Last Friday I had the opportunity to attend the Governors Challenge in Economics and Personal Finance, held by the Virginia Council on Economic Education on the Campus of Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) in Richmond, Virginia. This event brought over 130 students and their teachers from across the state to compete in 3 different challenges: two in economics and one in personal finance. It was truly a great event, and the kind of competition that happens across the country at this time of year at CEE’s local affiliates (CEE’s Economics Challenge). The campus is so welcoming and so inspiring for the students; students also had the opportunity to speak to members of the Board of the Virginia State Council on Economic Education – leaders from the business community, the Federal Reserve and the VCU Business School.
The competition – quiz bowl style for economics – case style presentation for personal finance – covered topics as varied as the European debt crisis, budget deficits, trade, investment choice tradeoffs and comparative advantage. No wonder one of their teachers said to me, “The value of these classes is that kids get engaged. They can see that they can use this knowledge to make things happen, and that by graduation they will be globally-literate citizens.”
Here is some of what the participants told me:
The second place team of the David Ricardo Division, Economics Challenge, from Southampton High School, Southampton County – the only team to have only 9th graders (most teams were juniors and seniors) said, “We are so excited because we cannot believe how far we got in our very first competition.” They are inspired and motivated! And they learned, “What to not spend money on!” And from their teacher, “Being in this environment with all of these role models is something these students would not otherwise have – the nearest college campus to them is 50 miles away.”
The first place team of the Adam Smith Division, Economics Challenge was from Thomas Jefferson High School for Science and Technology, Fairfax County. A team member said, “I got interested in economics because you have to understand it to understand politics, social unrest and diplomacy – so we started a club to study it.” His teammates will be studying not just economics, but engineering and other subjects as well at college next year. How great to have globally literate students in every field; how great for our country’s future and competitiveness.
Economic and financial education that is as fun and engaging as it is substantive will ensure that we close gap for these students between what they know, and what they need to know about the real world, and to allow them to be able to see opportunity on their horizon line of their choice, and, ultimately, can grow into successful and productive adults capable of making informed and responsible decisions. That is good for them, their families and their community.