That melding of art and math had a profound impact on me, but it is an opportunity that few students have. Now, Virginia officials have added a new personal finance requirement to the curriculum, arguing that students need a basic understanding of finance in the wake of the 2008 Financial Crisis. This is an important goal, but it is already being achieved without this unnecessary extra cost to taxpayers and without potentially competing against arts programs.
The 8th grade civics curriculum covers the basics of economics and personal finance. By adding a new course on personal finance at the high school level, students will have another required course to overflow their already swamped schedules. The required course will also give policymakers an excuse to excise economics from the civics curriculum, where students can see the connections between economics, governmental processes and other fields. Furthermore, most students will not be able to fully grasp financial concepts until they have a broader understanding of the way the government and globalized world work.
Most important, the course will force many students to choose between taking arts and finance classes, a choice that is indefensible. Luckily, the Fairfax Arts Coalition for Education stood up to protest the required course. After all, music, theater and arts classes provide the few opportunities during the school day when students can release stress and be creative.
When Gov. McDonnell signed the law on March 5 requiring that all students take this course, he needlessly meddled in the lives of already overburdened students and failed to recognize the negative impact of the law on encouraging a well-rounded education. Virginians need to tell Gov. McDonnell that requiring an economics course is not worth the opportunity cost. Perhaps we should give the Governor the choice between having the art removed from the Governor’s mansion, being serenaded on special occasions and being provided with economics briefings. Maybe then he would change his tune.