The World and Everything in It: May 31, 2023
On Washington Wednesday, what Tim Scott’s campaign adds to the race for the White House in 2024; on World Tour, news from Nigeria, Turkey, Nicaragua, and China; and commentary from Janie B. Cheaney
PREROLL: The World and Everything in It is made possible by listeners like me, Thomas Smoak from Sao Paulo, Brazil. I serve with a group called Action International Ministries, practicing proclaiming the good news of Jesus all around the world. I know you’ll enjoy today’s program.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Good morning! Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina is running for president.
NICK EICHER, HOST: We’ll talk with Henry Olsen about Scott’s campaign on Washington Wednesday. Also today, news from around the world on World Tour. Plus an art gallery run by a mother-daughter duo.
BEE SIEBURG: I didn’t know, my Christian faith would grow at that point. I had no idea that I would love the Lord in my heart, like I do now.
And the need for more practical education.
REICHARD: It’s Wednesday, May 31st! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Mary Reichard.
EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Good morning!
REICHARD: Time now for the news with Kent Covington.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Debt limit » House Speaker Kevin McCarthy has been working to shore up support for a debt ceiling deal as the House prepares to vote today on a bill that would raise the ceiling.
The measure would trim overspending. Some conservatives say it’s not nearly enough. But McCarthy countered:
KEVN MCCARTHY: I’m not sure what everybody wanted. We couldn’t get everything we wanted. And when we had this debate, we couldn’t talk about the whole budget. So in essence, we were only about to focus on about 11% of the budget.
The House Rules Committee advacned the 99-page bill last night, sending it to the House floor for a vote.
Leaders of the conservative House Freedom Caucus vowed to try and halt the bill.
And another conservative faction declined to take a position, leaving McCarthy hunting votes.
McCarthy on Wray contempt » Also on Tuesday, Speaker McCarthy ripped into FBI Director Christopher Wray. The director defied a subpoena from the House Oversight Committee demanding a record of a whistle blower complaint. The informant accused President Biden of taking part in a bribery scheme while he was vice president.
MCCARTHY: We have jurisdiction over this. He can send us that document. We have the right to look at, Republicans and Demcorats alike on that committee. And if he does not follow through with the law, we will move contempt charges in Congress against him.
Yesterday was the deadline set by the Oversight panel.
The FBI argued that it could not responsibly hand over the document, stating— “Releasing confidential source information could potentially jeopardize investigations and put lives at risk.”
Ukraine/Russia » Vladimir Putin says his country needs to address gaps in its missile defense system after drones struck some targets in Moscow yesterday.
Military analyst Mark Cancian:
MARK CANCIAN - Russian air defenses, particularly around Moscow, are oriented on a different kind of threat and that they are oriented on missiles, ballistic missiles, regional missiles, aircraft bombers, but not short-range drones.
The strikes on Moscow injured two people and caused some evacuations.
Ukraine refutes the Kremlin claim that it was behind the attack.
Meanwhile Moscow continues to batter the Ukrainian capital of Kyiv with air assaults.
Kohl’s boycott calls » Customers are calling for a boycott of another major U.S. retailer over LGBT merchandise aimed at children. WORLD’s Josh Schumacher has more.
JOSH SCHUMACHER: The department store chain Kohl’s is facing blowback for so-called PRIDE merchandise in its stores. The collection included pride onesies for newborns and shirts depicting illustrations of children waving a rainbow flag.
It also included a Disney pride t-shirt with a Mickey Mouse logo.
The criticism comes as Target has lost billions of dollars in market value over a growing boycott for carrying similar merchandise aimed at kids as well as other LGBT activism.
Target has also partnered with an LGBT group that seeks to inject gender ideology into schools, and to keep parents in the dark when children choose to identify as the opposite gender.
For WORLD, I’m Josh Schumcher.
Iowa apartments update » In Iowa, some occupants of an apartment building that partially collapsed on Sunday are still missing.
Davenport Mayor Mike Matson:
MIKE MATSON: At this time we have five individuals that are still unaccounted for. Two of those, we believe, to be possibly still in the building.
Workers have rescued more than a dozen people from the structure since its initial collapse.
No fatalities have been reported.
Nova Scotia wildfires » Wildfires are burning across the southeastern Canadian province of Nova Scotia amid abnormally hot and dry weather.
Officials have evacuated more than 16,000 people.
Halifax Regional Fire and Rescue Deputy Chief David Meldrum:
DAVID MELDRUM: We cannot say right now when we'll be able to notify residents and further when we'll be able to bring residents back and re-occupy this area. It's going to be complicated. It's a large area.
One of the largest blazes burned more than 20,000 acres.
I'm Kent Covington.
Straight ahead: Tim Scott’s bid for president. Plus, World Tour.
This is The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Wednesday the 31st of May, 2023.
Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Up next: Tim Scott’s presidential campaign.
Tim Scott was in Iowa last week, just an hour’s drive from our location where we’re holding the World Journalism Institute collegiate course. So, as part of the students’ education, we drove them down to Sioux City, Iowa, to cover a Tim Scott town hall, his first in the state after launching his campaign.
And we asked our student journalists their thoughts on what they saw and heard.
TIM SCOTT: I know what I'm talking about because I've lived the American dream. I've lived on both sides of the tracks. I understand what America can do for anyone is exactly what she did for me. So let's get busy and go to work. I appreciate y'all coming out.
ALLESANDRA GUGLIOTTI: I was super encouraged by Tim Scott's testimony and story of coming to where he is right now.
ALEX CARMENATY: You know, Senator Scott was very strong on a lot of issues. He, you know, focused especially on border control.
MARY HARRISON: Senator Scott received a lot of applause for his pro-life stance. But he never really articulated what his position was toward federal legislation and states positions.
NOAH BURGDORF: It was just standard practices or promises of just I'm going to do this but not really saying how so it felt like an empty promise to me.
MORGAN FARANOV: And he said he wasn't going to take questions, which again, I understand, but he said that this is for the people and I was just like journalists are still people. I would have liked a little bit more respect.
EICHER: So what’s Tim Scott’s background?
The 57-year-old Republican was born and raised in South Carolina and earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from Charleston Southern University.
Scott is not married. Nor does he have children.
REICHARD: He owned his own insurance agency in the 1990s, then launched his political career on the Charleston County Council.
He ran for Congress in 2008, and served two terms in the House before then-Gov. Nikki Haley appointed him to the U.S. Senate in 2013.
Voters elected Scott in a special election the next year. That made him the first black lawmaker elected to the Senate from a southern state since Reconstruction.
SCOTT: In America — in South Carolina — one lifetime, that’s all it takes. One lifetime to go from what my grandfather was doing, picking cotton as a kid, to having a grandson in Congress and now the United States Senate.
EICHER: His re-election in 20-16 was a cakewalk.
Joining us now to talk about Sen. Scott’s bid for the White House is Henry Olsen. He’s a Washington Post columnist and a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center.
REICHARD: Henry, good morning!
HENRY OLSEN: Good morning.
REICHARD: First of all, Henry, what do you think Sen. Scott brings to the GOP debate stage, and how do you size up his political strengths and weaknesses?
OLSEN: Yeah, I think Scott brings obviously a different personal experience growing up in a poor working class black neighborhood in South Carolina. I think that'll be an interesting story for him to tell that is distinct from Donald Trump's and Ron DeSantis and will attract a lot of attention. I also think he has a reputation for relentless optimism and practical conservatism. And those are on display in his early forays, and we will see whether or not there's a market for it.
REICHARD: What do you mean by “practical conservatism,” as opposed to what other kind?
OLSEN: As opposed to demonstrative or performative conservatism. The sort of person who will say many things, but produce nothing and be unwilling to make compromises in order to get half a loaf or even a quarter of a loaf and move the ball down the road. There are plenty of people who sound conservative but produce nothing. And Tim Scott walks the walk as well as talks the talk.
REICHARD: Mmh-hm. Let’s say on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being most conservative, where do you think he falls on that scale?
OLSEN: Well, you know, I think that depends on what you mean by the word conservative. The thing is that conservatism contains many strands, I think, where Tim Scott, Tim Scott's voting record is very conservative, as scored by conservative groups. I haven't looked specifically but he's usually in the high 80s, or the 90s. But he doesn't tend to make the 100%, which is a sign of practical conservatism as opposed to performative conservatism. But Scott is not in the MAGA world, in the sense that he doesn't talk about decline. He doesn't focus as much on cultural issues. He doesn't talk as much about trade, or it's not that he's necessarily on the wrong side of those issues, from various accounts, but what he talks about is the things that unite strands of conservatism, rather than take a factional position. And that'll be interesting to see how that plays out. Because typically, in primaries, what you do is you build yourself up to be the favorite of a particular faction, and then you build out from that. And people who try cross faction appeals, like Marco Rubio did in 2016 tend to fail because they don't, they may be the second choice of many, but they have a passionate attachment of too few.
REICHARD: Senator Scott launched his campaign just a week or so ago. What’s his message so far and what kind of campaign do you expect him to run?
OLSEN: So far I think it's a 21st century version of Ronald Reagan's Morning in America. And I think Scott is likeliest to gain support if he gains it among the sort of person who yearns for the pre Trump Republican Party. The sort of person who would like to be cautiously internationalist, including support for Ukraine. The sort of person who likes traditional social values, but he's uncomfortable with modern culture war. The sort of person who still likes free trade, likes immigration, even if they don't think illegal immigration is a good thing. And generally would like to see government smaller. If Scott's going to have an angle, it's going to be in becoming the first choice of that group. And so far, his message is a soft sell that should be likeliest to be heard positively. by members of that group.
REICHARD: He is a longshot candidate right now. I mean, if your name’s not Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis that seems to be the lay of the land. Early polling has him at about 2% among GOP voters now.
Do you see him really going after Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis … or do you think he’ll want to angle for the VP slot or some other role in a future Trump or Desantis administration?
OLSEN: So Tim Scott is 57. If Tim Scott wanted to be a cabinet official, as the capstone to his career, he wouldn't be in the race, because that was the sort of thing that he could have got without being in the race. So clearly, he wants to be president or vice president. The question then is how do you do it? You never get to either position from weakness. In other words, if we're... if it's Thanksgiving, and he's still at 2% in the polls, barring a Rick Santorum like, Phoenix rise from the ashes, where he went from an asterisk to the winning of the Ohio caucuses in about a month, that would mean that Tim Scott's campaign has failed. So what he needs to do is he needs to get himself into the position so that by Thanksgiving, he's being talked about as somebody who's a serious contender. And again, there's two ways to look at it. You can try and build yourself up as a factional choice or you can try and be cross factional, and hope to get supports across the board, I tend to, as I mentioned earlier, tend to think cross factionalism does not succeed, and that he should focus on being the candidate of the disaffected Reagan win.
REICHARD: Well you’ve thought about these matters for a long long time now. Do you see Scott as an attractive potential running mate for either Trump or DeSantis?
OLSEN: Lots of people look attractive until you see how they perform under pressure. And he has performed decently under moderate pressure in the Senate, which tends to be a good calling card for vice president high profile senators in the modern world tend not to be picked. It's not 1960, when the Senate Majority Leader is tapped by John F. Kennedy to be his vice president. But how he performs on the trail will be much more important in how people assess him for the vice presidency. He's going to have to show that he can woo people, he's going to have to show that he can bear up under whatever presets come his way. And he's also going to be able to show that he can dish it out, because the typical role of the vice presidential nominee in an election is to be the attack dog. And if he's too much Mr. Nice Guy, you can easily see someone saying he might be fine to be vice president, but he couldn't help me running for vice president.
REICHARD: Donald Trump has welcomed Sen. Scott into the race, and I guess that’s indicative of the-more-the-merrier from Trump’s perspective – the more crowded the field, the better it is for him, correct?
OLSEN: You know, that is the conventional wisdom and I believe Trump adheres to that. So but here's my critique of that. The reason the crowd, the dispersed field helped Trump in 2016 is because they were dispersed in equal enough numbers that too many of them stayed in for too long. Had you had somebody emerge quickly, as a main challenger, say had Ted Cruz done well, finished a strong second in South Carolina instead of woefully behind Marco Rubio or if Ted Cruz had shown any strength in New Hampshire, then I think you would have seen people drop out after South Carolina. You know if Cruz had finished first in Iowa and second in the other three, he would have established himself early on. What happened instead was that Rubio and Cruz both had legitimate shots to be in the race. Carson was angry at Cruz, because of thing, tricks Cruz pulled on him in Iowa and he wouldn't drop out because he wanted to hurt Cruz. And Jeb Bush was angry at Marco and so he didn't pull out after New Hampshire so he could hurt Marco in South Carolina and John Kasich just decided that his 15% of the vote in the moderate wing of the party was just fine for him. These are all inexplicable decisions, but they were all made by people who were polled, who were receiving over 10% of the vote in polls. If all of these candidates come out of Iowa and New Hampshire getting 10% in the polls, then Donald Trump will be the nominee. There's no reason right now to think that's the case. And what we see is that most polls show that when candidates like Tim Scott, or Nikki Haley or Mike Pence drop out, almost all of their support goes to DeSantis. And this is why Haley is attacking DeSantis is because she knows that to have the chance to take on Trump she has to go through to DeSantis. And we could expect Haley's attacks to be more on DeSantis and less on Trump as the campaign gets underway precisely because she knows that she needs to be the person who's consolidating the non Trump early.
REICHARD: So much like a chess game, isn't it? Henry Olsen is a Washington Post columnist and a senior fellow at the ethics and Public Policy Center. Henry, thanks so much for joining us. Appreciate it.
OLSEN: Thanks for having me on.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Coming up next on The World and Everything in It: World Tour with Onize Ohikere.
ONIZE OHIKERE, REPORTER: Nigeria inauguration — Today’s World Tour takes off here in Nigeria, where a new leader has taken over.
AUDIO: [Oath of office]
Bola Ahmed Tinubu took his oath of office on Monday in the capital city of Abuja.
The 71-year-old and his vice president, Kashim Shettima, emerged as the winners of a February vote that’s still contested by opposition candidates.
Leaders from South Africa and other African nations attended the ceremony. A U.S. delegation and officials from China also traveled for the event.
BOLA AHMED TINUBU: We shall defend the nation from terror and all forms of criminality that threaten the peace and stability of our country.
Tinubu takes over the reins from Muhammadu Buhari who completed two terms.
He now has to confront the country’s ongoing economic and security challenges.
On Sunday, Rev. Keoleh Saleh, who leads the Baptist conference in north central Plateau state, told a Nigerian news organization that a Baptist pastor and 49 church members have died in recent attacks across the state. At least 500 more members are displaced.
Turkey election — We head next to Turkey for another political story.
AUDIO: [Traffic celebration]
Supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan honked and cheered in the streets after Erdogan won a runoff vote on Sunday.
Erdogan defeated his contender Kemal Kilicdaroglu by about four percentage points, clinching five more years in office.
Kilicdaroglu campaigned against Erdogan’s two-decade rule and vowed to restore democratic norms. Erdogan has cracked down on free speech and changed the country from a parliamentary to a presidential system.
KEMAL KILICDAROGLU: [Speaking Turkish]
He conceded defeat, but called the electoral process unjust, saying Erdogan had the support of state resources.
ERDOGAN: [Speaking Turkish]
Speaking to supporters in Ankara, Erdogan says here that no one lost and all of Turkey won.
He now faces the cost-of-living crisis and the aftermath of the February earthquake that killed more than 50,000 people.
Nicaragua church — We head over to Nicaragua.
SOUND: [Church singing]
Authorities have frozen the accounts of several Roman Catholic Church dioceses over money laundering investigations.
A police statement said authorities confirmed unlawful withdrawals from bank accounts linked to religious figures facing charges of treason and other crimes. The police said the religious figures also received the money illegally from outside the country.
Cardinal Leopoldo Brenes, who heads the archdiocese of Managua, confirmed the frozen accounts.
CARDINAL BRENES: [Speaking Spanish]
He says here that authorities also detained two priests from the city of Esteli in the ongoing investigation.
Tensions between President Daniel Ortega’s government and the Catholic Church have grown since 2018 when authorities clamped down on anti-government protests.
Authorities have expelled priests and nuns, sentenced other priests on treason and cybercrime charges, and shut down operations of the order founded by Mother Teresa.
In March, Ortega cut ties with the Vatican after Pope Francis likened his administration to Adolf Hitler’s Nazi dictatorship.
China airplane — We end today in China.
SOUND: [Plane landing]
The country’s first locally-made passenger airplane received a water salute as it touched down from its first commercial flight on Sunday.
The C-919 aircraft built by the Commercial Aviation Corporation of China departed Shanghai with over 130 passengers on board and landed in Beijing about two hours later.
AUDIO: [Singing during flight]
China began developing the airplane in 2007, hoping to eventually break into the jet market and compete with Boeing and Airbus. The C919 has a maximum range of about 3,500 miles.
The company says it plans to build 150 of the C919 planes each year for the next five years.
That’s it for this week’s World Tour. Reporting for WORLD, I’m Onize Ohikere in Abuja, Nigeria.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Graduation day was last week at Seton Hall in New Jersey. The administration handed out 2,337 diplomas. Ah, make that 2,338 diplomas.
[SOUND OF CEREMONY]
Because when Grace Mariani got hers, her faithful service dog got his! And the crowd went crazy for it.
Seton Hall president Joseph Nyre conferred an honorary degree to Justin—a 6-year old yellow lab.
Now, Justin’s a good boy, and so smart. He didn’t just accept the rolled up piece of paper. He sniffed first, and only then took it in his mouth and seemed pretty pleased.
I’m guessing there were at least a few jealous students…as Justin may have attended every class, but he never had to take a test or write an essay or anything like that, and I imagine played along anytime Grace had to say, ah, the dog ate my homework.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: You did say he’s a good boy!
EICHER: It’s The World and Everything in It.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: Today is Wednesday, May 31st. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day. Good morning. I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. In addition to it’s being the second week of World Journalism Institute, we’re also right in the middle of our weeklong new donor drive. We have generous longtime donors who are offering a dollar-for-dollar match available for each new donor who gives this week.
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The challenge is simply the reminder that we rely on the gifts of our readers, viewers, and listeners to supply the resources needed to produce programs, report news, and train journalists.
The demonstration is that no one gives alone. We’re in this together. If you’ve never given before and you choose to make this the week you make your first gift, then every dollar you give is a dollar they give.
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EICHER: Coming next on The World and Everything in It: a mother-daughter art duo. Molly Courcelle and Bee Sieburg are like complementary colors. Opposites. But, somehow, they work together. Building a friendship—and an art practice—side by side in Asheville, North Carolina. WORLD reporter Grace Snell paid a visit to their gallery.
GRACE SNELL, REPORTER: It’s a bright morning in the River Arts District. Brightly-painted brick buildings rise above construction. Cars thread their way along the narrow street. Signs clutter the sidewalks—guiding passersby through the maze of galleries and workshops tucked inside.
AUDIO: [Entering studio]
Molly is a slim woman in a navy blue apron. She leads the way up steep wooden stairs overhung with colorful prints.
MOLLY COURCELLE: We all try to represent our artwork out here.
Molly steps into a small studio crammed with paintings. Layers of paint cake the worktables. Tubes of oil paints lie in a twisted heap.
Molly’s mom—Bee Sieburg—is already hard at work.
BEE SIEBURG: Yeah?
Bee extends a paint-splattered hand.
GRACE: I don’t mind.
MOLLY: Always covered in paint.
Molly and Bee aren’t just mother and daughter. They’re studio mates, best friends, and each other’s biggest fans. Even though they’re polar opposites.
MOLLY: We are very different. And, you know, people come in and paint and take pictures of her palette and her paints and her paint brushes on this more than even the paintings.
BEE: Here see the difference? Look at Molly. Perfectly coiffed flowers in front of the paintings.
Molly and Bee have been painting together in WEDGE Studios since 2008. They open their space to visitors every Friday and Saturday.
AUDIO: [Music playing, visitors laughing]
But art has been part of their story from the very beginning.
Bee’s face still lights up at the memory of how it all began. She and her husband were hoping to adopt when their interviewer asked Bee two unexpected questions.
BEE: And she said, “Well, is there any art background in your family?” “Well, well, yeah. You know, I teach art at Norfolk Academy teaching. All right. My grandmother was an artist.” And she said, “Oh.” And then she said, “Are you a Christian? Well, I thought, well, I’ve gone to church my whole life.”
Molly’s birth mother had specifically asked the agency to place her daughter with a Christian artist. Bee checked those boxes. So, Molly came home with her.
BEE: I didn’t know, my Christian faith would grow at that point. I had no idea that I would love the Lord in my heart, like I do now. But God knew. See, it’s a doggone miracle.
Later, a neighbor shared the gospel with Bee. She started going to Bible study and reading devotions with Molly every night. And teaching Molly to paint.
MOLLY: But she got me real art supplies, quote unquote. And instead of like craft kits or coloring books —
BEE: No coloring books!
MOLLY: I remember being able to use scissors a lot earlier than a lot of my friends and was shocked that they didn't know how to use scissors. We would paint all of my birthday parties was my mother teaching us how to do something like an animal out of clay, or going and doing like plein air painting out in a field. And she would make sure that we knew that blue sky is not only at the top of the page, it comes all the way down to the grass.
Molly studied painting in college. Over the years, she started to uncover her own unique style.
AUDIO: [Music from Molly’s studio]
MOLLY: I knew that I needed to find my own voice, she had her thing, my mother did, she did expressive paint, paintings with a lot of paint, a lot of energy. I needed to find what I painted. And I remembered a while back when I was in school, I really loved doing organic form. So I started doing some of those. And they really fed my soul in a unique way. And I just started going from there.
Now, Molly paints abstract paintings inspired by Scripture and sells them from her studio.
MOLLY: It reminds me, I did a set of two really big ones that had a bunch of gold leaf, and we made them really cracked. And we called them Jars of Clay, because it talks about God’s Spirit being able to shine out of those cracks. And in our weakness He is able to be strong.
Next door, Bee’s hard at work. Painting with quick, bold strokes. Her soundtrack—a playlist called “pink martini.”
BEE: I’m going to redefine it. Everybody paints in a different kind of way.
A customer dances along as he passes through.
BEE: Isn’t that fun? Look at him! Yay!
At first, Molly wasn’t sold on the idea of working side-by-side with her mom. She worried people wouldn’t see her as an artist in her own right.
MOLLY: God was very clear that my ego needed to step aside and that it’s a blessing to have my mother a part of my life and my business, too, you know. I mean, to be able to see her every day is very special.
And Bee, for her part, has always been Molly’s biggest cheerleader.
BEE: And anywhoo, Molly’d be in here selling a painting out here, “Oh my gosh, she’s selling and painting,” I would run in here, jump all around, “Yay! You sold a painting.” And Molly would just, “Mom. Be cool.”
Bee’s toned things down—a little. But she still likes to brag on Molly to visitors.
BEE: Molly’s my daughter. So, I’m very proud of her.
MOLLY: She’s the most fun to watch paint. She’s so fast and expressive. It’s really fun.
Molly says that friendship is what makes them stand out.
MOLLY: We’ve come a long way, in terms of our relationship, because we are a typical mother daughter, you know, when we were when I was a teenager, things were rocky, you know, and then we’ve grown more to love each other and respect each other for the differences and similarities over the years. But people will come up and sense the love that we have for each other, and it will just like, they will tear up because it makes them miss their mother or their daughter, you know. God has shifted my understanding of us, as mother daughter, and us as studio mates. And friends. She really is one of my very best friends.
AUDIO: [Studio background music and conversation]
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Grace Snell in Asheville, North Carolina.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, May 31st. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Up nexT: an elite high school in New York City now offers a new kind of math class–personal finance. Here’s World commentator Janie B. Cheaney on the lifelong benefits of teaching practical skills.
JANIE B. CHEANEY, COMMENTATOR: I recall that my high school, years ago, offered a course called “Consumer Math.” It was widely understood as the class that satisfied your graduation requirements for math if you were too dumb to go to college—the smart kids took algebra. The really smart kids took calculus. I barely passed geometry and was relieved to round out my math credits with only one semester of Algebra II. But long after graduation, and dropping out of college, I’ve had reason to regret skipping that practical, checkbook-balancing, back-of-the-envelope course in everyday arithmetic. Particularly when it comes to money. My husband took care of household finances for almost 50 years, and I was glad of it, but when that responsibility came down to me, I was looking at a pretty steep learning curve.
Stuyvesant High School, a historic STEM magnet school in Manhattan, is known for its academically elite student body. Students pass an entrance exam to get in, and once in they’re expected to take a course load that includes advanced science and math courses, including astronomy, molecular biology, and differential equations. But lately one popular class at Stuyvesant has been on “personal finance,” taught by David Peng.
Peng, who also teaches geometry, was prompted to create the finance class by an editorial in the school newspaper, titled “Calculus before Checkbooks?” The editorial asked why Stuyvesant offered such a loaded menu of higher math and enrichment courses—like ceramics and drafting—but budgeting, home mortgages, and the complexities of applying for a student loan were addressed only as a sideline in courses that no one was required to take. Shouldn’t everybody know something about how to manage their own money?
That struck a chord with Peng, who put together his personal finance course for the fall 2021 semester. From the beginning, overflow students volunteered to come in and sit on the floor, even if they received no credit for the class. A school-wide survey revealed that 89 percent of the student body didn’t know how to apply for a college loan—this, in a school where approximately 25 percent of its graduates are accepted at Ivy League institutions.
I’m guessing that in the future, less than half of Stuyvesant’s academically accelerated students will put their trig skills to use, but almost all of them will have to manage a bank account, take out a loan, establish credit, and learn to live within their means—or not. A few of this year’s graduating seniors may break new ground in technology or medicine or astrophysics. But many more of them will produce families and manage households that form societies. Since the 1950s the American education system seems bent toward producing geniuses. But it’s stable societies, not Advanced Placement tests, that allow genius to flourish, and one pillar of a stable society is widespread practical knowledge. Personal finance classes shouldn’t just be offered at all high schools—they should be required. Why aren’t they?
I’m Janie B. Cheaney.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Tomorrow: resolving the debt ceiling drama…we’ll have a report from our Washington bureau. And, the high stakes work of a missionary pilot.
That and more tomorrow. I’m Nick Eicher.
MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.
The World and Everything in It comes to you from WORLD Radio. WORLD’s mission is biblically objective journalism that informs, educates, and inspires.
The Psalmist writes: I long for your salvation, O Lord, and your law is my delight. Let my soul live and praise you, and let your rules help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your commandments. Psalm 119:174-176
Go now in grace and peace.
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