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Cryptocurrency in the classroom: Lucy Kellaway talks about the new wave of children

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It is the registration time for a large complex in Edgware, North London. Today, just like every morning so far this semester, sixth-grade girls sit around in twos and threes chatting together, while most of the boys are huddled together.

“I made more than 100 pounds a day, bitches!” A boy crows in the center. Others declared their gains in a conversation full of shiba inu, dogecoin and Elon Musk.

Their form mentor, a recent history graduate, looked increasingly uneasy. “Isn’t trading cryptocurrency like gambling?” she asked them.

More than half of the boys in her class are Muslims, and gambling is not the kindness of the Quran. The student in the middle gave her a contemptuous look. “No, miss,” he said. “This is investment.”

For many years, the boy did not show much interest in his homework, but he came, the 13J Gordon Gecko. He spends all his time on TikTok, Instagram and YouTube, absorbing secrets from suspicious celebrities, and then passing these secrets to his disciples.

God helped these boys, and their teacher told me later if they put their money at risk because of the advice of this particular student.

Similar scenes are being played out in schools across the country, as teenage boys-girls seem to be almost completely unmoved by this latest craze-buying and selling cryptocurrencies. It is not difficult to see why they want to make themselves so crazy. There is cool technical language and endless hype on social networks. Digital currencies are excitingly anti-government and rebellious, but the best thing about them is that they promise to provide simple, instant money. Bitcoin has risen from £600 to £45,000 in five years — an increase of 7,400% — and for untrained teenagers, this is all the evidence that the rise will continue.

The fact that it is illegal for minors to trade cryptocurrencies on most platforms may increase the appeal, but either way will not affect how easy it is for them to conduct transactions. Some people persuade their parents or other adults to open an account for them, and many of them are not financially savvy. Others buy coins at ATMs or exchange Amazon gift cards for Bitcoin.

Ibrahim is 15 years old and within the normal range. He lives with his mother-her mother is very strict and prevents him from using social networks-and he is working hard to become a doctor or a pilot after he leaves school. But one night last summer, while browsing a video on YouTube, he met Brian Jung, a college dropout who had just made $100,000. He became interested and persuaded his mother to open an account.

“I explained cryptocurrency to her,” he told me. “She also invested some money.”

He took me to browse their portfolio. They invested £50 in Dogecoin, £180 in Bitcoin, and £50 in Cardano; their total assets are currently worth £408.

Before getting up every morning, he would check his investment on his phone. Every night, he spends 15 minutes watching videos to teach himself. I asked him if he would invest the borrowed money.

“No!” he said. “That’s too risky.”

What Ibrahim did is impressive. In just four months, he taught himself diversification, market volatility and transaction costs. He knows more about cryptocurrency than me, and in some ways he knows more about investment. However, listening to him, I still feel anxious-he doesn’t seem to realize that he is risking losses that his family may not be able to bear.

I asked him how he would feel if the market crashed and he lost everything.

“Sad,” he said, but then added: “But it won’t happen-if one day it drops, it will rise again.”

I’m not the only teacher who looks at it caringly. Pani Masangos, assistant principal of the Comprehensive University of East London with 15 years of experience in teaching economics, believes that the way schools educate children about financial management needs urgent changes.

“Financial literacy has always been important to social mobility, but 10 years ago, the world was simpler. When children got their first paycheck, most of them were able to solve the problem on their own. Now, young people need more support to navigate rapid changes. The system-especially for predators who try to connect with them through social networks. You can send money that does not belong to you to crypto scammers on your phone. This is new and we need to do something.”

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He also worried about how schoolchildren could be tricked into becoming money mules-allowing stolen money to be laundered from their bank accounts in exchange for fees. He knows that his 10 more vulnerable students have fallen victim to irresistible temptations of useless money in recent years-although he thinks the true number may be higher because it is not something they brag about.

“I have a child who came to me and said he can’t attend class because he needs to go to the bank to solve some problems,” Matsangos told me. The boy was risking a criminal conviction, permanent damage to his credit history, and inability to open a new bank account-because he entered a situation where no one had ever warned him. The protection rules have recently been extended to include practices called “county lines”-in this practice, children are used to sell or just transport drugs in the suburbs or rural areas where gangs are active-but in any case of money There is hardly any mention of mules or financial fraud in the protection training.

In some ways, the task of turning It should be a breeze to train children into financially literate adults, because it fully meets the food requirements: most of them are more interested in financial topics than photosynthesis or the Tudor dynasty-or school courses Most of the other things in it.

When I became a teacher four years ago, I was shocked by the ecstasy of the students talking about money. When I grew up in the 1960s and 1970s, it was never mentioned—partly because we had enough time to not worry about it, and because money was not considered a polite topic of conversation at the time.

In contrast, my students (most of whom come from less privileged backgrounds) often mention it. They admire money and want more. The first question every celebrity who appears in school to speak will be asked about their income. Last September, I started teaching at the Girls’ Comprehensive School in Tower Hamlets, and the most outspoken girl in my mentor group spoke in less than a week: “Miss! You have a Wikipedia page! Your net worth how many?”

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This openness to money is good in itself-it seems to make students more inclined to focus on their studies. I once asked my students why they bother to do their homework. Is it to impress me? To avoid detention? No, here comes the answer. Life in the future must be very rich.

On another occasion, I showed the whole class a news report about Dennis Coates. He is the CEO of Bet365. He was paid £421 million for a year of work. I thought there would be a shocking reaction, especially because half of them ate free school meals, so the annual family income is roughly equivalent to the income Coates earned in 20 minutes. On the contrary, they not only think that the salary she deserves is what she deserves because she has worked for it, but also see that her income is so high that it will be a kind of Powerful motivation.

Faced with students who are so eager to learn about money, schools often cannot provide them with much for them to learn. In my previous school, most teachers thought that their financial knowledge could not teach anything about money at all. Once, a colleague who organized a rally came to me and asked me in a panic if I could do something about student finances next week. I hurriedly gave a 10-minute lecture on budget and pocket money. This is okay, but it’s just a drop in the ocean of ignorance.

The origin of financial illiteracy can even be traced back to not knowing how to budget. The students’ great interest in money seems to match the same great ignorance of the value of money. A few weeks ago, I was teaching grade 12 economics students about Veblen commodities—the demand for this commodity increased as prices increased—and told them that I had been sent for review by the Financial Times. The most expensive hotel room in London.

I asked the whole class to write down on the mini whiteboard how much they thought it might cost-one person writes £56 per night, while the other thinks it will cost £500,000. When I told them that the correct answer was £42,000, they were not as shocked as I expected-they could hardly judge without setting a benchmark for such an amount.

British “Financial Times” columnist and math teacher Bobby Seagull recently asked his 11th grade students to guess the average salary in the UK. The students are full of football players’ salaries and social network bragging. They think the average income is about £80,000-almost three times the correct median of £30,000. Last month, I surveyed my 12th grade mentor group, where the girls are mainly from traditional Bengali families and found that their knowledge is also unstable. When asked who made the most money, bankers or nurses, nearly half of the classes considered nurses.

Not only do they don’t know how much money is worth, they don’t understand interest, let alone compound interest-which is strange because both are part of the mathematics GCSE course. I asked my mentor group the following simple question: After five years, how much is £100 in a savings account that pays 10% interest? Give the possible answers a) more than £150 b) less than £150 or c) exactly £150, a staggering 60% of the answers are wrong.

Most of these girls can perform calculations in the context of a math class, but when it comes to applying their knowledge to the real world, they don’t know how to start. This shows that compound interest needs to be re-taught, not just in mathematics, but as a practical skill that can help them better manage their money.

Even more challenging is to impart risk knowledge to school children. Here, their interest in money becomes a hindrance: this desire for profit makes boring warnings about losses have no effect at all. One day last year, I taught GCSE economics students a lesson on GameStop, a struggling game retailer whose stock price soared under the short squeeze of David-and-Goliath. I shorted to the class to explain. I explained that this is becoming a huge Ponzi scheme. I showed them the sharply rising stock price chart and asked them to raise their hands whether to invest now. Don’t mind all my warnings, almost every child in the class stretched their hands into the air.

My half-baked course on risk may not teach my students anything, but it tells me that this is a topic too important to generalize. The curriculum needs to be properly designed to address all the behavioral prejudices that make children (and adults) so bad about money. Need to show students real case studies of people who have taken risks and lost money like them. They also need to understand those who make money, not miraculously overnight, but slowly. Most importantly, they need to learn the value of money systematically. Only in this way can they prepare for the most urgent lesson: if something looks too good to be true, then it is too good to be true.

Lucy Kellaway Is a contributing editor and co-founder of FT Teach now, An organization that helps experienced professionals retrain as teachers

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