Red Harmisson writes from Sydney: Australia knows how to prevent future financial and economic crises. Simple really, just ask any six-year-old.
This cunning plan is the idea of the Minister for School Education, Early Childhood and Youth Peter Garrett. He wants primary school children to be taught economics and business studies. These kids should, according to Mr Garrett, be financially literate and have a basic understanding of how the economy works. As the economy in Australia once worked reasonably well and mostly didn’t take the big hits experienced elsewhere in the world, everyone should either listen very carefully to what he has to say or simply follow the Australian model.
Now, Mr Garrett is instinctively a campaigner for ideas that some people think matter but most consider to be rubbish. He was a member of that great Australian band, Midnight Oil. It was the Oils who through their music hit sensitive spots, including youth homelessness, saving the environment and protesting against the oil giant Exxon polluting the world. Thirteen successful albums and clever lyrics suggest Mr Garrett sings more than music.
But kiddies grappling with economics?
Could be good for working percentage increase in pocket money demands. They would certainly be sharper at picking up on-line Nerf gun bargains. But that’s taking the wind too far. Mr Garrett’s reasoning is not for cheap headlines.
‘For young Australians not to be aware of the basics of economics and business is for young Australians not to be aware of the potential in terms of their employment, the subject choices that they might make in high school, and young Australians not to be able to manage their personal finances, which even at that age can be an important issue in someone’s life,’ he says.
So this is take-away childhood time. That’s clear. What’s this about being aware of their terms of employment? Under tens already dealing with holiday times, pension rights and sickies in one year? And when older, what’s this about young Australians not being able to manage their personal finances. Where does he get that from?
Young Australians can work out their finances, OK? They seem to get by when it comes to the pub or best flight buys when heading overseas.
There has to be another opportunity here. If you want a bigger allowance then the best way is not to simply whine into one. You have to work out the financial state of the old man, show him how to better balance and then get a percentage of what he saves. He’d probably call it being a personal financial adviser. Teeny Australians would call it squeezing more out of the pint pop.
Sounds good but you’d have guessed right if you’d expected the Australian Primary Principals Association to clap both hands and feet at the prospect of numerate kids. Of course they didn’t. Their President Norm Hart says the curriculum is quite full and other subjects might have to be dropped.
Don’t fret Norm, teach the youngsters the finances and numbers game and they’ll soon adjust it for you. I mean, I mean Norm mate, you reckon you can beat any of them on a DS?
‘If we are to have it as an add-on to an already extremely busy working week for primary school students, then I think we need to ask some questions around what goes instead.’ That’s good old positive Norm. Sounds to me the teachers just want a quiet life, don’t want any minister telling them what to do and maybe, could be maybe, they don’t know much about economics anyway.
Best of all, I like the Garrett idea because you never know, there in the back row we discover a nine year old genius for this stuff. Imagine our worthy PM Julia Gillard getting to hear about this wizard of bought ledgers and then at the next Cabinet meeting she takes secret glances at the record of her Treasurer Wayne Swan. Treasurer Swan hasn’t quite got the 2+2 thing together, has he? He said he was going to get the economy right by 2013. It isn’t right, is it? Spotty youth at the back says, ‘No it isn’t Miss and as Mr Swan in May 2010, just the year I started school promised a surplus in three years and hasn’t made it because the tax revenues are too low, well miss, you could – as they say at Goldman Sachs – let him go.’
Then what? Spotty youth at the back picks up his books (no Harry Potter, just Milton Friedman, Keynes, Berner, Carney) and walks over to Ms Gillard, takes her by the hand and whispers: ‘When do I start?’ Swan clears his desk. Spotty moves in but on the understanding there’s twelve weeks holiday a year especially when surf’s up.
It could, just could work. Nine out of ten Mr Garrett.