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As schools across the country prepare for the coming year, which we hope returns to something like a pre-pandemic normal, the financial literacy community will redouble its efforts to get effective financial education into our nation’s classrooms.
After the array of economic uncertainties brought on by a nearly worldwide shutdown, most people are applauding the effort to provide financial education to a new generation of consumers – not only to better prepare them for whatever unexpected crisis happens next, but as an essential life skill.
Still, there are some who believe financial education in the classroom to be ineffective, unrealistic and even misdirected; but we can’t let these misguided notions rob our kids of the opportunity to gain valuable knowledge and money management ability.
Critics of school-based financial education have argued that teaching kids about money is the parents’ responsibility. This isn’t a recent criticism; it’s been going on for just about as long as we’ve been promoting it. Helaine Olen, for example, who has been railing against financial literacy since publishing her 2013 book “Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry,” took another swipe at Financial Literacy Month in a recent Washington Post column.
At Jump$tart, we agree that financial learning should start at home; however, for families that are “unbanked,” maybe new to this country, or just not sure of their own proficiency, schools play a critical role. And of course, some kids don’t have parents or guardians at all. By including personal finance in the PreK-12 curriculum, we can help close the financial inclusion gap by educating those students who need that guidance the most.
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For years, critics of school-based financial education have refuted the claim that “all we need is better education” to improve the financial well-being of everyone – but the sham is that no one in the financial literacy community actually claims that. We know that better education alone won’t protect victims of financial fraud or discrimination, won’t provide better access to service and opportunities, and won’t guarantee workers a livable wage. We do believe, however, that financial education is a strong foundation on which equity, access, opportunity, service, and consumer protections can – and will – be built.
A couple of years ago, Jump$tart launched Check Your School, a public engagement campaign designed to harness the power of parents and others to bring financial education to every school in the country. But, in the …….