Treasury Secretary Jack Lew announced today that the Obama administration would like to teach children as young as preschool-age basic tenets of financial management. An administration youth council report calls for financial education to begin a little later - in kindergarten:
"The subcommittee is also looking for ways to integrate the emerging FLEC [Financial Literacy and Education Commission] core competencies into new tools and curricula and to identify proven methods of teaching personal finance to students from kindergarten through high school."
Expressing frustration over the results of a national survey that found that only 24% of millennials answered four or five questions correctly on a financial literacy quiz, Secretary Lew said that educating American children about money is long overdue.
The press release didn't say whether Mr. Lew discussed the obvious hypocrisy of the U.S. government recommending that others learn about how to stay out of debt and become financially independent.
In fact, Mr. Lew's remarks indicated that the Obama administration would like to see every state modify their public school curriculum so that a course in personal financial management is required before graduating from high school. So far, only four states require that.
Human nature could certainly play into any development of these financial classes, though. Some schools, even in this age of supposed budget cuts to education funding, end up keeping "Easy A" electives, such as swimming, auto collision repair, and drivers' education. What kind of pressure will be put on school officials to make sure that the personal finance classes are actually challenging?
There's bit of a moral dilemma as well for the Obama administration when it comes to teaching preschoolers about personal finances and basic economics. Preschoolers are encouraged to share their toys; will the curriculum advocate the sharing of wealth as the only way to play nice with others?
Since this is a request by the federal government for the states to do something, what will see happen in those already crazy California-based public schools? Preschoolers nationwide have been taught sex education and pro-gay rights propaganda in some states for years, such as books about a child penguin with two fathers.
Just how radical will California's preschool personal finance subject matter get? Will the children's books preach personal responsibility or will they just be about an evil wealthy rabbit being forced to feed all of his carrots to the poor hungry bunnies in his meadow?
As Bill Cosby has said, kids do say the darndest things, and if any of the states heed Secretary Lew's call for personal financial management classes, then kids might end up preventing their parents from making foolish choices regarding money. A precocious toddler might ask their mom on the ice cream aisle of the grocery store if that ice cream is a need or a want, and catch the parent completely off-guard.
Before that can happen, however, the kid sitting in the grocery cart has to turn off their smartphone first, and there's nothing from Secretary Lew about curbing that national tragedy yet.