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Sunday, May 12, 2013
The Roanoke Time’s editorial “Classify economics as a foreign language” in the April 29 edition was filled with some important facts but also jumped to some very questionable conclusions concerning the benefits of efforts to introduce financial education into high schools.
In a nutshell, it concluded that since scores on the economics part of the National Assessment of Educational Progress have fallen since the financial crisis, even for high school seniors in states requiring a class in finance, that educational efforts in economics and personal finance are a waste of resources at the high school level.
Importantly, the lack of financial literacy is a recognized problem in our society. In order to address this problem, personal financial education in our schools is just getting started in many states across the country, including Virginia. In Virginia, our current sophomores will be the first class required to pass economics and personal finance requirements. Financial education is not yet required for our current high school graduating seniors and the majority of high school seniors across the country. Currently, 26 states do not have any financial literacy requirements for high school students.
While research indicates that college courses in personal finance have a positive impact on the financial literacy of students and graduates, high school financial literacy courses are just beginning to be put into place, and it is too soon to effectively measure the results. Additionally, greater math skills are also found to be a positive determinant of financial literacy. These results hint that qualified teachers and instructors matter in educating students to be better prepared for their future financial decision-making.
In concluding, The Roanoke Times editorial states, “Perhaps experience is the teacher.” While there is no substitute for experience, educated individuals learn more quickly from their own experiences, and the truly educated learn well from the experiences of others.
One responsibility of our educational system is to empower our youth to make smart decisions, and that responsibility must include personal financial decisions in order to prepare young individuals for the future. All our students deserve access to quality financial education, even those who do not intend to go to college.
Virginia’s lawmakers, who helped put the economics and financial literacy educational requirements on the books, may have set the stage for one of the best investments in the future of Virginia and its citizens. Our school systems now need the necessary support to carry out this critical endeavor.
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