Would you rather young people learn how to load a Glock—or stay out of debt and avoid late fees? This is a real question, and it is being debated now in the state assembly in Wisconsin.
State Rep. Ken Skowronski, a Republican, introduced a bill that would allow schools to offer on-site gun education classes. State Rep. Sondy Pope, a Democrat, quickly linked the issue to financial literacy, saying personal finance instruction was a far more appropriate use of state resources.
We don’t play politics at Right About Money. People have their priorities, and gun safety is not a terrible cause in a state where hunting and trap shooting are popular. But really. Wisconsin has a mixed track record at best when it comes to teaching kids about money. Shouldn’t that be the priority?
Wisconsin ranks 43rd in a WalletHub survey on “financial knowledge and education.” It fares better in a report from Champlain College Center for Financial Literacy, ranking 10th overall. But the most recent survey of the states report from the Council for Economic Education shows Wisconsin to be a serious laggard in terms of offering or requiring economic or personal finance classes.
Skowronski, who has been shooting since he was 12, says he wants to promote gun safety and expose young people to the joys of trap shooting. “What we’re doing is allowing the high schools to offer an elective,” Skowronski told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. “It can be yearlong, a quarter or a semester. It’s up to the school.” The bill has at least 23 co-sponsors.
It also has opponents like Pope, who hails from a hunting family but believes IRAs, 401(k)s and compound returns are more important concepts to understand than how to locate the thumb safety on a pistol. The Glock, by the way, has no thumb safety. Certainly that is valuable information. But in terms of how many people really need it, this is no contest.
There is also the problem of exposing young people to firearms in the first place. “I think we are all aware of the proliferation of death and injury because of the accessibility of guns in our society,” Pope told the Journal-Sentinel. “I don’t see a reason to introduce guns to students in school. I think it’s inappropriate.”
Exposing young people to the costs of payday lenders and how to comparison shop, on the other hand, is fitting anywhere and at any age.