Harnessing the power of parents

It’s that time of year — back to school. With the abundance of “teachable moments” these days, will this be the year when parents step up and insist that schools include financial education as part of the school curriculum? In light of the current economic condition, can we agree that a financially educated populace would have mitigated some of the devastating results of the current recession?

It might surprise you to know that New Hampshire is the only state in New England that has a graduation requirement for economics. Embedded in the curriculum framework for that requirement is a standard for personal finance. 

Yet exactly how this requirement is met is left to the discretion of each school district. In many cases, since economics falls under the social studies discipline, this curriculum is often taught by history teachers with little training in economics. Compound this with a lack of assessment testing for social studies and we’re left with a wide disparity on how our children are taught any elements of money management.

Parents hold the key to this. If parents want a higher emphasis on personal finance in the classroom, then they need to tell their school board. Their role is to manage and allocate resources to accomplish the desires of the community.

Resources: this word is often used as the argument explaining why we can’t do something. However, when it comes to the topic of personal finance, the argument is weak. There are vast amounts of personal finance curricula available to educators and school districts that are either no cost or low cost. At the Jump$tart Coalition Clearinghouse, there are well over 700 types of curricula and teaching materials, 45 percent of which can be downloaded for free.

We at NH Jump$tart know from direct experience that teachers want to teach this valuable life skill to their students. We train over 150 teachers each year at our annual teacher conference. So if teachers want to teach personal finance and there are plenty of available teaching materials to accomplish that, what is the problem?

Kids are facing a more financially complex world than we ever could have imagined. Having a strong understanding of personal finance is critical to their future. Parents: the power to make a difference is in your hands.

Daniel Hebert, a former lender with over 23 years of banking experience, is president of the NH Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy. For more information, visit nhjumpstart.org.

Categories: Opinion