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Sunday, January 22, 2006

Point to Ponder: College students lack literacy to handle real world tasks



Interesting article from CNN about how College Students Lack Literacy to handle real world tasks.

It quotes a PEW study targeting all levels of students, here are the findings:


More than half of students at four-year colleges -- and at least 75 percent at two-year colleges -- lack the literacy to handle complex, real-life tasks such as understanding credit card offers, a study found.


How did they define literacy?

The results cut across three types of literacy: analyzing news stories and other prose, understanding documents and having math skills needed for checkbooks or restaurant tips.

The level of our inadequacy as a nation is amazing, but not the fact that we have issues in this area. On the financial side of things, several years a go, I became very aware that this credit society of ours would put my children under if I didn't educate them. We aren't educating students about debt as we should in the classroom. (I have 10 chapters to cover in accounting in 1 semester -- where is there room! I guess I need to make room!)

I have adopted the strategies set forth in Mary Hunt's book, Debt Proof Your Kids. Here are some of the things that entails.
  1. Financial responsibilities -- my children are responsible for certain things: dog food or cat food, cat litter, lunches, ice cream money. I calculate how much we had in our budget for that and write them a check the first of the month. They save 10%, they tithe 10%, and they live on 80%. They have never run out of money and they do a very good job managing it! See the book for more info.
  2. Financial literacy - Credit Cards - I have educated/ brainwashed my children on the dangers of consumer debt. Several times a quarter I let them help me open up credit card applications and we look at the fine print and discuss what it means. I must say I am anti unsecured debt. Secured debt is another thing -- a smart business move for businesses and in some cases can be necessary for families. I teach my children the difference. I don't think that classrooms would be allowed such a slant in teaching students because the credit card companies would probably fund the curriculum!
  3. Financial literacy - Tips -- I have taught my children this. Children do not go with teachers to dinner, they go with me. That is my job to teach my children. I also discuss the importance of treating each person with dignity and respect and that God has called each person to a job. We are all equally important in God's eyes and waitresses and waiters should always be thanked, looked in the eye, and treated with respect. It is in our core beliefs.
  4. Car maintenance - Calculating how much gas they need to go to the next destination. As for calculating how many miles you can go with the gas remaining in the tank. Is this necessary when you have cars that do it for you? I could do it if I sat down and had to, of course -- but that would not be a skill that was salient or top of mind for me because my car does it. Of course, not everyone's car does that, however, we all know when we get to a quarter of a tank -- FILL UP. Is that literacy?
These issues are important and certainly the ability to read and understand news articles is important and should be taught in history and current events classes. The ability to understand charts for our health is important and should be taught in physical education.

However, I feel that everyone is always turning the proverbial finger in the teacher's direction. They are wagging it yet again and blaming teachers for things they've not been told to teach and that there is no room in the curriculum for. You never see people wagging fingers at curriculum directors or administrators -- the poor front line teacher who spends so much time teaching students to be self disciplined becaused the parents aren't doing it.

I am a parent and I take responsibility to teach my children how to make their way in the world. I will impart my values to them (that's my job and my conviction.) I will teach them to manage money. That is my job!

There is the classroom of school -- appropriate for teaching some forms of literacy. There is the classroom of home -- appropriate for much more than we allow for. Is it because we cannot control the home that we put so much pressure on the school? Things to think on. Hmmm...




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