Learning About Money
When he goes shopping for video games, Connor Jackson is careful to find the best deal. His mom says he’s always been good at finding bargains.
While her son has developed his money smarts himself, Lydia Jackson wonders why this isn’t a skill being taught in schools.
“I would think it’s more important to learn how to manage money than it is to do algebra,” she says. She’s not alone. When polled, 87 percent of Americans say that financial literacy should be taught in schools.
But the reality is that only 17 U.S. states require students to take a personal finance course. Only 20 states require a course in economics, but that course may or may not include information about personal finance.
Aidan Ferguson is a personal finance teacher in Roanoke, Virginia, one of the states that emphasizes financial literacy. He has been teaching the required financial-literacy course at Thomas Jefferson High School for eight years. He enjoys his work and sees its importance every day.
“I’ll have a student come up to me a year later and say ‘Thanks, Mr. Ferguson. The lesson you taught on college costs has been coming in handy as I apply to schools,’” said Ferguson.
He also noted that money is a topic that many students like. They are very engaged and stay interested in the material throughout the entire semester. “There’s never a problem with students not doing their homework – when homework is comparison shopping for fast food items,” he said.
The Commonwealth of Virginia mandates that students take a semester-long financial-literacy course before they graduate. Ferguson believes this is changing lives for the better and that his students will become better consumers as a result. He wishes more states would adopt this policy.
As for Connor Jackson, who lives in a state without a financial literacy requirement, he’s left to learn from his parents and his own experience. “I would take a course like this if my school had it … and I’d probably get an A,” he said.