It is impossible to deny that money management takes up a large portion of thought and time in the minds of adult Americans today. With the difficulties created by the recession and a floundering economy parents are understandably worried about sending their children into the world with the proper knowledge to survive financially.
They have good reasons to worry. Surveys performed by universities and Jump$tart, an organization dedicated to advancing financial literacy among students, have proven that most children are lacking the basic understanding of how finances function. According to Casey Bond of GoBankingRates.com less than 50 percent of students participating in a financial literacy survey for Jump$tart realized that “a credit card holder who only pays the minimum amount of their balance will be charged more in interest than someone who pays their balance in full.” A majority of kids are financially illiterate, and parents are concerned about the financial future of these children. Bond also showed that a vast majority of teachers consider lessons in personal finance as essential to the curriculum.
While most states have yet to require a money management course, a few states, like Indiana, are already heading in that direction. In mid-October 2011 the Indiana Statehouse hosted an event called “Money Smart Day” for 6th grade students. The purpose of “Money Smart Day” was to get the students to think about “financial responsibility” at a young age. Indiana Public Media cited “rising unemployment and mounting student loan and credit card debt” as reasons for the event. But Indiana has not stopped with an occasional function to teach students personal finances; it is one of the few states that requires grades 6 through 12 to learn about it at school.
With money on the mind all over the U.S. there seems little in the way of argument against teaching students money management at school. But some concerns have been voiced that see an emphasis on money and finance as unnecessary and contrary to a good education. The argument can be likened to the recent debate about continuing to teach children cursive in schools when it is considered to no longer serve a practical purpose. Financial literacy is the antithesis of the cursive dispute: while some argue cursive should be removed for being impractical in the modern world, and others think it should remain because it serves an aesthetic, creative function, it is argued that money management should be taught for being practical while detractors believe it takes valuable time away from the classic educational foundation of literature, languages, mathematics, history, science etc., that resonate and stimulate without being completely practical.
Public schools seem to be moving away from education and more in the direction of “life training,” according to Consumerism Commentary. The purpose of grades K-12 is chiefly to prepare students for higher education, not to prepare them for the real world. Students need “research, analytical, and cognitive skills” not the skills to apply practically to life after college. With the track records of some public schools failing even to teach kids these essential skills necessary to advance to college, burdening students more with less appropriate “life training” in an already cluttered curriculum is overkill at best. At worst the state education agencies are simply pandering to parents in an attempt to make the school system seem like it is achieving something worthwhile as national test scores continue to disappoint.
On Juggle.com, a debate forum, one of the few detractors compared teaching kids money management in schools to “eating junk food.” While people are bombarded with facts that junk food is unhealthy, many continue to eat it anyway, and the obesity level of the population only continues to rise despite the efforts made to educate people. Simply presenting children with the proper knowledge to keep them from destroying their credit score in the future, or getting foreclosed on when they own a home, will have little impact since there are larger, uncontrollable factors that are the cause of many financial woes. The economy, unemployment levels, Wall Street and the fraudulent practices of some major financial institutions are key reasons for why some people have credit issues. These issues are all out of the common individual’s control.
It is absurd to argue that children should not receive instruction in money management, but this is a job for parents, not schools. Parents have the responsibility to prepare their children for the reality of adult life. While schools may offer courses or events in money management, it may be going a little overboard in making it a state requirement for graduation.
Smith, Brandon. “Indiana Statehouse Hosts “Money Smart Day” For Kids.” Indiana Public Media. http://indianapublicmedia.org/news/indiana-statehouse-hosts-money-smart-day-kids-21911/
Bond, Casey. “Back to School: Should Your Kids Learn Personal Finance this Year?” GoBankingRates.com. http://www.gobankingrates.com/back-to-school-should-kids-learn-personal-finance-this-year/
Flexo. “Should High Schools Require Money Management Classes?” Consumerism Commentary. http://www.consumerismcommentary.com/should-high-schools-require-money-management-classes/
“Would Teaching Kids About Money Management in Schools Lower the Population of People with Credit Issues in the Future?” Juggle.com: Debates. http://debates.juggle.com/would-teaching-kids-about-money-management-in-schools-lower-the-population-of-people-with-credit-issues-in-the-future