Should Public Schools teach Finances?

God forbid the public schools should teach children something that they will have to use later on in life.

This seems like a no-brainer to me. So many kids graduate from high school only to rack up debt and ruin their credit because they seem unable to even acknowledge the basics of managing their money. Wouldn’t it be more in the public interest to have young men and women who aren’t just slaves to their next interest payment?

I know there are some teachers on this board and I would be interested to hear some takes on this idea and whether it has really even been tried or not. What might some of the advantages/disadvantages of trying to teach kids how to manage their money?

This sounds like a fabulous idea. In fact, I wish somebody would teach me how to manage the exceedingly small amount of money I have.

OOC, what would be taught? I learned about balancing a checkbook in elementary school (addition/subtraction), and learned about simple vs. compound interest and exponential growth in high school.
Are we talking about nuts-and-bolts math, or things like investment, managing money, etc?

Kids are supposed to pick up basic things like “don’t spend more than you earn” or “1.5% a month equals 18% a year” from their parents. You’re saying that once again the schools should pick up the slack and do the parents’ job for them? It’s like with Sex Ed–if they’re gonna, they’re gonna, and no amount of education about VD and pregnancy is going to stop them. If he’s the kind of kid who’s gonna get four different credit cards the day he goes away to college, then he’s gonna. Education is no barrier to stupid behavior. If by the age of 18 he hasn’t already learned to count the cost before he buys something–if he hasn’t picked up on the fact that 1.5% a month equals 18% a year–I don’t see why it should be the “school’s fault” because they somehow didn’t make sure he passed the money management course.

If you’re talking about some kind of comprehensive “money management” course, where they’d teach them all about exotic financial stuff like margin calls and 401Ks and stuff like that, I’d say that maybe a semester course for seniors might be useful.

Eh, stick with the Three R’s, is my feeling. Schools are already pinched for resources as they are. Besides, when I was in high school, we covered the basics of consumerism in Civics Class, which included basic things like the idea of mortgages and interest payments. Don’t they still do that?

Interesting question, I could see the course starting out with the nuts and bolts math elements and then going on into stuff like loans, investments, budgeting, etc… I think by setting aside a discrete class where these matters can be considered we send a message that all of these things are related and are important.

But if this is such a great idea then why don’t we do it already?

At my high school (in NE Texas) we had a class called ‘Personal Business Management’ that covered the basics of balancing a checkbook, how credit cards work, debt vs equity, etc… It was not a mandatory class but I’m glad it was offered. To be fair after taking accounting it was pretty much a blow off class but if you haven’t had accounting it would be a great class.

Problem 1) Getting more money for more teachers, books, and supplies.

Problem 2) Getting more class time. AT the rate they’re going, people are going to have to add 2 or three hours a day to school hours so they can add all these great new classes.

I think it’s a great idea. I’m no dumb bunny and I’ve had plenty of schooling, but the stock market remains a mystery to me. Mutual funds? IRAs? Huh? I’m trying to educate myself, but it’s hard. I wish I’d had a mandatory semester abotu this kind of thing. We have mandatory civics classes so students can learn how the nation’s government works, why not a mandatory practical finance course so students can learn how the nation’s economy works?

Not where I went to school but it seems that all schools are not created equal.


I attended elementary school in the 50s; high school in the early 60s. We didn’t have any class called “civics”. I always thought civics was about how government worked?

In school, I was taught nothing at all about personal finances or consumerism. Nothing at all about economics, either. (I’m using the term “economics” to mean a study of national and/or international economics.) And, come to think of it, not much about how government worked, either. Our American History classes included info on the Constitution and Bill of Rights, but I don’t remember anything about the actual nitty gritty workings of contemporary govt

I think personal finances and consumerism would both be excellant additions to the curriculum. They do sound to me like two different subjects (which could be combined in one class). “Personal finances,” to me, means things like checking/savings/money management accounts, mortgages, other types of loans, credit cards. “Consumerism” seems to me to be about being a savvy buyer: seeing through misleading advertisements, figuring out if a given installment plan or lease arrangement is or is not a good deal, etc. These are all things people need to know. Why shouldn’t the schools teach them?

I’d also be in favor of teaching them something about national/international economics. And how govt works (or doesn’t)

Speaking as a finance expert I think it’s a wonderful idea. Note that general skills could also be developed in the context of finance, such as mathematics, reading comprehension, writing, and logical thinking. And, as you point out, it would actually have practical value.

If I could teach just one thing, it would be the impact of interest at high rates applying to credit cards. I managed to convince my daughter not to go into debt on her credit card, “in order to build up a credit history.” (An approach advocated by some credit card companies.) The cost of doing this is really high, and the eventual value of a credit history is quite uncertain.

I don’t think this is a very fair comparison, DDG. Besides that, I disagree with the premise stated in your last sentence: education is a barrier to stupid behavior, or else no one would get any wiser as they aged. It is also the only socially acceptable method available to change the behavior of young people (execution not being an option).
People may still act stupid after they are taught otherwise, but how much MORE stupid would they be without the benefit of that education?

Sorry, but “getting older” does not equal “becoming more educated”. We’re talking about deliberate “education”, classes, tutelage, etc., not just knocking about the world long enough.

Some of the dumbest people I know–the ones most likely to fall for that MLM scheme–are the ones with PhDs. :wink:

It may be the parent’s job to teach responsibility with regard to finances and yes some of those kids will go ahead and screw up anyway.

It remains that:

Many parents do not teach their children the more simple aspects; let alone the aspects that require math and critical thinking. Some children get along fine, some have no sense of responsibility. Why can’t we even the playing field a little?

If the purpose of our educational system is to give our children the tools they need to succeed in society then I believe that Finances have long been long-overlooked.

Mrs. Gelding taught personal finance as part of the high school home economics program. He course included budgeting, banking and consumer finance. With the de-emphasis of vocational education in favor of reading, writing and arithmetic, this sort of elective is not now widely available in this area.

“Home Economics,” she would tell me,” is more than cooking and sewing.” To this my response was, as always, “yes, dear.”

Where I went to high school in the late 80’s, courses were offered in Home Economics (which included household spending and finance, and budgeting money) Accounting (writing checks, balancing a checkbook, ) and Consumer Math (how to calculate interest, unit cost, etc.) and Economics (the basics of different economic systems, how the stock market works, etc.) All of the things listed in the OP were available.

The first school where I taught (second grade) was a comprhesive k-12 in one building–this was a very small school district. It offered Consumer Science–you’d risk getting slapped if you called it Home Ec–which spent an entire quarter on the things listed in the OP, in addition to how to apply for a job, how taxes worked and how to plan your tax refund ahead of time. Also offered was Family Planning, which included personal finance as a big part of it’s curriculum.

I think if you look at most school districts, the info is already available in elective classes.

If you mean that personal finance should be a separate subject all its own, that sounds like a good idea to me, except that in a lot of cases, much of the content would be redundant. If you mean it should be required, you first would need to select some other required subject to substitute it for.

I took a required finance class in junior high and a required economics class in high school. The finance class covered basic things like balancing a checkbook, making a budget, and buying a car; the econ class was mainly about business (supply and demand), the stock market, and other investments.

I wish the finance class had been offered in high school instead of junior high, though. How many middle school students have jobs and checking accounts?

Personally, I really don’t see any moral or theoretical reason why we shouldn’t offer as many choices as possible to high school students (within reason, of course, “Beastiality 101” is clearly not an option teenagers need for an elective).

Furthermore, I personally think that economics, business and finance are sorely neglected in pretty much all school systems below the university level, public or otherwise. That’s why I volunteer as much as humanly possible with Junior Achievement (obligatory plug… ).

Incidentally, Duck Duck Goose, if your 1.5% monthly is compounded monthly, the actual annual rate is 19.56%, isn’t it?

If only someone would write a book on personal finances so that high school graduates could read this book and know about credit cards and such.

Isn’t having a government institution, schools, teaching fiscal responsibility like having a rock muscician teaching abstinence?

A credit card’s 1.5% a month times 12 months equals 18% a year.

If you don’t believe me, ask CNN.

How are you coming up with 19.56%?