The Most Needed Educational Reform of All

If I were the Commissioner of the NYS Dept. of Education or of the US Dept. of Education, neither of which positions I would actually take if they were offered, which of course they will not be, I would push for the single most needed educational reform across our entire system of education, which is…are you ready? Now read closely…What EVERY SCHOOL SYSTEM in the United States of America needs to do is MANDATE, REQUIRE and INSIST that every student take a course in business math.

Business math? I can hear your jaws dropping. Now please close your mouths and let me tell you why. Then you can tell me how ridiculous an idea that is…which of course it is not.

What do the American people as a whole suffer from which has been written about daily in the newspapers of this country and reported on broadcast stations, etc., etc.? Answer: a lack of understanding the mathematics of the core activities on which our society rests. Not only are most Americans extremely ignorant of the fundamentals of the workings of our banking and tax systems, but they cannot begin to manage the basics of household economics.

99 percent of Americans don’t operate from a family budget. They don’t and many can’t balance their check books. They don’t know their net worth much less how to figure it. They don’t know what it means when they borrow to purchase large items like a car or a house. They don’t know what they are obligating themselves to when they take out a credit card. They don’t know how much money they’ll need to retire on or how long their savings will last.

Some people want to blame the banks, the credit card companies, the mortgage lenders…and yes, there are plenty of unscrupulous people out there who will take advantage of the uneducated public’s ignorance, but the vast…and I mean VAST majority of college graduates don’t know this stuff either.

Problem: If two working adults in a family of four have a combined gross income of $62,400 a year ($600/week a piece) and they want to purchase a house that costs $300,000 with a 5% down payment with an adjustable rate mortgage which increases 1% a year starting at 3%, how many years before they lose the house and have to file for bankruptcy?

Problem: If a single parent with two kids and a $600/week gross income spends $200/week on groceries and eating out, $200/month on cable TV, and $120/month on her cell phone, how soon will she max out her credit card and have to take out a new one?

Problem: If the US Congress passes a federal budget which proposes to spend $1.3 trillion dollars more than projected revenues and the national debt currently stands at $12.3 trillion dollars, how much will each American owe the Chinese government and the rest of the buyers of US debt at the end of the year?

Problem: If the NYS Legislature spends $200 million in “member items” this year, how much will the state’s taxpayers have to cough up to cover that cost…and don’t say $200 million because you haven’t taken into account the following:

1) the cost of the interest that New York is paying because it’s revenues exceed its expenditures, or
2) the cost of administering the expenditures of those member items.

Do you think the legislators hand out bags of money? No, there’s a whole bureaucracy with office space, utilities, computers and copy machines, phone lines and Internet connections, salaries and pension obligations (to skim the surface) that has to exist because your legislator wants you to think that without his/her largess your little league ball field would be a cow pasture.

Not only would I insist that every student takes a course in business math, but I’d incentivize the teachers of that subject by offering bonuses to those teachers who provide some proof that their students have mastered the subject…I’d give students got an ‘A’ if they taught their parents how to balance a checkbook, read their mortgage contract and make up a family budget? What a boost to our economy that would be!

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