By Lina Martinez

One purpose of zenruption is always the protection of the little guy. Unfortunately, we average people are repeatedly the victims of the financial industry while they walk away with millions. Everything from overdraft fees, investing, 401ks and loan terms, fund the financial sector, often at the expense of the regular person.

High School finance classes would be the ideal way to prepare the next generation to take back some of the power. No, not some small part of Home Economics after they are done carrying around pretend flour bag babies, but a whole semester of finance. The level of financial knowledge in the United States has become appalling and has created many of the fees that support the big banks while continuing to create a high cost of living for our poorest citizens.

The United States ranks below 13 OECD countries in financial literacy at a mean score of 492 for testing where the average is 500. In China, students scored an amazing 603. A full 18% of American students can’t perform basic financial literacy tasks. Just 9.4% of students in the U.S. are at the top in financial literacy, which means they can balance a check book and understand the implications of tax brackets.

Only 40% of American adults keep a budget. A scary 75% live paycheck to paycheck, only one bad event from financial disaster. A mere 5% of adults say they were taught financial literacy from a teacher.

The implications of this lack of financial knowledge are simple. Massive consumer debt is a result, as is a lack of retirement planning and understanding of how financial mismanagement can keep one from climbing the socio-economic ladder. Hiding financial knowledge for the benefit of the few continues to create a consolidation of power in America and keep the poor and middle class Americans unable to get ahead. It might be said that lack of financial education contributes to the new neo-feudalism.

A semester of intensive financial education among high school students is a start to creating the financial knowledge so many Americans lack. It might not be the cure all for ongoing financial stratification as Wall Street devises more massively complex instruments that require Ph.Ds in physics to piece together, but it is a start.

The knowledge (or lack) of finance is something that is contributing to creating further economic disparity in the United States. The requirement of all high school students learning personal finance will help level the playing field and give them the tools to start working their way up the economic ladder while they are young. It is a win for everyone but the banks that charge fees and Wall Street’s ongoing Ponzi scheme.

Call your school board today and ask why they aren’t mandating something this important in the schools.

Lina Martinez is a contributor to zenruption’s money and life sections. She is committed to fighting for us regular people and takes the zenruption message very seriously. For very good reasons, we find it is simpler if we just buy her drinks in order to avoid the calculator coming out.

Feature photo courtesy of Flickr, under Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial license