Personal finance course lacks depth




Financial literacy is something seldom found in high school graduates. When the school district introduced the idea of an online financial literacy course, the majority of my acquaintances saw it as just another hurdle to leap on the pathway to graduation. This was the first mistake.

In my experience with online classes, students lack social pressure garnered from a teacher and peers to excel in the class. I know this from taking microeconomics over the summer, and hearing anecdotes from other friends who have taken online courses at Sierra. For example, this summer I took political science in person and microeconomics online. Though my major is going to be economics, I much preferred the political science class. I engaged in rich discussions with my peers and professors. No chance I could do that in my online class.

The in-person class also allowed for me to ask questions and get feedback immediately. If I had a question in economics, I would have to wait a few hours – and this happened a lot. I couldn’t imagine going into economics with no prior experience, because my textbook was bad, and my professor was never available to answer questions.

Now, does the personal finance course have a professor? If you count the Google search bar, then of course; if you don’t, then there is no professor. Videos teach the students. There is one method of teaching for every single student. The fact that students aren’t excited for the course stems from the fact that the school district wasn’t excited either. Their lack of effort in developing this course speaks volumes to its validity.

It’s no wonder students don’t care enough to prioritize the course. It’s almost always the last thing a student scrambles to do in their high school career. If not, they are probably paying someone else to do it for them. So in that sense, both students and the district are at fault.

Also, the curriculum is ludicrous. I haven’t talked to a single person who actively watches the video with the intent to learn. This might stem from the material being so, so easy – almost common sense. If materials were about harder concepts, students would be forced to actually learn the information.

Further, the online tests that one can retake an infinite amount of times also pose a problem. A student could just educatedly guess on most of the questions. The tests don’t accurately gauge a student’s understanding whatsoever. At least my online class didn’t allow retakes, and forced me to study prior to taking the exams.

In particular, the credit section bothered me. The curriculum felt so shallow. Questions like “Why should you not use credit cards too much?” and “What is credit?” were laughable. It feels like the district pulled questions from a Buzzfeed article. In fact, there is a Buzzfeed article called “11 Facts About Credit Scores You Should Really Know,” which contains almost identical information taught in the section. Coincidence? Probably. Hilarious? No doubt.

More than just credit, I wish they mentioned loans. At least the different types of mortgages. What would happen if one took out an adjustable-rate loan and the market changed? To put it academically, they’re screwed. Maybe this is just the logic speaking, but I think it’s a paramount concept more important than half the curriculum emphasized in the course.

Moreover, the fact that the course is only supplied online serves to facilitate false mastery of the subject. This course would benefit so many students if it was offered in-person. Seeing as senior math already incorporates “finance” into its course content, time wouldn’t be an issue.

Adding personal finance into the Health and Safety curriculum would greatly benefit the class. But that’s the easy way out. The best way to approach this is with a new course – a new graduation requirement. The content is so preeminent that it warrants an entirely new course.