Readers: Financial literacy is a school’s responsibility

"Someday very soon, these high school students will be adults in your community," said one reader.

In a time where budget cuts are the norm, student loan debt has reached an all-time high, and the economy shows slow improvement, a recent report reveals that few K-12 schools nationwide teach economics or financial literacy.

According to the Council for Economic Education report, titled “Survey of the States: Economic and Personal Finance Education in Our Nation’s Schools 2011,” fewer than half of states require high school students to take an economics class, and fewer states now require high schools to offer financial literacy classes than in 2009, even though another report concluded that two-thirds of college students don’t understand the terms of their loans.

Many financial experts say that by not teaching financial literacy or even basic economics to high schoolers, schools are not preparing them for adulthood—and our readers seem to agree.

According to a 2010 study that surveyed approximately 16,000 college students, titled “Financial Capabilities of College Students from States with Varying Financial Education Policies,” by the National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE), students from states that required a financial education class were “more likely to display positive financial behaviors.” When compared to their peers, these students were more likely to save money, less likely to max out their credit cards, less likely to make late credit card payments, and less likely to be compulsive buyers.

“The financial crisis has put economic news on the front pages of newspapers daily, requiring individuals not just to be abreast of concepts such as deficit, national debt, and interest rate spread, but also to evaluate the economic reforms that political leaders are proposing,” wrote Annamaria Lusard, an economics professor at George Washington University School of Business, in the Council on Economic Education report.

“Just as it was not possible to live in an industrialized society without print literacy—the ability to read and write—so it is not possible to live in today’s world without being financially literate. To fully participate in society today, financial literacy is critical.”

In a recent eSchool News “Question of the Week,” we asked readers: “Should financial literacy be included in high school education? Why or why not?”

Almost every response we received said “yes” to teaching financial literacy in schools, including reasons such as promoting responsible citizenship and securing our economic future. Some readers also gave advice on how to incorporate financial literacy education into the curriculum without putting more of a strain on school and teacher resources.

Meris Stansbury

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