After graduating from the ‘English as a Second Language (ESL)’ program program which is external to school fee, my brother asked me an interesting question: How much money did the school reimburse us when I finished the program in a semester?
Instead of being proud of his language improvement over a short period of time, he now measures all of his achievements in terms of how much money he saves. Being aware of what he’s been learning recently, I realized that this question did not pop up randomly in his mind. He’s currently studying personal finance in his 2nd grade math class at school. Even though it is undeniable that personal finance is an important part of one’s life, I personally don’t believe that it is necessary for children to study it at such an early age.
The 2nd grade math curriculum includes a unit called “Money & Personal Finance”. In a New York Times article “Making Your Family Better at Personal Finance”, author Paul B. Brown argues that it is important for children to study these topics: “[Personal Finance topics] help [author’s sons] understand that credit cards are not a magic wand” and “I was impressed that they knew the difference between a penny, a nickel, a dime and a quarter.” While those concepts are indeed important, teaching children about personal finance may lead them to measure the worth of their experiences with money. In my brother’s case, paying school fee is presently not a chore he needs to worry about. Instead of being proud of the size of the ESL refund, he should be happy with his own improvement throughout the semester as a second grader. The fact that they start to worry about those issues related to money is adding on a negative impact on their childhood memory.
‘Not only do financial classes negatively impact childhood development, they may also lead youth to oversimplify the concept of money due to a phenomenon known as the Dunning-Kruger effect. From the a redemonstrations study by Guillory, J. J., & Blankson, A. N, it was concluded that the people who are least competent at something tend to to overestimate their abilities in a classroom setting. Personal finance classes in elementary math curriculums only introduce the basics of the subject. The Dunning-Kruger effect suggest that teaching them finance at an early age might actually lead to youth spending money unwisely due to overestimating their understanding of economics.
These issues could simply be addressed by teaching personal finance at a later stage of education. Along with the development of children’s brains, students are more likely to have a comprehensive view of money at an older age as they will have further exposure to how money is saved and spent. Kids should have a childhood without possible limitations such as money; pushing this part of learning behind will not affect children’s ability overall, but allow then to have a better life.
However, this issue is symptomatic of a broader social one: we tend to think the ‘value’ of something in terms of its financial implications. Instead of the quality and traits behind it, what people always look at is the price as it’s the first numbers that will jump into one’s view. But, in this world, there are many things that cannot be measured in money, for example, happiness and achievement. The importance that our society places on money will negatively impact future generations. Making sure that children are able to grow up without worrying about finances will improve their happiness and work towards addressing our broader social focus on money.