I’m easily distracted. I guess I’m the human personification of the popular cliche about the dog who loses all focus with the shouting of the word “squirrel!” I am interested in everything, gleefully having a love affair with the world. I like sociology and art and talking to people and nature and cities and rocks and on and on. I have come to know and understand the interconnective of everything and enjoy picking apart the things I discover as I wonder what contributed to their present form or if they have a story is to tell.

But as I look to really see, I can’t help but know my beautiful world, our beautiful world, is sad and troubled. History makes it clear that our human and collective flaws have been with us since the beginning of time. There will always be negative events and actions but luckily both renown and everyday people, through large reforms and/or small heartfelt actions, have so far saved us from complete destruction. I see this as a matter of physics, a study in energy. If we keep infusing bits of light into the universe, maybe, we can keep our existence on the plus side and prevent it from falling below zero into the realm of total negativity. Every smile, kind word, and helping gesture counts.

And so I’ve become focused on one thing, financial literacy. My fascination with sociology and economics has fueled me toward this goal and, also, a poignant memory. I taught elementary school in rural New York State and one morning after one of our winter storms one of my students proclaimed, “That was quite a storm we had las night!”

I agreed to which he replied, “When I woke up, I had snow on my bedspread.”

After I retired, 11 years ago, I worked with Assemblywoman, Addie Russell, to initiate a program of financial education in our school but we were told there was no time for such program in the school day due to state mandates.

I’m trying again, working with my local League of Woman Voters and The NYS Rural Caucus. I took all I had have seen and learned over the past few years and narrowed it down to ten concise points as presented below.

I am frustrated by the present state of the world, as we all are. I have decided to focus on one issue that I feel will have a positive impact. We have to start moving forward. This is a summary of my research.   10 Insights Concerning the Need for Financial Literacy  
(1) There are many excellent financial literacy programs available. For example, one offers the following. Grades 4-6, Spending and saving, income and careers, credit and borrowing, and building wealth,  Grades 7-10, Entrepreneurial Exploration (using one’s interest and talents to start a business, writing a business plan)  Grades 9-12 Investing Basics  
(2)  The present plan for financial literacy education in NYS is not enough In January 2021 a mandate was passed for a pass/ fail class in the senior year of high school. More is needed!  
(3) Our citizens need the skills to avoid poverty “Between the ages of 20 and 75, nearly 60 per cent of Americans will experience living for at least 1 year below the official poverty line while three-fourths of Americans will encounter poverty or near- poverty.”-Poorly Understood, What America Gets Wrong about Poverty.  The authors point out that unexpected events, like “losing a job, families splitting up, or medical and health emergencies, all have the potential to start a downward spiral into poverty.”  In addition, our present economic inflation is added strain for our citizens.  
(4) There has been a long negative stigma associated with the poor. There is a wide held cultural belief that being poor is an individual human failing, that poverty is due “to lack of motivation, questionable morals and so on.”  While studying the history of my area I was appalled by the far-reaching impact of this way of thinking as those without property and means were sent to asylums. This was a common practice right into the 1900’s. http://theautonomoustraveler.com/2022/01/16/insanity-the-best-money-can-buy/  
(5) Is our education system based on the factory model that puts the emphasis on producing workers rather than innovators, entrepreneurs, and effective participants in our economy? Robert Kiyosaki 2019 – The Speech That Broke the Internet!!! KEEP THEM BROKE!!  (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=azq0S0DKS50)   
(6) There has been a long history of manipulating citizens financially In a school textbook called Elementary Community Civics by  R.O, Hughes published in 1922, students were taught to budget and save. Buying  government saving bonds was encouraged and stock buying was mentioned with a warning to be careful of “get-rich-quick” schemes. 1950 saw the beginning of the credit card use, instant debt in our wallets. This year NYS initiated the practice of online gambling that furthers the unsound financial practices of our citizens along with scratch off tickets  
(7)  We live in a society that aggressively encourages spending. Advertising has evolved into highly sophisticated manipulation of spending habits. Advertisers can even target potential customers by monitoring online usage.  
(8) We have a growing wealth gap in our country. This is evident in “forms of ‘opportunity hoarding’ which make it harder for others to rise to the top. These unfair mechanisms including zoning laws, college admission procedures, and allocation of internships.”-Richard V. Reeves, Dream Hoarders, How the American Upper Middle Class is Leaving Everyone Else in the Dust, Why that is a Problem and What to Do about It  
(9) Poverty perpetuals despair “In a review of 273 studies of the US and a number of other countries by Lee Ellis and James McDonald the authors found strong evidence of a relationship between criminal offending and low income, low occupational status, and low educational attainment.” from Poorly Understood  
(10) Financial Education alone will not solve our society’s problems but it can be a great positive nonpartisan start. We have to begin to move forward.   Would love to hear about any further research. Please share your thoughts.  

I’m getting older, time is passing. This once shy and scared little girl is a bit louder now, newly focused, and no longer embarrassed to be persistent. All I have is my voice and I’m trying my darnedest to be heard. I will continue to try to put a bit of energy into the world and hope it helps to keep the light alive.

4 thoughts on ““SQUIRREL!!!!!!!!”

    1. Jennifer VanTassel

      Joyce, thank you for reaching out and suggesting I take a moment to read this blog. I liked the title because it reminded me of the laughter we all shared, and I am so glad I took your advice. Your story reminded me of many conversations you and I had in the office so long ago, especially regarding the need for life skills classes, and even when we didn’t see eye to eye, we always agreed that children and their well-being was the priority. You were born to be their teacher, but you chose to be their champion. It’s been a true delight to know you.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The Autonomous Traveler

        Thank you so much for these kind words, Jen. Yes, there was laughter and many good times at “this old building”. We cared and loved those kids. Let’s hope the world gets smarter and starts better preparing them for the future that awaits them. I’m glad to have your as my friend.


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