NC schools might swap his­tory for re­quired per­sonal finance class

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Local - BY T. KEUNG HUI [email protected]­sob­server.com T. Keung Hui: 919- 829- 4534, @nck­hui

North Carolina high school stu­dents could be re­quired to learn more about fi­nan­cial lit­er­acy, but it could come at the cost of learn­ing less about U.S. his­tory.

Leg­is­la­tion go­ing through both the state House and Se­nate would create an eco­nom­ics and per­sonal finance class that stu­dents would need to pass to grad­u­ate from high school. But in or­der to squeeze in that new grad­u­a­tion re­quire­ment, the state may need to elim­i­nate one of two cur­rently re­quired U.S. his­tory cour­ses.

State law­mak­ers who are pro­mot­ing the new leg­is­la­tion say the last thing they want is to re­duce the amount of U.S. his­tory that’s taught. But how the is­sue will be re­solved if the leg­is­la­tion passes is un­clear.

“At the end of the day, we want our kids to learn U.S. his­tory and to be fi­nan­cially lit­er­ate,” Rep. Craig Horn, a Union County Re­pub­li­can, said in an in­ter­view. “So help me fig­ure out how to do that.”

Some so­cial stud­ies teach­ers say the new leg­is­la­tion is an­other ex­am­ple of how law­mak­ers don’t re­al­ize the po­ten­tial im­pact of the de­ci­sions they make.

“I think a lot of state de­ci­sion-mak­ers don’t know what we’re teach­ing al­ready,” said Angie Sci­oli, a so­cial stud­ies teacher at Leesville Road High School in Raleigh and founder of the teach­ers’ group Red4EdNC. “They haven’t con­sulted the teach­ers about the par­tic­u­lar sub­ject.”

The leg­is­la­tion comes at a time when there’s con­cern about the ris­ing amount of stu­dent debt be­ing ac­cu­mu­lated. The new course would in­clude lessons on pay­ing for col­lege, home mort­gages, credit scores, car loans, man­ag­ing credit cards and “the true cost of credit,” the News & Ob­server pre­vi­ously re­ported.

“Kids are grad­u­at­ing and go­ing into the real world of money and finance and credit and debt and credit cards,” Sen. Jerry Till­man, a Re­pub­li­can from Arch­dale, said at a Se­nate Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mit­tee meet­ing ear­lier this month. “And in a year or two if they go to col­lege ... they come out many of them with debt loads that are un­bear­able and that may fol­low them the rest of their lives.

“We want to make sure th­ese kids know how money works, how bank­ing works, how in­vest­ing, how credit works, how money can be your friend or your en­emy. They don’t know this.”

Rep. Kevin Corbin, a Ma­con County Re­pub­li­can, said at a House Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mit­tee meet­ing ear­lier this month that stu­dents are grad­u­at­ing from high school with­out learn­ing about per­sonal finance.

“You have kids leav­ing high school that don’t think any­thing about per­sonal fi­nan­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity,” said Corbin, a for­mer school board mem­ber.

The new stand­alone per­sonal finance class would be a re­quire­ment be­gin­ning with high school fresh­men in the 2020-21 school year.

But Sci­oli said she and other so­cial stud­ies teach­ers have taught about per­sonal finance for years as part of the state-man­dated civics and eco­nom­ics course.

“It’s bizarre to me that they’re shak­ing up the cur­ricu­lum based on anec­do­tal ev­i­dence,” she said.

The leg­is­la­tion has the back­ing of Re­pub­li­can Lt. Gov. Dan For­est and a bi­par­ti­san group of law­mak­ers. But some ques­tion how it would be im­ple­mented.

Cur­rently, North Carolina pub­lic high school stu­dents are re­quired to com­plete four so­cial stud­ies cour­ses to grad­u­ate: Civics and Eco­nom­ics, World His­tory, Amer­i­can His­tory 1 and Amer­i­can His­tory 2.

The leg­is­la­tion would make the new finance course and a re­vamped civics course as two of the re­quired classes. The leg­is­la­tion tells the State Board of Ed­u­ca­tion to re­vise the K-12 so­cial stud­ies stan­dards while say­ing that only four cour­ses can be re­quired for high school stu­dents.

Kara McCraw, staff at­tor­ney for the N.C. leg­isla­tive anal­y­sis di­vi­sion, told leg­is­la­tors that if the law passes the state board an­tic­i­pates mak­ing World His­tory and Amer­i­can His­tory as the other two re­quired cour­ses.

“This leg­is­la­tion, if passed, along with any other ex­ist­ing or newly passed leg­is­la­tion, will in­form our stan­dards re­vi­sion process in align­ment with State Board of Ed­u­ca­tion pol­icy,” said Drew El­liot, a spokesman for the state Depart­ment of Pub­lic In­struc­tion. “All rel­e­vant leg­is­la­tion, re­search and pub­lic in­put will in­form the stan­dards re­vi­sions.

“In gen­eral, we cer­tainly con­tinue to plan to ad­dress found­ing prin­ci­ples, civics, and Amer­i­can and world his­tory in any re­vised stan­dards, in ad­di­tion to new cour­ses re­quired by leg­is­la­tion.”

But the re­al­ity, ac­cord­ing to Sci­oli and John deVille, a so­cial stud­ies teacher at Franklin High School in Ma­con County, is that things will have to re­turn to the days of hav­ing only one U.S. his­tory course. The state board voted in 2010 to re­quire two U.S. his­tory cour­ses after com­plaints were made that his­tory wasn’t get­ting enough fo­cus.

“I don’t want to see Amer­i­can His­tory 1 and Amer­i­can His­tory 2 col­lapsed into a sin­gle class be­cause all of the rich­ness we have de­vel­oped in those cour­ses with pri­mary source anal­y­sis and the crit­i­cal think­ing skills which are en­hanced would be lost,” said deVille, a mem­ber of Red4EdNC’s board.

Sci­oli said they’ll only be able to do a “mile-wide and inch-deep” teach­ing of U.S. his­tory to cover it all in one course.

Rather than “jam­ming it into the ex­ist­ing so­cial stud­ies cur­ricu­lum,” deVille said it would make more sense to re­quire stu­dents to learn about per­sonal finance as part of a con­sumer math class. He said they could take that class in­stead of Math 3.

Sci­oli said re­quir­ing the new per­sonal finance course will force so­cial stud­ies teach­ers to spend a lot of time chang­ing how they teach the other re­quired so­cial stud­ies cour­ses for very lit­tle gain.

Till­man, the sen­a­tor, said in an in­ter­view he thinks they can both teach per­sonal finance and not re­duce the amount of US.his­tory that’s taught.

‘We’re not go­ing to short shrift U.S. his­tory,” Till­man said. “My good­ness. I’m not wor­ried about it at all.”

‘‘ I THINK A LOT OF STATE DE­CI­SION-MAK­ERS DON’T KNOW WHAT WE’RE TEACH­ING AL­READY. THEY HAVEN’T CON­SULTED THE TEACH­ERS ABOUT THE PAR­TIC­U­LAR SUB­JECT.”

Angie Sci­oli, a so­cial stud­ies teacher at Leesville Road High School in Raleigh and founder of the teach­ers’ group Red4EdNC

TRAVIS LONG [email protected]­sob­server.com

Joe Bar­ley-Maloney teaches a 10th grade Amer­i­can His­tory II class at South­east Raleigh High School in 2014.

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