28
Apr
10

the learning load for kids ramps up

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Since the crash of 2008 many Americans have been reeling under a barrage of information about financial dealings such as derivatives. Much of what we’ve heard on the news from Wall Street financial and government officials has left many of us glassy-eyed. We’ve had a crash course in high-finance, and a lot of it’s more than we ever wanted to know.

In todays’ Huffington Post Timothy Geithner, Secretary of the Treasury. Arne Duncan, Secretary of Education, and Valerie Jarrett, a White House Senior Advisor, suggest that our children need stronger education in money matters in school. They cite the recently completed National Financial Capability Challenge testing the knowledge of high school students.

More than 2,500 teachers and 76,000 students in all 50 states participated in the voluntary exam, which shows interest is strong. But the scores were disappointing. The average student is just squeaking by with 70% correct. Students failed to answer basic questions about credit cards, car insurance, and compound interest.

To remedy this situation the propose more school education about the intricacies of financial transactions.

Let’s pass serious financial reform. Let’s promote financial access. And at the same time, let’s make sure that we are providing all Americans — especially our youth — with the financial education they need to succeed in this increasingly complex, fast-moving economy. Their futures — and ours — depend on it.

It’s hard to disagree with the idea, but my point is that there’s hardly any area of life where more and better education in school wouldn’t offer better prospects. My professional background is health, so I could argue that stronger education in how our bodies work, how we can prevent illness, and how to cope with the medical system would help avoid serious situations for individuals and society such as the obesity epidemic sweeping the nation. Finance is just one more need in a long list. I’m confident parents and educators see benefit in stronger teaching of the basic three “Rs,” math and science, job and people skills, to name a few.

While I was in cancer public health many organizations in my state, California, tried to get comprehensive health education as part of school curriculum. Two things kept it from happening. One was school educators who said the curriculum was already too full. The other was opposition from some parents and religious leaders who didn’t want “comprehensive” health ed to include anything having to do with sex.

Life seems to get more complicated with each generational cycle. Complexity begets more complexity. My dad was a member of the so-called Greatest Generation. He was a city fireman. When he retired in the ’70s his financial dealings consisted of his pension, a paid-off home mortgage, Social Security, and a life insurance policy. Investing was only for the rich, not working guys like him. I sometimes envied the simplicity of his financial life when, a decade after graduating college, my employer began to push for 401(k)s, offered supplemental annuities, everybody had to have a mutual fund, and supposedly financially savvy folks began to leverage their home equity. People seemed to know what they were doing, yet we had the financial panic engineered by pros who know even more. I’m not sure education is the antidote for flimflammery.

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