A few months ago I tried to take some pictures of the super moon. You know the full moon that was incredibly big. Big like that scene from Bruce Almighty where Jim Carey lasso’s the moon and pulls it close to set the mood just right for Jennifer Anniston’s character. I even woke up at 5:00 AM to try and take pictures at the supposed best time to do so. (In full disclosure I have a 5-year-old, 4-year-old, and 1-year-old old so that was not much earlier than a normal morning.) I took almost twenty pictures total. The thing is none of them turned out the way I wanted. Now they look really cool, but they all appear as a black background with a bright white ball in the middle. No man in the moon, no shadowing on the moon’s surface, no craters, nothing, no features of any kind. Apparently the moon is one of the hardest things to photograph, well rambunctious 5 year olds notwithstanding. I was using a nice digital SLR with a 200mm telephoto lens. However, to really capture the full detail of the moon you need a tripod, timer shutter, and specialized shutter speeds. The moon is just too bright of an object otherwise and the brightness of it will overpower most attempts at capturing it photographically.
Late in the evening after I had gotten up early for my not quite successful photo session with the moon I was walking through my backyard to close my shed and looked up at the moon. Just with my naked eye I could clearly see each of the fascinating details I had hoped to capture on film some 15 hours earlier. Right there it hit me just how remarkable our eyes are. What it takes thousands of dollars in camera equipment and accessories to capture, our eyes can do for free.
I think it is time for Oklahoma to use this advantage of our simple eyesight when it comes to Personal Financial Literacy education in our state. In 2007 Oklahoma was one of the first states in the entire country to adopt and require Personal Financial Literacy standards. However, today we are routinely given a grade of C when compared to PFL standards across the nation. As Oklahomans, especially those committed to Financial Literacy education, we should not accept this state of being. We need to start the task of advocacy to bring about a change.
What are some of the changes for which we need to push? I would say that our standards are great. They are both unique to Oklahoma and in line with national standards such as the Jump$tart National Standards in K-12 Personal Finance Education. The areas where we lack as a state are certification for who can teach and the implementation of the standards, whether they have to be in a stand-alone course or can be embedded somewhere along the journey from 7-12 grade.
Currently anyone with a valid Oklahoma Teaching Certificate can teach Personal Financial Literacy regardless of subjects certified. I believe this is the first area that needs to be addressed in improving Financial Literacy education in our state. The main push back I have heard along these lines is there would not be enough teachers certified to handle the need across the state. I do not believe this to be true. Anyone recently certified in U.S. History, Oklahoma History, or Government is also certified in Economics. Secondly you would not have to confine certification to just Economics. It could easily be expanded to say that to teach Personal Financial Literacy you need to have a certification in either Economics, Math, or Business. I believe doing so would raise the level of the instructors in the PFL classes themselves and in turn raise the knowledge level of the students in those classes.
Now about those classes. Currently the fourteen Personal Financial Literacy standards required for graduation in Oklahoma can be delivered in a stand-alone course or embedded in another or multiple other courses. This needs to be changed to require a stand-alone course for all students. I believe to aid in this process we need to promote Oklahoma Jump$tart Coalition and the various groups with which we are affiliated as a clearinghouse of resources for highly trained educators to use in their room to fill an entire semester.
Will pushing for these changes be easy? Probably not. But the work of changing society for the better is never simple or serene. Currently there are some work arounds districts can pursue to see a change in their own classes. One of which is to simply change the name of the course from Personal Financial Literacy to Personal Economics. This would then mandate the instructor be certified in Economics to teach the class. Naturally this change would also take the course beyond the scope of the fourteen PFL standards to an even broader view of Economics. So until we get to the point of seeing changes with certification and implementation we need to encourage districts to be creative and explore options to improve PFL education in their district.