In New York City, home to our nation's financial markets, a staggering 74 percent of its students are considered economically disadvantaged.
They are parallel worlds, a few miles apart and largely invisible to one another. This is an increasing challenge across our country: How do we build a path to economic mobility for more of our kids? That is the Council for Economic Education's mission.
One of our students wrote the following about the courses that CEE helps provide in economics and personal finance:
"At first, it felt like a foreign language. Now, I understand how to make more thoughtful decisions about my life. It's a new way to think."
In fact, researchers on opportunity gaps for children point out that by age 3, children raised in a professional family have 30 million more words than those raised on welfare. Vocabulary, they say, is access. Our job is to make financial and economic knowledge part of the everyday vocabulary of all students grades K-12.
The recent CNBC and Acorns Invest in You Savings Survey points to the fact that most respondents will have to manage their own budget and that of their family. It also points to an inability to solve basic cost/benefit calculations: Nearly half of the respondents did not realize that driving 5 miles out of their way for the exact same $10 savings did not make sense.
Determining where and how to use limited resources — particularly time and money — is an essential life skill. Our kids come away from our classes able to make skillful and informed decisions for themselves, their families and their communities. If vocabulary is destiny, we have the ability to enlarge that destiny for our children.
Our 70 years of experience in the field showed us that the best way to get this done is through partnerships.
Because education in the U.S. is local, we are structured to capture that potential. CEE is a network of state affiliates geared toward their unique communities and best able to convene pivotal relationships with businesses, state treasurers, and state legislatures to move this education into their classrooms. Our affiliates are CEE's feet on the street because one size does not fit all in education, even if one mission does.
Our network is also able to identify and scale those programs that work nationally.
One of these is our Family Financial Fun Nights. Our teachers felt that their kids — especially our youngest kids — are eager to include their parents in what they were learning. They want their parents to feel more hopeful and less oppressed by money. It turns out that when you connect learning to a student's life — to their families and communities — you prime the pump of their motivation and bring them the joy of feeling "large and in charge."
Our newest effort, Invest in Girls, is also launching nationwide to introduce young women to financial careers. Studies show that young women do not know their options for good careers in finance, and this program addresses that.
None of us have all of the answers. We have pieces of the puzzle for adapting to the strains of globalization and the ongoing requirement that our citizens become fast adopters of technology and change.
Yet education is still the foundational link, one of the keys to the kingdom.