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Wayne Madsen: It is high time we got back to basics
June 03, 2017
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At a time when basic classroom subjects like writing, reading, mathematics, science and history are being discarded or underfunded by state public education authorities, toughening the requirements on the teaching of personal finance would be a waste of time and money.

Politicians and school board members pushing such an agenda should be required to take and pass courses in public finance before making such demands.

All 50 states plus the District of Columbia already require, as part of their standard kindergarten-to-high-school curriculums, the teaching of basic economics. Forty-five require that personal finance be taught in their basic economics curriculum.

That’s sufficient when you consider the education basics getting short shrift.

Students who finish high school without acquiring a baseline education in science, math, English comprehension and at least one foreign language wind up competing for low-wage jobs that don’t require special skills.

In the field of science, as measured by the Programme for International Student Assessment, US students now rank behind those of Vietnam, Slovenia, Portugal, South Korea and 19 other nations.

In reading skills, American students rank 24th, behind Ireland, Estonia, Macao and France. And America’s report card in math is abysmal: 39th, behind Russia, Spain Poland, and Macao.

With these kinds of results, the United States cannot hope to compete in a globalised world that demands a workforce with expertise in engineering, medical research, computer science, robotics and environmental technology.

In the same ranking, Singapore topped all others in all three categories. Hong Kong came in second in math and reading, while Japan took second place, just barely ahead of Estonia, in science.

With this in mind, Americans and their elected representatives have only themselves to blame when Singaporean, Japanese and Estonian workers are favoured for employment by multinational corporations over unfortunate also-rans from the United States.

In 2015, the US Department of Education found that only 25 per cent of 12th-graders were either proficient or advanced in math. The same study found that a mere 22 per cent of high school seniors were either proficient or advanced in science.

The only nation in history to land 12 astronauts on the moon would be hard-pressed to repeat that amazing feat today with the inadequacy of its education system.

And besides the need for our schools to refocus on the fundamentals, there’s another big problem with states requiring courses in personal finance.

There is the distinct possibility that teachers and school administrators, already stretched thin, would be lured into allowing outsiders in the classroom to provide personal finance instruction.

What purveyors of quickie college loans, gold and silver investment schemes, or high-interest credit cards would not jump at the chance to have high school seniors about to enter college or the job market at their disposal?

State education departments and school boards should be insulating their students from such ilk, not opening their school doors to them.

America would not be the great nation it is today without its history of quality public education.

Abigail Adams, the second first lady of the United States, lived in a time when women were denied equality in employment and foresaw what was required of the young country: “Learning is not attained by chance; it must be sought for with ardour and attended to with diligence.”

Tribune News Service

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