Sunday, November 29, 2009

Common Sense Curriculum

This is an issue several of us brought before the House Committee on Education, and the State Board of Education, repeatedly from 1999 through the legislative session in 2003.  In the zeal for standardized testing via SOL, and NCBL, algebra and geometry became the "minimum" acceptable math skills to achieve a diploma in Virginia.  Math for living life was not even a for credit class as part of the math curriculum.  If there is one skill set which should be cultivated for EVERY student graduating from a Virginia High School, it should be economic mathematical understanding and ability... 
Please consider helping to push this issue forward.

On Oct. 6, Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson, a Democrat from Texas, introduced in Congress the Financial Education for Teachers and Students Act, which would authorize federal grants for pilot programs to teach financial literacy to middle and high school students.

In this season of pitched legislative battles about health care reform, climate change, and financial regulation, it is difficult to imagine that Johnson's bill will garner much attention, much less attract the support necessary for enactment.

And yet, consider:

  • The secretary of the treasury (Timothy Geithner) and the chairman of the congressional committee with primary oversight over the Internal Revenue Code (Charles Rangel) have both claimed, during the past year, that they did not understand or were unaware of (!) the rules governing preparation of their income tax returns.
  • In order to purchase homes that they could not afford, millions of Americans borrowed money on conditions that they did not understand (negligently in some cases, willfully in others) and with which they could not comply. The resulting mortgage and credit crises nearly brought down the entire U.S. financial system.
  • Over the course of several decades, the average American stopped saving almost entirely -- a trend only recently reversed by the onset of the great recession.
  • Individuals, families, localities, states, and, indeed, the federal government have demonstrated an inability to balance their books, and the result is a debt burden with serious consequences for future generations.
Given this litany of failures, has there ever been a better time to focus on teaching financial literacy?
The trends and behaviors that contributed to the recession illustrate the need to expand our ideas about a "core curriculum" -- reading, writing, math, science, and history -- so that it also includes money management.

Courses in financial planning could teach students to become good financial citizens in the same way that civics and government courses nurture good political citizens.

Read the op-ed


Steph said...

I am aware that you, John Kidd, Dan Breeden, and the entire board pushed for this year after year. Thank you all for your hard work and perseverance.

Anonymous said...

And just where do you fit this in the school day, Lowell? What gets replaced? No amount of class time devoted to financial planning is going to instill in people the need to be responsible with their money. You can't teach that. These people that have rung up mountains of credit card debts and spend recklessly do so because they're irresponsible.

Rockdem said...

Could I ask which anon is asking?

Rockdem said...

Okay, since no answer is forthcoming from the anon group, I will offer this forward because it isn't even a hard question to begin with, I would replace, for the standard diploma, the requirement of geometry with a requirement of economic math mastery. For the advanced diploma, I would simply add it on to the existing requirements... Not a hard decision for those who have any semblance of understanding of pedagogy and educational value...

Anonymous said...

You're vastly overstating the ease with which it can be placed in the curriculum. Besides that, you simply cannot teach common sense or responsibility. Explaining to someone how interest rates work isn't going to mean squat when they have a sense of entitlement for that new car, new house, or what have you. Reckless spending has little to do with education; people want and want more and more "stuff", as they see that as the true indicator of their self-worth. Living within one's means is the sort of thing one learns over time and through experience, not in a class on credit card interest rates and IRAs.

Rockdem said...

You say, "You're vastly overstating the ease with which it can be placed in the curriculum."

Please expand on this and also provide your related experience and background to have an informed opinion?

I'll be happy to share my experiences in the area if you like.

Anonymous said...

I'm well aware of your "experiences" in the area. Don't many who get the standard diploma go on to a trade, where maybe geometry is going to come in handy? And where do you fit it in for those seeking an Advanced diploma? It is very easy to say you'll just add it on to the requirements, but where will you find the class time? Moreover, I dare say most of those students are preparing to go to college anyway, so why add yet another requirement to begin with?

Your "solution" is unnecessary. Again, you cannot teach the value of a dollar and principles of living within one's means over the course of a high school class. Common sense isn't something you can diagram on a blackboard. Incidentally, I also find it ironic you're pushing this while, on the same blog, you encourage implementation of costly health care "reform" as well as cap and trade while we're running record deficits. Do the principles you wish to espouse to the younger generation not apply to your beloved Democrats on Capitol Hill?

Grandma in Covington said...

"Your "solution" is unnecessary."
What utter nonsense! To continue to put our young people out into the world of work and life unprepared for dealing with life's financial choices and challenges is criminal.

Anonymous said...

"What utter nonsense! To continue to put our young people out into the world of work and life unprepared for dealing with life's financial choices and challenges is criminal."

Glad to see you recognize the vast failings of the public school system.

Grandma in Covington said...

The public school system is doing a wonderful job. The mandates imposed by politicians who have little understanding of education are the real problem.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, its doing gangbusters. Explain to me how this class would not be the kind of mandate you just got through criticizing?