A recent USA Today article highlighted one of the pressing issues in education instruction today: Financial literacy is non-existent. Schools are busy trying to help students memorize facts and data while ignoring the essential life skills that every student needs. Some students develop the need in high school (those who go out and get jobs) while other students develop the need later in life. The bottom line is that no matter if an individual is wealthy or poor, they will need this skill and knowledge.
So why are curriculums not covering financial literacy? The issue is complex when looking at hundreds of thousands of schools but 3 fundamental flaws can be found across the spectrum.
1. Mandatory Testing Doesn’t Cover Financial Literacy – Too many schools and teachers are caught up in the “teaching to the test” model. These tests are used to gauge a teacher’s ability while rarely showcasing a student’s true knowledge. Even with the tests being ineffective, students are still focused on the material covered in the test. The solution to this issue is for tests to be completely removed (Best option) or replaced with a testing formula that allows organizations to measure the essential “life skills” as well as the mundane memorized facts. Should a student be considered a high school graduate if they can’t fill out a check? What if they can’t tell you what compounding interest means?
2. Parents Reluctant To Fill The Gap – Many parents want what is best for their children….completely understandable! Too many parents see that the school system is dropping the ball on financial education yet choose to do nothing about it. If the school does not meet the educational need, we must start to see parents step up and teach their children the basics. The issue that I suspect may be present is that the parents themselves were never taught financial literacy and therefore do not have the knowledge to pass along to their children. This vicious cycle is something we should be very scared of.
3. Memorization Over Skills – Most school curriculums are taught the same way they were organized and shared over 125 years ago. With little innovation over time, we are beginning to see the negative effects. While a base of knowledge is important, the easy access to information through the internet has made memorization less prevelant. What we now notice is that we must give our students the essential skills and combine it with the ability to search for the remaining material online. Of course I am not saying to stop teaching 2 + 2 but I am saying that a heavier focus must be placed on “life skills” along with critical thinking, analysis, and creativity.
Overall our students are the future leaders of society. They will be the next business owners, doctors, lawyers, accountants (scary), politicians, and employees. We have a duty to prepare them to be successful in both their professional and personal lives. The US has experienced rapid growth in debt both as a country and also at the individual family unit. While there is not a single solution, it is my belief that we could prevent a lot through financial education. The saying “Give a man a fish and help him eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and help him eat for a lifetime” definitely applies in this situation. The challenge has been issued to us through the recognition of a need in our education system, hopefully we are ready to accept it!
Were you ever taught financial literacy in school? Do you have any suggestions on how we could implement it today? Share your stories, thoughts, and suggestions in the comments. I would love to hear from you!