Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

Teacher professional development and classroom resources across the curriculum

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Taking the Debt Personally

The economy is a major issue during this election year. We look to our elected officials to help us determine how to “fix” our sluggish economy, and we will vote for those we think have the right solutions.

But what can we do in the classroom to help the economy? According to Howard Dvorkin, author of Credit Hell: How To Dig Out of Debt, when students learn about personal finance, they help break the cycle of debt in the United States. “In the same way children learn about writing and reading, they should learn to manage money,” Dvorkin writes in “Lack of Education Linked to Record Levels of Debt” (Dvorkin, 2012, para 4). “In an ideal world young adults would know how to budget and administer their money,” Dvorkin states (para 5). He adds, however, that the reality is far from ideal.

Fortunately, students at Smoky Hill High School in Aurora, Colorado have a chance to learn about personal finance. Marc Johnson, a featured teacher in The Economics Classroom, makes sure his students understand how to build their wealth.

In workshop 4, “Learning, Earning, Saving,” Johnson says what he most wants students to grasp is the need to start early. Students need to know that “their greatest ally is time,” Johnson says. “If you start young you can really set yourself up well financially. If you wait too long, it’s too late.”

Watch the video-based workshop to learn strategies for teaching your students about personal finance. Early in the video, for example, Johnson conducts a discussion about how long it would take for students to become millionaires. He asks students to identify a “decent hourly wage.” Then they assist Johnson in calculating the yearly gross and adjusted income for a worker making 20 dollars an hour. Students play a game that helps them explore the characteristics of people who actually become millionaires. Through the game, it becomes clear that an education, hard work, and an aggressive investment plan are essential in their early years.

Do you teach your students about the importance of personal finance?

To Vote or Not to Vote

Now that the political conventions are over and each party has thrown down its gauntlet, the Republican and Democratic nominees for president have hit the campaign trail. From now until November, the American public will be barraged with information and images, both positive and negative. Indeed, many citizens will become weary of the endless petitioning for their votes.

Still, despite the intense focus on the presidential election in everyday conversation, in schools and college classrooms, and in non-stop media coverage, only a little more than half of U.S. registered voters aged 18-to-29 say they will “definitely vote” this fall, according to a Gallup poll released in July. Gallup asked registered voters to rate how likely they were to vote on a scale of 1-to-10, with 10 indicating they would “definitely vote.” The poll revealed that the percentage of those who intended to vote was lower than the percentage found in similar polls taken during the 2004 and 2008 election seasons.

Why is voter apathy a problem in the United States? What can be done to make it easier for citizens to cast their votes? Or is low voter turnout a sign of a satisfied electorate, as some suggest? Help your students explore these questions with the video and activities found in program 13, “Elections: The Maintenance of Democracy,” of Democracy in America.

Encourage students to discuss why elections matter with questions from the pre-viewing activity and possible reasons and remedies for low voter turn-out with the post-viewing activity. Use the critical thinking activity to help students grapple with real-world issues, such as gun control. Students are asked to take a position on an issue and then explore how their actions can influence the political process.

How are you discussing the importance of voting with your students?