"Finally, I make a simple plea to the Minister. Will he look again at the evidence that supports making financial education a compulsory part of the national curriculum? Will he talk to the FSA, the Institute of Financial Services, the Institute of Chartered Accountants, the Finance and Leasing Association and the Council of Mortgage Lenders? Look at the evidence, Minister, and make new plans."
The minister in question, Jim Knight, Minister of State (Schools and 14-19 Learners), Department for Education and Skills, gave a lengthy reply, explaining that no, compulsory lessons in personal financial management would not be on the agenda, but rest assured the government believes the subject to be very important and "that schools and colleges have an important role to play in ensuring that young people go out into the workplace with the skills they need to plan and manage their finances."
I disagree. Schools and colleges have no role to play in this respect. Abstract, theoretical lessons on personal finance delivered by strangers in a classroom will make very little difference to a young person's personal financial management skills or decisions.
Here's how my children have learned about personal financial management:
They all see debt - any kind of debt, for any reason, as being a very bad thing. The boys have just explained to me how they think our whole economy runs on personal debt, and how different our county's financial position would be without it. Student loans, said Ali, deliberately trigger a 'mindset of debt' which often persists throughout adulthood, enslaving people by keeping them trapped in the inescapable loop of wages and debt repayments.
By separating children from family and home, does the education system prevent this natural, vital learning process and inadvertantly (or otherwise) fuel the debt culture which is necessary for the continued success of our national economy in its current state?
My parents did not borrow money except for a prudent mortgage which was repaid with interest in its 25-year term. In common with the Liberal Democrat MP for Harrogate & Knaresborough, I had a parent who regularly quoted Dickens' Mr. Micawber:
"Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery,"enough for it to become entrenched in my mind. It was in my stepfather's interests to keep me out of debt, so I suppose I was lucky to receive my lessons in personal finances from him instead of from the state.
Last year 107,000 people in the UK became insolvent. 5,300 people a day went to Citizens Advice for debt advice and our combined consumer debt reached £1.3 trillion, which was more than our GDP. I guess the numbers of parents preaching Micawber to their children must be dwindling.