Tuesday, December 04, 2007

"The soft bigotry of low expectations" as close as Harrison Township

Anthony Ratkov of Harrison Township wrote to the Oakland Press editors complaining that a bill requiring "financial literacy" of high school students might mislead them into thinking like millionaires.

He's serious when he writes,
"To me, it sounds almost like a foreign language... It's so unfair to teach kids the language of millionaires when the future they face is totally different from the image presented by corporate propaganda. Most people would probably just ignore this stupid proposal and brush it off by saying, 'Ah, it's just a bunch of dumb Republicans trying to micro-manage schools.'"
Mr. Ratkov apparently doesn't think much of his children's future much less anyone else's children. I'm unsure what the precise curriculum includes but learning how to save and invest money isn't the exclusive franchise of the wealthy or Republicans.

We get to choose many of our teachers. We can make heroes out of athletes or celebrities, but perhaps more of us should find capitalists as role models. Perhaps reading their stories and familiarizing ourselves with "the language of money" would help us better provide for our retirement years, or even (heaven forbid!) become entrepreneurs or professional investors, or financial consultants, or even how to survive the Christmas season without going into debt.

Those sound like good lessons to me that ought to be taught at home. Apparently there's one home in Harrison Township where "the soft bigotry of low expectations" is alive and well.

I don't mean this to be rhetorical, but I wonder how important Mr. Ratkov thinks mandatory sex education and free condoms are to students' futures?

Mr. Ratkov went on to express his surprise at the bill's sponsors.
"Although the proposal for financial literacy fits the Republican agenda perfectly, Switalski and Jacobs [the sponsors] are Democrats. It’s incredible that a couple of Democrats could have proposed a bill that looks indistinguishable from a bill authored by Republicans."
Should Democrats be prohibited from being wealthy? Someone should let Senators Kerry, Kennedy, and Rockefeller in on Mr. Ratkov's guidelines.

Believe it or not, Mr. Ratkov, the economy is not a zero-sum game. If you earn more it doesn't mean I must earn less. But if the language of money is as foreign to you as you say then the rest of us won't worry about competing with you.

What does Mr. Ratkov suggest students learn?
"Students in Michigan should be required to attend classes in labor relations, so they know they have the right to support the labor movement. When a student graduates, they will seek a job, and if they get a job in a non-union shop, they will probably be treated unfairly. They should know their rights. They should know they have the right to form unions, and schools should be teaching it."
Does he think union members should be discouraged from learning how to save or invest for their own or their children's futures or that financial literacy and a union membership are mutually exclusive?

I'd rather children learn what capitalism and socialism are and study examples of each so they might recognize which policies and outcomes go with which. Perhaps they'd even become familiar with the language of capitalism and socialism so they'd recognize it when they read, watch TV, listen to the radio or talk with their friends, neighbors, and relatives.

Then perhaps they'll discover financial security doesn't discriminate between Democrats and Republicans and that prejudice and bigotry isn't exclusive to race issues, but to financial, political, and other social issues as well.

1 comment:

  1. Normally it doesn't make sense to be the first to comment on my own article, but this time it's unavoidable.

    One of the theme's of today's Detroit News letters-to-the-editor is the mortgage crisis and what to do about it.

    The letter below reminds us why it's important to be financially literate. Saving and investing aren't the only things students might learn. Perhaps they'd learn the value of cash flow, the dangers of credit, be able to understand credit card applications, and maybe even to avoid mortgages they can't afford.

    Restore responsibility

    The News' series of articles on the foreclosure/subprime mortgage mess wrongly places the blame on a "cash-drunk mortgage industry with virtually no government oversight." Back in the 1980s, I ran up more credit card debt than I could afford. Now my credit is back to A+.

    The problem wasn't the too-readily available, high-interest credit cards. The problem was that I charged more than I could afford. Placing the blame on an industry for offering anything that's clearly not for all people instead of the consumers who sign up for the loans they can't afford and don't understand creates an environment where "nothing's my fault." Two words: personal responsibility.

    Kevin T. Dause