Public School: Debit Cards Are Cooler

When banks first started promoting the birth of the debit card, I laughed.  Who in their right mind would choose plastic that took money right out of their bank account rather than enjoy the float, and protection, that your basic, run of the mill credit card provided?  “Nope”, I said to myself, “nobody is going to buy into this nonsense.”

Wrong again, Greenfield.  I pride myself on having my finger on the pulse of the consuming nation, despite the fact that patient always seems dead to me.  While it was obvious why banks wanted their customers to use these new-fangled debit cards, flashy commercials with people whizzing around in syncopated rhythms wasn’t going turn a nation of money-savvy consumers stupid overnight, right?

For the consumer, debit cards offered one virtue, and only one virtue.  You couldn’t overspend and put yourself into debt.  When the cupboard was bare, so was your spending power.  But who didn’t know when they were spending more than they had?  Only an idiot would unintentionally charge more than they could afford.  Note the word unintentionally, thus removing those who thought borrowing at 24.99% was a good idea.

For the banks, the debit card was pure genius, provided they could convince the public to go along.  No longer would they have to carry a national mountain range of purchases, only to have some wag pay the bill in full some 30 to 45 days later.  Sure, they made their 3% on the merchant’s back, but can still enjoy their piece while eliminating the backside risk of payment.

Yesterday, my high school senior daughter was required to go to a lecture in her required college prep course about how to handle finances when she left the nest.  I’m less than thrilled by this course in the first place, as I have found myself in regular disagreement with the way some teacher thinks my daughter ought to conduct her life when she becomes somewhat independent.  The teacher and I don’t see things eye to eye, but then I’m not a union member, an employee or enamored with pedestrian consumerism.

The school, apparently, is of the view that parents don’t do a sufficient job preparing their children for life outside the home.  They take in loco parentis to the extreme, as if sex education was better taught be a gym teacher than me.  Okay, bad example.  But this college life skills training included a host of value judgments that are not universal.  Who is some teacher to test my child on how to live her life?

But I digress.  So the financial training lecture, I later found out, was given by a fellow in the employ of Bank of America.  It was my understanding that he was to tell the students about how to spot and avoid fraud, How to handle their budding finances.  How to establish credit for the future.  How not to squander the funds that I placed into her grubby, Louis Vuitton-loving, hands.

It didn’t turn out quite as expected.  The Bank of America guy did his job well.  He sold the array of products that young people really need, from plastic cards emblazoned with photographs of their pets, friends or idol (“Oh! That’s so coool!”) to why the debit card is the one you want, and why credit cards are bad and evil.

If you grab their hearts and minds while young, you have them for the rest of their lives.  For those of us who instill to some greater or lesser extent that teachers are to be respected, we now have a problem.  The first thing I did was deprogram my daughter from the Bank of America sermon on good and bad financial instruments.  The second thing I did was explain, calmly, reassuringly, that this teacher was the exception to the rule.

I don’t blame the Bank of America guy for his sales job.  That’s what he’s supposed to do.  I do, however, blame the school for bringing in people, and given them the attributed credibility that has long been instilled in my child reserved for teachers.  Where does the school come off teaching my child which plastic to prefer, which bank to use.

Understand that this isn’t the entirety of this independence preparation.  Her assignment today is to go online and shop for all the things she will need to properly outfit her college dorm room.  I do not defer my values as to what is necessary and proper to the teacher.  Not this one.  Not any teacher.  This is mine to do, and the school has no business giving my child an assignment to learn how to shop their way.

For years, there was outcry about schools teaching tolerance, alternative life-styles, and acceptance of the reality that not everyone lives the way we do.  They teach that it’s okay to be different than Ozzie and Harriet, or Ward and June, or Mom and Dad.  Where’s the outcry that schools are turning our children into consumer-machines, ready, willing and able to shop at the drop of a hat.  With a Bank of America debit card with a picture of Fluffy on the front, grasped tightly in their adolescent hands.  This is not why I send my kids to school.

One thought on “Public School: Debit Cards Are Cooler

  1. Gregory Conen

    The odd part is that I thought Banks liked credit cards, because of the people who think borrowing at 24.99% is a good idea.

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