Editorial: Legislators' mandate places consumerism above citizenship

Posted January 20, 2020 5:00 a.m. EST

Monday, Jan. 20, 2020 -- Capitol Broadcasting Company's editorial cartoonist.

CBC Editorial: Monday, Jan. 20, 2020; Editorial #8501
The following is the opinion of Capitol Broadcasting Company.

While there may be need for lessons in financial literacy, the evidence of the last few years has shown those who would most benefit are being overlooked.

Legislative leaders who lavish tremendous tax cuts on businesses that don’t need them and then fail to adequately provide for the state’s fundamental obligations – top-notch public education, health care for those in need, a clean environment, safe and secure prisons and a good quality of life – obviously have financial literacy issues that need to be addressed.

Perhaps, the new mandate for public school instruction in personal financial literacy will show some benefits in the not-too-distant future when those in school today take seats in the General Assembly.

Mandating instruction in personal finance: understanding what it REALLY costs to borrow money; proper management of credit cards; dealing with student loans and mortgages – is essential knowledge in the real world we live in.

But we doubt most of those who last year backed the legislation would support the action taken last week by the state Board of Education to eliminate an American history requirement to make room for personal financial literacy. Education officials said dropping the U.S. history requirement was the only way they could make room for the newly mandated course – which will start in the next school year.

It is a choice where the costs don’t come close to equaling the benefits.

State Board of Education member James Ford said he was concerned the trade-off will leave students with gaps in understanding history at a time when that knowledge is in greatest demand. He said he worries there could be "a legacy of historical ignorance at a moment when we least need it nationally in our discourse." Ford, who was the 2014-15 North Carolina teacher of the year, said: “This feels like an à la carte arrangement when it comes to history. As we think about creating global-ready citizens, it really frightens me."

One of the unfortunate realities of the legislation mandating the personal finance course was the lack of thorough discussion and examination before it became law. Like too much legislation these days, the proposal was quickly tacked onto another bill just days before it was passed.

Rather than get the kind of thorough examination the legislative committee process is designed to provide, with the opportunity to openly and thoroughly examine the consequences of the requirement, it was shoved into another piece of legislation and passed in less than a week.

As a result, state education officials were left with too few choices to address conflicting demands between a legislative mandate and making sure our students get the fully-rounded instruction they need to be responsible citizens – not merely consumers.

When students start taking the new finance course next fall, the instruction will stress thoughtful consideration and thorough knowledge of consequences before making decisions.

This mandate would have benefitted greatly had our legislators heeded their own advice.

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