Our View: Financial literacy requirement is money in the bank

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Everyone goes through it in high school. Sitting at your desk, pencil in hand, your teacher hands you an algebra test. Your eyes scan the page filled with a potpourri of fractions, unknown variables, division signs and one curious symbol that could easily be a tattoo. Even if you studied, you may be a little annoyed. Head in hands, you wonder: When will I actually use this in my life?

You wont use it nearly as often as high school students will use the financial literacy course required to graduate starting next school year.

It seems so elementary: teach students how to deal with money so they are prepared for life after graduation. Yet it took until 2010 to realize its logical relevance to everyday life. The Virginia Department of Education made an insightful and informed decision when it mandated all students take a course in financial literacy to graduate. The only complaint is it did not come sooner.

NFL football players making millions, starving artists, architects, waiters they are all subject to bankruptcy if they dont know what to do with their earnings. Financial illiteracy perpetuates the cycle of poverty, which leads to higher crime rates and undue pressure on social safety nets. 

One class, even if a student leaves with a cursory understanding of money management, will go far toward changing young peoples perception of money. Financial ability benefits society holistically and Alexandria is no exception. Extreme wealth, severe poverty and everything in between characterize the citys public school population. Impoverished students will gain knowledge they may not get anywhere else, and wealthy kids without an appreciation for money benefit from a dose of real-life financial wisdom.

The recession is all around us, even if Alexandria has been somewhat insulated from it. The need for money management skills has never been so stark, and its even more important when youre without a job. As Alexandrias public school leaders labor to improve the ACPS curriculum and ready students for the international marketplace, administrators are lucky to have the state education body thinking beyond the status quo.

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