The State of Virginia debates personal finance course

17 05 2011

Why isn’t personal finance taught in school?  Is it really a major lack of funding concern or are there other unspoken of factors involved?  Could it be kids may end up learning more than their parents?  The end result being parents feeling intimidated by their children for their lack of financial literacy.  When the children start “teaching” money management to their parents, will parents embrace this newly found information? 

In a recent article published by The Washington Post, when Virginia officials decided students should have personal finance related courses, it was the Northern Virginia educators and parents protesting the idea.  They accused Richmond of “needless meddling in local academics, robbing busy students of a precious elective.”  However, the goal of such a course is to ensure high school students graduate knowing practical skills in the wake of the economic down-turn.  Further protests regarding the additional personal finance course include “one less opportunity to take an elective in a field that they really want to focus on”.

Many Virginia officials believe the course content should be molded into already set courses – such as math.  Students will then learn how to balance a checkbook and understand the laws of supply and demand. 

In the wake of protests, there is good news to this story.  At least three states require a finance course for high school graduation!  Those states include Utah, Missouri and Tennessee.  Maryland has no personal finance education requirements and professes it would cost $16 million to implement.

Financial educators are left fighting a losing battle.  Adverse parents do not want their children to lose free electives while school officials believe the course is much too costly to implement. 

During this global financial crisis, are educators prepared to teach personal finance?  Perhaps they themselves are struggling with their lack of financial knowledge?  Do they feel intimidated teaching such a course?  And parents, are they intimidated because they too are facing a financial hardship?  How can parents possibly teach their children when they are struggling with finances themselves?

It is essential for children to learn personal finance in school – these skills will shape their future when they go into the workforce and are dealing with the handling and managing of money on a daily basis.  Equally important is the initiative of parents familiar with and those that practice positive money management behavior.  It is up to these parents to teach their children financial literacy.  It seems clear that schools have a long way to go before financial education will be taught in the classroom.

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