The Instigator
smilingsoprano
Pro (for)
Losing
3 Points
The Contender
Higgins
Con (against)
Winning
12 Points

One Personal Finance Credit Should Be Required In High School

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/15/2008 Category: Education
Updated: 9 years ago Status: Voting Period
Viewed: 1,447 times Debate No: 3257
Debate Rounds (3)
Comments (3)
Votes (5)

 

smilingsoprano

Pro

There are many problems in modern America, but I feel a substantial one is the lack of personal fiscal responsibility. To put it simply, many people leave high school and enter the "real world" with no idea how to manage, save, and spend money. To support this claim, I point to the recent downturn in the American economy. A substantial portion of the problem has been attributed to home foreclosures. And why are homes being foreclosed upon? For one of four reasons. 1) The bank loaned money to a person or persons it shouldn't have, someone with bad credit or an unsound financial base. 2) Similar to, but not the same as, the first: people took out loans that they could not afford, or agreed to loan or mortgage terms that can charitably be called risky. 3) Those paying a loan or mortgage practiced irresponsible fiscal management and became unable to make their payments. 4) Those paying a loan or mortgage encountered unforeseen financial difficulties.

While almost nothing can be done about the fourth cause, the first three could be substantially reduced if only the participants in the venture had a more solid understanding of just how far one can stretch the boundaries of fiscal responsibility.

A personal finance class is thus the beginning of a credible solution. People would learn how to budget, to make payments, and avoid risky investments.

Furthermore, 70% of the United States' economy is generated and driven by retail sales (statistic from NPR, National Morning News, 3/14/08). When consumers have more buying power (i.e. more money to spend), it provides a solid foundation for the majority of the economy.

Therefore, a personal finance class absolutely should be required in high school. Not only would it improve the quality of life for the people who would have to take it (less Ramen, maybe?), but I have also shown that it would help boost the lagging American economy. This would be incalculably beneficial to the American people as a whole.
Higgins

Con

The majority of your argument rests upon the fact that our economy is suffering because people are foreclosing on their mortgages which is true. However you cannot prove that requiring a Personal Finance class in high school would change this situation. As you have mentioned, unforseen financial difficulties are a factor in determining one's ability to pay up. So not knowing how to properly balance a check book is not the only or even the main reason why people are unable to honor their mortgage rates. An increase in gas prices, for example, or higher taxation... things that people have little to no control over in the economy... are all reasons why Americans are becoming less wealthy and have less money to spend.

In addition, there are many classes in high school that we are required to take but do not apply in our daily lives, such as Calculus. You cannot prove that people would take this class seriously, learn from it, or even use its teachings to help themselves. For instance if a college kid wishes to spend every last nickel he has on booze, so be it. I highly doubt a class telling him not to do so would deter him, as we already have mandatory classes (health) and programs like D.A.R.E. that do little to nothing to prevent people from acting a certain way or engaging in risky behavior. Plus, classes like Spanish or other foreign languages are required in high school... that doesn't mean that people retain its teachings many years later, when people are usually older and in a position to buy a house and make a lot of money anyway. People wouldn't necesarilly retain anything.

My point is that there is no proof this class would actually work or even have an impact, and if it would, so be it... but don't make it MANDATORY. Doing so might interrupt current school systems or high school curriculums. And we already have classes (most of which are mandatory) that can teach you similar ideas about the economy so that people can make judgments about their own situations and make their own decisions, such as Micro and Macro Economics, and also educate people about the economy of the US as a whole and not just pertain to each individual person. We are all different and come from different financial backgrounds... how can a class incorporate aqequate diversity (while still functioning correctly) to attend to each students unique situation where different strategies may be necessary?

And on a final note, our country has been in economic crisis in the past, and somehow we have always found a way to overcome it WITHOUT mandating this type of class. Thank you.
Debate Round No. 1
smilingsoprano

Pro

First of all, allow me to thank you for taking up my challenge in a thoughtful, intelligent, and eminently debatable way. It is always gratifying to have a good opponent. Now, to the issue at hand. I shall respond to your arguments in the order in which you presented them, with the exception of your major point (no proven effectiveness of a personal finance class), which I shall address last.

1)"You cannot prove that people would take this class seriously, learn from it, or even use its teachings to help themselves." I agree completely. Without extensive research, it is impossible to PROVE most if not all claims satisfactorily. I will, however, present some logical arguments. Firstly, the classes you listed that students supposedly forget and do not apply to their real lives (namely Calculus and Spanish) are neither as pervasive nor as basic as finance. Most of us will likely go our entire lives without having to find a derivative or apply the Pythagorean Identity outside of school. Similarly, living in a society that accepts English as a primary language in most instances, Spanish is not a necessity. Everyone will have to pay bills. So who is to say that they will not retain the teachings of a necessary class as they do not retain those of a class that relys on principles not necessarily applicable to everyday life? I am sure that mathematicians still understand Calculus, because they must. And we all must understand personal finance.

2) This is listed under your first point, but I shall address it separately. You said, "we already have mandatory classes (health) and programs like D.A.R.E. that do little to nothing to prevent people from acting a certain way or engaging in risky behavior." If you require proof for my previous points, then I shall do the same. Is this opinion or fact? Who is to say that Health and D.A.R.E. do not prevent risky behavior? If we removed them, isn't it completely possible that the said problems would worsen? There is simply no evidence that they don't work.

3)Next, you stated "don't make [the class] MANDATORY. Doing so might interrupt current school systems or high school curriculums." You went on to say that there are already mandatory classes that teach similar concepts. To begin, I should say that I do go to a private Catholic school, and thus may have a different view of a modern American education, but I also have solid friendships with people who go to a variety of public schools in the area. And I have never heard of a Macro Economics requirement. What I have heard of is a requirement for a certain number of practical classes, such as Welding, Home Ec, or Computer Applications. In many schools, including my own, Personal Finance is offered as an elective to fill that requirement. Therefore, the change in the system would be slight: say two credits of practical classes were required. Further require one of those to be a personal finance class, the other an elective of choice. That does not disrupt the curriculum, but rather solidifies it.

4)"We are all different and come from different financial backgrounds... how can a class incorporate aqequate diversity (while still functioning correctly) to attend to each students unique situation where different strategies may be necessary?" In the resolution, it was never stated that I was mandating one curriculum; rather, I am mandating one class, the content of which (within the obvious limits) to be decided by the teachers and administration at each school. Furthermore, isn't this how school normally functions? We all have different intelligence levels and learning styles, but there have been schools that have successfully adapted without fracturing into a multitude of individualized classes. Broad concepts (such as how to balance a checkbook), are applicable no matter a person's tax bracket.

5)"And on a final note, our country has been in economic crisis in the past, and somehow we have always found a way to overcome it WITHOUT mandating this type of class." I will address this in conjunction with your first point, that "you cannot prove that requiring a Personal Finance class in high school would change [the economic crisis]." Certainly, there have been recessions in the past, and we have overcome. Without a Personal Finance Class. But this does not mean that the government did not pass mandates to help us overcome. For my evidence, I cite The Great Depression. Often, President Herbert Hoover is criticized because of his lack of action during the beginning (and, to a degree, middle) of The Great Depression. His personal philosophy of rugged individualism impeded a move toward government involvement. Those laws that he did pass were weak and ineffectual. Then came Franklin Delano Roosevelt. What is remembered about his inaugural speech is his famous quote "we have nothing to fear but fear itself." What people don't remember is that FDR threatened to take dictatorial power if Congress did not comply with his wishes. This lead to unprecendented Congressional cooperation during the first 100 days of his tenure, during which time 15 bills were passed. These bills included the NIRA (National Industrial Recovery Act), which authorized the government to do everything from stimulate the economy to create codes of business. This was a mandate with a vengeance, designed to stop irresponsible business practices. And the result? Both the GDP and employment rose. So, mandates have been effectual in the past. Perhaps they were not "this type of class", but history makes it clear that mandates are required.

Furthermore, you may well argue that a strictly defined law is different than a nebulous class, and you would be right. But take then a more similar situation: FDR's Fireside Chats. The President took the time to sit down and talk to (i.e. teach) the American people about the problems in the economy. He implored them not to withdraw their money from banks. And bank deposits rose. FDR took a counterintuitive measure (after all, it was the closure of banks and subsequent loss of the populace's deposits that caused the Depression to spiral out of control in the first place), with mostly long-term results and little immediate appeal, and applied it. People listened, they complied, and the results were enormously beneficial. Teaching, even when not mandatory, has worked in the past. When the problem and the solution are clearly explained, the results are tangible.

Finally, I would like to close by saying that with the current economic situation, any chance of relief should be explored. As I stated before, foreclosures are a driving force behind the current recession. I also, however, mentioned consumer spending power, or retail sales. That is 70% of our economy, and thus a major concern. If Americans continue to be irresponsible with their money, and can no longer buy the goods that provide the foundation for nearly our entire economy, than the results will be disastrous. And retail sales have suddenly, and unexpectedly, declined. Foreclosures may have started it, but I for one will be watching Walmart's profits.

I have shown that a class (in effect if not in name) has worked before, and it is imperative that we implement any measures that might work now. Already, the dollar is declining. Deficits are growing. And the Federal Reserve Board has twice cut interest rates in recent weeks. That is a measure to prevent a depression. And it (so far) hasn't had tangible results. We need this class, and anything else that will do an ounce of good.
Higgins

Con

Higgins forfeited this round.
Debate Round No. 2
smilingsoprano

Pro

I regret that my opponent was unavailable last round. Unfortunately, this is my last round, so I will not be able to respond to any of his arguments against my second round. Therefore, I would like to refer anyone reading this debate to my second round for detailed arguments. I doubt you want to read all that again. Finally, I will briefly reiterate my points.

America is in a recession. This recession is being caused by issues with finance management, which leads to home foreclosures and reduced consumer spending.

I have presented logical arguments saying that a personal finance class would help people apply sound fiscal principles to their own lives and that it will not interfere with current curriculums.

I have also shown that similar approaches have had positive effects in the past, most notably in relieving the worst of The Great Depression.

This class will not only be beneficial on a national scale, but will also improve the individual lives of those who might otherwise have experienced detrimental financial difficulties.

It is a necessary and effective measure, and I thus encourage a Pro vote.

Thank you to Higgins for taking me up on this; not many people want to talk about finance when the debate over, say, personal freedoms in wartime is so much more emotional and exciting.

Thank you to anyone who reads this debate. I appreciate feedback of any sort.

And with that, farewell (for now).
Higgins

Con

I apologize... I could have sworn I responded to your argument in the 2nd round, however, I guess my computer has failed me when I hit the "submit" button. In that case I will attempt to re-state my case and salvage this debate to the best of my ability. Out of respect for my opponent, I will not attempt to address any new arguments in this final round since she will not have the opportunity to respond. Instead I will aim to refute her previous arguments and point out the obvious holes in her case. Because my position of Con in this debate does not require I offer any type of alternative solution to America's economic crisis, it is very possible that I can still win this debate on the grounds that I have been convincing enough to negate my opponent's arguments that a personal finance class should indeed be mandatory. On that note, hello...

My opponent has argued that people don't necesarilly retain what they learn in classes like Calculus and Spanish, because these are not fields of study most Americans use in their every day lives. However my position claims that we are continuously taught things that we should know and implement for our safety and well-being, yet many people choose to stray from what we are taught is best for us anyway. This may be because we disagree, or have simply found a better (more effective) or comfortable way of doing things.

To support this argument, I will cite a few examples. First, Drivers Ed. We are taught in this mandatory, pre-requisite course to obtaining a license that for maximum safety our hands should remain at "10 and 2" on the steering wheel. However I dare to ask how many voters out there actually adhere to this guidelines. Another example does not refer to a specific class, but rather life choices in general. I ask voters out there to consider the number of people in America who smoke cigarettes, or over-indulge in bad eating habits. Now our culture has taught us to be conscience of the growing obesity problem in the United States, and I don't think any literate person can honestly say that they are unaware of the negative effects of smoking cigarettes. However many people continue to engage in this risky behavior daily. This proves my point that just because something is suggested for our own well-being, does not mean that we will abide by the guidelines we are taught. Additionally, even in the case of mandatory courses... such as drivers ed... most of us still tend to stray from the classes teachings, despite how often we operate automobiles in our every day lives.

Next my opponent addresses my concern about how making a personal finance class mandatory might affect a school's current curriculum. She went on to state that some of her friends in public schools were required to take "practical" courses such as Welding or HomeEc. My response to this is two-fold. First, who is to say that a class that teaches students how to cook or weld is practical? I've never welded anything in my life and I have done just fine. Similarly, not everyone has the need or desire to learn how to cook. And on the same token, not everyone has the need or desire to learn how to manage their finances. Some highschool graduates will have their funds be managed by their parents (by choice) and eventually have accountants or spouses who handle the fiscal responsibilities. Of course it would be a good idea if everyone knew how to manage their money, but it would also be a good idea if everyone in this country knew how to change a tire... yet classes on how to change a tire are not mandatory. If your argument would have been that being fiscally responsible would also benefit society, my response would be that knowing how to properly maintain the safe operation of an automobile would also be very good for society (prevent accidents, traffic, etc). Yet again knowing certain menchanical skills are not mandatory.

Second, more and more high schools in this country are shifting their curriculum to fit the needs of college bound students. For instance, in my town's public high school, there is a mandatory english preperatory class that every student must take and pass. The students then have the opportunity to select a particular course in the "english field" to fit their second language arts requirement. Although my opponent has offered a similar option in terms of this personal finance class, the difference is that colleges do not require a standard of knowledge regarding personal finance the way they have requirements about a certain degree of language arts mastery.

One aspect of my opponent's argument that stood out to me in particular was the recalling of FDRs infamous userption of power, when he "threatened to take dictatorial power if Congress did not comply with his wishes." My argument against this aspect of thinking is simple: that type of dictatorial power is unconstitutional and anti-democratic. Because we are a nation founded on ideals such as liberty and freedom, FDRs decision (though helpful in the end) was wrong (manipulative tactics) in terms of how this country was intended to be run. Our founding fathers supported independence and personal accountability. My inkling is that they MAY have been all for a personal finance class be OFFERED at every school, but not that every student be required to take it.

My opponent also stated, "If Americans continue to be irresponsible with their money, and can no longer buy the goods that provide the foundation for nearly our entire economy, than the results will be disastrous ... Foreclosures may have started it, but I for one will be watching Walmart's profits." I pose the question, did people ever wonder why so many Americans have defaulted on their loans in the first place? Common sense tells us that they could not afford it... Perhaps under-spending was not the issue. Instead I argue that consumer hungry Americans have over-spent, over-indulged, hence their inability to follow through with their mortgage payments. Thus our economy will never be in trouble due to under spending. Now buying into foreign companies is an issue, sure. But that's a debate for another time. Additionally, the diminishing job market is another reason why our economy is suffering. Although unfortunate, it could not have been helped or avoided simply by making a personal finance class necessary.

So again, a mandatory class can be HELPFUL, but that does not mean that it should be REQUIRED. Plus, are we forgetting about all of the people who profit from our bad, selfish and irresponsible consumer habits? HEHE. Seriously though, I encourage a Con vote because there is no compelling reasoning on why this type of class should be absolutely necessary. I'll admit there are pros to its existance, though being a fiscal conservative myself, I do support the notion of personal accountability, and choose to trust Americans to take control of their own lives and economic welfare. Thank you smilingsoprano for this interesting and unique debate; you're right - there aren't many economic discussions on this website. Hopefully our opinions and insight will promote more dialog. Thanks!
Debate Round No. 3
3 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Posted by smilingsoprano 9 years ago
smilingsoprano
Thank you, Lwerd, for your encouragement. I hope I can allay your doubts!
Posted by Higgins 9 years ago
Higgins
Lwerd, you gave me some good ideas with our conversation earlier... thanks for the help :)
Posted by Danielle 9 years ago
Danielle
Pro, I like your ideas. I'm curious to read the arguments made by your contender -- this will certainly be a challenging debate for whomever takes it on! Although I'm pretty sure there are some technical reasons why this might not be a good idea, i.e. it interfering with other aspects of the cirriculum, maybe...? Hmm. Good luck to both you and your opponent.
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Vote Placed by Pluto2493 9 years ago
Pluto2493
smilingsopranoHigginsTied
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