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Finance Education in Schools Must Be More Than Personal (Opinion)

To the Editor:

I was heartened to learn that half of U.S. states are now requiring personal finance education (“A Few Years Ago, 8 States Required Personal Finance Education. Now It’s Up to Half,” Jan. 11, 2024). But personal finance is not just personal. Since before the colonists in Boston boycotted British tea, purchasing power has been political power. Every dollar we spend is a vote, and we do our students a disservice if we fail to help them see how their spending impacts others.

When students choose to spend money on fast food, fast fashion, or even a bar of chocolate, they should understand the impact of that purchase on people, animals, and the environment. We want our students to be conscious consumers aware of the “true price” of the products, foods, and energy they buy—from growing or procuring resources through the stages of production, distribution, and disposal.

As Jonquil Hackenberg points out in her 2021 Forbes article, “Brands, You Need To Listen To The Conscious Consumer Of The Future,” the cocoa beans for our chocolate bar may be grown on deforested land, harvested by enslaved children, and packaged in nonrecyclable materials—or not—depending on the brand.

Whether they are buying or boycotting, let’s prepare our students with the research and critical-thinking skills they need to make socially and environmentally conscious decisions knowing that they are not just current consumers but the future founders and employees of what we hope will be ethically mindful companies.

Steve Cochrane
Executive Director
Institute for Humane Education
Asheville, N.C.

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