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Economics class protects students

Published 9:35pm Wednesday, July 24, 2013

One thing that’s abundantly clear on the heels of the Great Recession is the woeful level of understanding many Americans have about how the nation’s economy works.

From investors who believed the stock market and housing market could never crash to anarchists demonstrating in opposition to corporate profits (which are universally labeled “greed” by those who seek to promote class division), economic ignorance cuts across all levels of American society. The results of that ignorance can be catastrophic, both financially and socially.

By instituting a new graduation requirement for basic economics, Virginia’s General Assembly and Board of Education hoped to fight that ignorance with the best weapon available — education. A class on economics and personal finance is now required for all students seeking a standard or advanced diploma who entered the ninth grade in the 2011-2012 school year or later.

Most of the concepts included in the course were covered in a similar class that already had been offered in Suffolk Public Schools, but the course was an elective and was sparsely enrolled, according to SPS officials. The course resulting from the Board of Education’s directive includes all of the required objectives and is offered in a traditional, face-to-face teaching setting, as well as a virtual format.

Students learn about money management, spending, saving and investing, as well as concepts like supply and demand, according to Gail Bess, the district’s career and technical education coordinator. By the end of the class, students might not be knowledgeable enough to dabble in hedge funds, but they should know how to balance checkbooks, understand the role of profit in a capitalist society and appreciate the importance of personal savings.

Those are not lofty goals, but they are vitally important skills for students preparing to enter the workforce, buy homes, invest their money and save for a seemingly remote retirement. Furthermore, they are skills that will help insulate the students from the worst of the negative consequences of an economy that is prone to cycles of boom and bust.

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