Sunday, October 23, 2016

How Money Pedagogy And Teachers Can Transform America

When did you become interested in money?  Most likely it was the instant you were given a piggy bank by your parents.  That genuine curiosity you had for pennies, nickels, and dimes probably lasted all of two years.  Once in school, and you learned to correctly distinguish between nickel, dimes, and quarters, money ceased to be the topic of lessons.  Math, English, History, and some Science became the focus of your primary school education.

Image result for kid with a piggy bank

The trend continues to this day, albeit it, there are many schools across the country now adopting financial literacy curriculum and entrepreneurship classes as electives.  The National Content Standards for Entrepreneurship Education validate such classes.  Many agencies sell their programs and content to schools, for example, Junior Achievement USA.  Students who have access to teachers who teach financial literacy or entrepreneurship should consider themselves lucky.

But what if every teacher in America awoke the dormant money curiosity students have once again?  What if teachers could grow the consciousness of money in all their students, especially those who live below the poverty line?  According to a report by the Southern Education Foundation in 2015, 51 percent of all students in America are considered "low-income" and live in poverty.  What has been the solution to this disturbing increase of the past 50 years?  Answer: Common Core, the hiring of new test makers across states, more academics, fewer visual and performing arts, and personalized learning.  Only the latter gives students permission to seek out knowledge of money and entrepreneurship.

Yet the easiest solution has always stood before us.  To improve education, improve teaching!  To reduce poverty, improve the teaching of wealth!  Duh!  If it were only this easy.  Consider this:  Most teachers don't know the first thing about making money.  If they did, they wouldn't be educators.  Many will say that they are not teachers for the money.  That they love teaching and working with kids.  The truth is, if they were to win the lottery, they'd quit teaching instantly.  Not a single one of them would continue working in a job that gets ever more complicated and demanding.

How can teachers transform America and reduce poverty?  First, let's make sure we all acknowledge that society owes teachers big time.  Parents of students of poverty send their kids to school to be educated, and often rely on teachers too much.  But back to the question.  Teachers can transform America by acknowledging they do not know much about how wealth is made.  They may know how to create middle class aspirations by virtue of promoting and preparing students for college.  However, that is where it ends.  How has this worked the past decades?

Graphs showing the average graduation rates of white students and minority students at public colleges and universities.

According to the Hechinger Report as many as 40 percent of low-income students accepted to college in the spring never show up to classes in the fall.  40 percent!  So what good does it do to make an academic out of a poor student if they one, will not show, and two, even if they show, will drop out.  U.S. News & World Report reported a 50.1% college graduation rate for underrepresented minorities in 2013.  Let's do a little math.  What's 40% of 50%?  20%.  That's probably how many low-income and minority students who are accepted to college in this country, end up really graduating.  I know I'm crossing poverty with ethnicity here, but I can't be that far off.

College and college graduation are not as big of a carrot as educators seem to think it is.  Isn't it obvious by now?  Poor kids want to desperately get out of poverty.  They want it so bad they'll do just about anything else, except going to or graduating from college.  Ha!  The education system creates an upside down funnel where we squeeze out only the buyers of the college pathway solution.  Yet, even these kids get squeezed out by the funnel awaiting them at higher learning institutions.

We need to try different things.  I am of the belief that adding more money topics into teaching units and individual lessons, will inspire more students to value schooling.  I call it, Money Pedagogy.  The challenge to doing Money Pedagogy are teachers' own financial literacy.  The trade books they read from notable education publishers, have not solved America's education problem.  They keep being sold on these.  Why not start adding financial literacy to professional development?  Superintendents, a teacher who can budget, invest, and actually save for retirement is a happier teacher.  A teacher who can start a successful business on the side is more confident and exudes this confidence during her lessons.

What if teachers could present perspectives that were not so utterly useless, and often forgetful?  What if teachers could talk more money in class?  Consider these questions:

1.  How was the American Revolution financed?
2.  Was the Civil War really won in the battlefield?  How did economics play a role in how the war played out?

1.  Compare the type of wealth Gatsby had with the type of wealth Daisy Buchanan had, and how did it lead Gatsby down a road of no return?

1.  Solve the following: Every month the Gomez family spends $350 on groceries, $200 on cell phones and internet, $2,350 on their home mortgage, $150 on electricity, and $200 on water.  If they earn $3,200 a month, do they have enough money to cover their bills?  If not, how do you think they are paying for their shortfall?  What would you suggest they do to lower their expenses?

1.  Global warming is threatening our planet.  What would be the most cost effective way of stopping rising oceans, or reducing the burning of fossil fuels?

We have tried many things as educators.  Our efforts have saved millions of students in America.  But we can do so much better.  Money pedagogy takes no funding whatsoever.  All any teacher needs to do is spend a little less time reading educational magazines, articles, or books and spend a little more time reading books on business, entrepreneurship, and investing.  It would be personally beneficial and something new and exciting to share with your students!  Who knows, it could transform America.    
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