Letter to the Editor on Finance

Editor, Wrightstown (Wisconsin, USA) “Spirit” (July, 2017):

I appreciated your taking notice of the state legislators mandating that school boards put financial literacy into their curriculums.

While I’m not saying that decisions made locally are always wiser, there is a lot of talk about NOT mandating this or that, but allowing local governments to decide what is best for their communities. I guess in this instance, the majority of state legislators think otherwise.

I see your point — that pupils should learn what their parents face in providing for them, and maintaining their property. It would be a good idea if word problems about budgeting for and paying such bills were incorporated into arithmetic and algebra lessons.

But that isn’t all there is to finance or financial literacy.

There are banks of various sorts — local, national, international, private, government-run, or, in the case of the Fed, a hybrid of private and government-run. This might be a matter for social studies or history classes and home study.

Many people in the past, and some still, consider usury (collecting interest on loans) a sin.

Others consider taking out a loan unwise — except in a personal emergency or war for survival — because once you owe money, you lose the freedom to withdraw from commerce you find unethical or suicidal.

You can’t just live on nearly nothing while you find some other way forward, while you owe money — you must earn, and pay what you owe — unless you are willing to break your commitment.

Shall we assign students word problems about taking out loans for vacations to Disneyland or Las Vegas, or buying fancier cars or boats, or for beer, brats, pizza, jewelry?

Wordsworth, the English poet, wrote, “Getting and spending, we lay waste our powers.” But I think most people in the USA and in many other countries, currently believe that getting and spending money are what life is mainly about. Would the legislators want that discussed, as part of financial literacy?

And do we want pupils only to be prepared to pay their bills responsibly, or do we prepare them to compete, financially, with everyone?

Between kindergarten and high school graduation, how much time shall they spend on the various sorts of bonds and stocks and bond and stock markets, futures, currencies, money markets, secondary markets, insurance, mortgages and other loans, payment systems, starting and keeping a small business going, operating expenses, depreciation, capital expenditures, return on investment, or managing a giant agricultural, industrial, commercial, or financial enterprise, or a county, state, or nation?

Do the designers of the curriculum, that is, the school boards and those they hire to administer the schools, know all this, and know how best to instruct the teachers to impart it to the pupils?

Are the teachers capable? They’re wage-earners, not jobless or tycoons. How much money is budgeted to educate them, financially?

Do the sons and daughters inheriting a profitable farm, say, want or need the same financial understanding, as someone beginning with approximately no money, property, or connections with people who would hire them, or even guide their choosing which skills to work on acquiring, with great understanding of society and the economy as they are and as they are becoming?

Poor people need to be very cunning financially! They need to be more cunning than state legislators, who have tax money to spend. Poor people need financial literacy — but who is willing and able to provide it to them?

Someone whose parents are going to pay for the best university education available, like, say, Hillary Clinton’s or George Bush’s or Mitt Romney’s parents, or whose father, like President Trump’s, is going to lend him a million dollars to get started, surely needs a different sort of understanding than someone who is going to have to find his or her own way, starting from nothing, on his or her own.

Is the matter of the justice of who begins with what to be brought up?

Eric Chaet



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