Mandatory Personal Finance/Economics Classes Draw Mixed Reviews

By Jack Minchew

Starting this year, all Tuscarora students (other than seniors) will be required to take personal finance and basic economics classes in order to graduate.  These new requirements are part of a 2010 State Board of Education decision prompted by the recession of 2007, which many attribute to poor financial literacy among Americans. In Loudoun County, these classes are being offered as two half-semester classes. Tuscarora also offers personal finance and economics as a 0 period class, which is a class that takes place before the school day begins. Students can opt out of the economics requirement if they take AP Economics.

The chief complaint of students is the loss of an additional elective spot in the crucial junior year. “I don’t like [the new requirements],” says junior Maneet Singh, who is currently in personal finance. “I could have taken an elective I wanted to take,” he says. “Instead, I have to take a business class that doesn’t really help.” Singh does support having the class an elective, but not as a requirement. “The class is a joke,” he says, adding that as a required class, students take it less seriously.

Legendary AP Economics teacher and well-known Tuscarora personality Mr. Mike Burnett disagrees. “I think it is way overdue,” says Mr. Burnett. “This should have been a requirement ten years ago.”

“Students graduate from college with an inordinate amount of debt,” Mr. Burnett says, adding that most students know “little to nothing” about personal finance. Mr. Burnett is not sympathetic to complaints about the loss of electives. “Electives are great, and the material you learn is interesting,” he says, “but personal finance is a bit more practical.”

The new requirements have also been difficult for the Tuscarora guidance department. “It was more difficult [to organize] because it took up an elective course that students typically look forward to junior and senior year,” says Mrs. Gabrielle Carpenter, head of the guidance department. “Some students had to give up an elective they had planned to take…around 90% of juniors have this class in their schedule,” she says. “There are 8 sections and 3 teachers with this subject.”

Regardless of what opinions may abound, it appears as if this requirement is here to stay. Both candidates for Virginia governor have affirmed their support for economics education, making it unlikely that their administration’s Board of Education will change their minds.