What do you want your child to be able to do when he or she becomes an adult?
Let me guess: How about “make a good living, have a nice home, raise a family?” Perhaps “have a comfortable lifestyle without being burdened with debt and insecurity?” Maybe “save some money for a comfortable retirement?”
You may have other, more fuzzy aspirations for your child, such as “happiness” or “love” or “fulfillment”. But I’ll bet the items I mentioned above are at the top of your list.
Then why have you and I and every Montana parent not DEMANDED that our schools teach our children about money?
Except those who are on welfare, or are retired, or are so disabled that they are excluded from work, every American wakes up each morning and sets out to improve his or her family’s standard of living. It’s the essence of life. We have wants and needs, and we strive to fulfill them within the economic system in which we live. One would think that our education system would be geared toward that top priority of life, and our children would leave school with a fundamental working knowledge of the role of money, finance, and economics in our free-market democratic republic.
But no. Our state requires high school students to learn mathematics, language skills, social studies, science, health, art, world languages, and vocational/technical studies. An extensive array of fine arts is recommended. But my search of the Montana Office of Public Instruction website did not find the word “economics” mentioned EVEN ONCE.
The OPI website includes numerous articles trumpeting the importance of Indian studies, but none about how to make our Native American students financially successful and independent.
Can you name one human activity that does not involve money?
Can you guess how many high school athletes become professional athletes? Basketball: .03% . Football: .09%. We know how much attention and money is paid to those pursuits.
But how many high school students will need to earn a paycheck or make a profit, file a tax return, handle financial transactions with confidence, understand how their government handles their money, buy insurance, manage a family budget, make intelligent borrowing, saving, and investing decisions? 100%.
(By the way, most professional athletes are bankrupt within a few years of the end of their playing careers, because they weren’t taught economics in school either.)
Some Montana schools offer consumer economics classes or a make a minimal attempt at teaching economics within other courses. But I’ll bet the participation rate is miniscule where offered.
The biggest failure in our education system is the refusal to provide our children the financial literacy they need to thrive and survive. As we continue to matriculate generation after generation of walking economic victims, our nation flounders in debt, our dependency on government explodes, and we elect whichever pandering politician promises to give us the most free “stuff”.
One can only conclude that Montana parents either haven’t seriously thought about the importance of economics, or they think their kids are destined to become professional athletes. Either way, the kids are screwed.
Tom Balek – Rockin’ On the Right Side