Saturday, October 11, 2014

Teach a Kid to Fish

There are many things students can learn from Kindergarten to their Senior year. They will have between 30 to 40 different teachers in that time span depending on where they go to school. They will additionally have coaches, trainers, tutors, counselors, principals, and more during that time. So the areas in which the students focus their learning are likely diverse due to school philosophies, teacher personalities, student interest, and community identity. Every student will take their core classes of English, Science, Social Science, and Math, but even those subjects can vary in approach and execution from teacher to teacher. However, our students, through all of these years and all of these different teachers, rarely are taught "how to fish."

I don't mean that we are obligated to teach our students literally how to fish. Although I think that is a pretty useful skill. What I mean can easily be described by looking no further than the polynesians. I am a big fan of Hawaiian history because it is part of my ancestry and culture. And I know, as do you, that fundamentally, Hawaiian life is built from the water. By studying Hawaiian history, it is clear to me that Hawaiian's taught their children how to fish. Without that ability, food would not be available and the people would suffer. It simply would not be sustainable. We as modern Americans have a different task with the same importance.

College loan debt and credit card debt amongst young people are growing epidemics in the United States. When you consider that only 60% of college students graduate within 6 years, that is a staggering fact (Friedman, 2008) and that 40 million Americans have college debt (McCarthy, 2014), those are staggering numbers. Yet, are we teaching our students in Middle School and High School to be financially responsible? Their entire life will depend on their ability to provide themselves and their families through financial means. But this curriculum is missing from our classrooms.

The cost of college is climbing daily. The availability of jobs has declined in the last five years. It is more important than ever to "teach our students to fish." We need to teach them what is wise and what is not when working with credit cards. We need to teach them about interest and investment so that they don't bury themselves before they get started. We live in a time where a person can spend most of their working life paying of credit card debt and college loan debt. This doesn't even count home loans and car loans. Financially literacy should be on every student's schedule at least once throughout their time in school. If our job is to prepare them to be successful in life, which it is, then we NEED to teach these skills.

There are two ways in which our schools can do this. First, schools can adopt financial literacy skills that they believe are essential. Then they can implement these skills into projects in English classes and math classes. For example students could write a comparative essay on the use of loans for college as opposed to taking a different route. They could compare mortgages and do a case study on the factors that lead to lower interest rates. Another way that schools could implement this is by taking courses like health, geography, and life skills, and gearing them more toward financial literacy. Design curriculum and courses that allow students to create budgets and set financial goals. Student could work on projects that give them real experience working with realities that will hit them as soon as they leave our schools. All schools would better serve our students and communities by making the change.

It is our responsibility to teach financial literacy to our students. They need to know what is ahead of them. They need to understand what choosing the "right school" or the "right career" truly means. They need to be encouraged to follow their passions, but given guiding steps to not fall face first in their pursuits. Of course English, Math, Science, and History are important. But could we not add financial literacy in that same category of core skills? We have the power to help our students be financially educated adults who understand the negative and positive consequences of their financial decisions. We need to teach them how to fish. Leading is Teaching.


     Friedman, T. (2005). The world is flat: A brief history of the twenty-first century. New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

     McCarthy, K. (2014, January 22). 10 Fun Facts About the Student Debt Crisis. Retrieved October 11, 2014, from

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