Monday, July 09, 2007

Cui erudiat ludimagistri* 

I was reading another article (this in the WSJ, subcribers link) on states requiring high school students to be instructed in personal finance.

Legislators and school boards are slowly getting on the bandwagon by requiring schools to provide classes in economics and personal finance, and to work economics into math and history courses. But change takes time because of the need for teacher training and the difficulty of fitting new courses into existing graduation requirements.

Currently, 17 states require high-school students to take an economics course in order to graduate, up from 14 in 2004 and 13 in 1998, according to the National Council on Economic Education. Seven states require a personal-finance course for high-school graduation, up from six in 2004 and one in 1998.

Mississippi will require students who begin high school in 2008 to take an economics class before graduation. But first the teachers have had to brush up on the subject. Since training began, scores on the course material among prospective economics teachers, many of whom have a social-studies background, have risen to 84% from 62%.

Janet and I have also reported on this movement at the college level. I do not think, though, that economics professors are the right place to learn about checkbook balancing or credit card responsibility. As I read this article this AM, I thought, "who exactly is going to teach these classes?" People who can't balance a budget for the school district and keep asking for more tax money?

I don't think it's wise either to use economists. Before there was TurboTax and Quicken, I could not balance a checkbook myself. I don't see where we have any particular comparative advantage in teaching personal finance skills.

So I ask, where are the parents? Why are we using the state to replace the family in teaching personal financial responsibility?

* -- My friend Tim will certainly correct my 30-year-rusty Latin. Just checking if he's still reading.

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