By Contributor on March 05, 2014

By Juleyka Lantigua-Williams

We need to do a better job educating our students about how to handle essential financial decisions.

As a professor and academic adviser at a community college, I run into this problem every day.

In most states, most students are graduating high school financially illiterate. They are not taught about credit, budgeting, insurance, savings, retirement or other concepts and practices that can help them make rational financial decisions.

This is according to a national study conducted by the Council for Economic Education, an advocacy organization that trains scores of educators to teach economic and financial literacy.

The facts are grim. Although 43 states have economic and personal finance education in their K-12 standards, only 19 states actually require that schools even offer such a course. What's more, only 22 require that students take a course in economics.

I teach in an economically depressed city, and I witness the negative effects of this lack of financial literacy in the classroom and, more poignantly, in one-on-one advising sessions.

Though my students are quite resourceful about stretching their hard-earned money, many don't have the knowledge or skills to make long-term plans for permanently improving their financial lives. In many instances, they have to make hard choices about staying in school or going to work full time, even at minimum wage, because they have many responsibilities that weigh heavily on them.

The knowledge my students have about economics and personal finance comes from the school of hard knocks.

They know how the job market is doing because they are out of work.

They know that unemployment benefits are dwindling because a parent has been cut off and is scrambling for odd jobs.

They know that health insurance is prohibitive because they missed class after spending the night in the emergency room with a sick grandparent.

They know the housing market has tanked because they lost their house or cannot afford to think about ever buying one.

But they don't know how to plan prudently with the money they do have.

An overwhelming majority of Americans agree that schools should teach financial literacy. In the study by the Council for Economic Education, 89 percent said so.

It's time for all of the states to mandate this instruction so that our kids can more skillfully navigate these difficult economic waters that we're in right now.

Juleyka Lantigua-Williams writes about contemporary issues and teaches writing at Naugatuck Valley Community College in Waterbury, Conn. She can be reached pmproj@progressive.org.

Copyright 2014 Juleyka Lantigua-Williams

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Editor's note: This contribution by the late journalist I.F. Stone first appeared in our January 1975 magazine.

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By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.


Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

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