do not even realize it. Education would potentially prevent a lot of bullying and violence in the first place, and encourage life saving self awareness skills.


  4. I couldn’t agree more! I would have LOVED to have Psychology in school, instead of the useless subjects that I remember nothing about. Maybe we should start up a worldwide petition. 😛

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