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Teacher's financial literacy lesson sparks fierce debate: 'What happens if they can’t make rent?’

Vuong posted a video explaining his financial literacy lesson plan, to encourage students to plan ahead.

Teacher's financial literacy lesson sparks fierce debate: 'What happens if they can’t make rent?’
Image source: TikTok/@teamvuong

Editor's note: This article was originally published on September 27, 2021. It has since been updated.

School never really prepares kids for the real world. Our schooling system doesn't really account for the real world and basic life skills such as running a household, budgeting your finance, and more. A young teacher wants to change that and he's found an inventive way to help students get a hang of the world out there. The teacher, who goes by Vuong on TikTok, posted a video explaining a token economy system that he has introduced in class to help them learn financial literacy and to help inculcate good personal values in the class. The video has been viewed more than 2.6 million times and garnered more than 500k likes. The idea he said was to inculcate real-life skills.


Vuong explained that as per his token economy system, students could earn “brain bucks” for attendance, and for being responsible in class, reported Daily.Dot. Vuong says the students can earn their currency before having to pay rent at the end of the month for their desks. “And on the last Friday of the month? Gotta pay rent!” said Vuong in the TikTok video. He said students would be charged fifteen 'brain bucks' as monthly rent. Vuong said the idea was to encourage students to financially plan their month and simulate the pressures of an adult in the real world. He also provided students the option of paying seventy-five brain bucks to “pay off” their desks and be exempt from rent for the rest of the year.



“It’s really interesting to see which kids have delayed or instant gratification and see how they budget their money,” said Vuong. His token economy is not limited to just paying rent, and includes buying items from a simulated Amazon online shopping site, where they have to pay a tax as well, or a treasure chest filled with items. They could also buy certain privileges. On the last day of the month, kids had to pay rent. "Today was the first day kids saw money go out of their account. It was a reality check," he said. "They were not happy," said Vuong, before telling them, "now you can empathize with adults who have to pay rent in your life."



The video sparked a lot of debate and outrage, generating close to 12k comments on the video. He was criticized for creating an ableist system that further reinforces real-world discrimination. One person wrote, "Wow, I don't like this at all. Why would you try to replicate capitalism in the classroom? What happens if they can't make rent?" Some asked if he made accommodations for kids. "I'm curious: you mention days in class. How do sick days and minority religious holidays off play into the system?" Another commented, "I'm wondering what considerations are made for children who may be disabled or otherwise disadvantaged in the classroom."



Vuong made a second video to explain how the system works, addressing some of the concerns people had. “If a child doesn’t have enough to make their rent, then I would assess why,” said Vuong. “If they don’t have enough because of a decision they made that’s within their control, it would be a really teachable moment about how to budget their money.” He added that they could also earn currency by other means including being kind, taking initiative, showing integrity, etc. “And no, I would not traumatize and shame kids by evicting them and taking away their desks,” said Vuong. He further added that the token economy was just a simulation for kids to get a hang of the real world, and it would, at no point, be more important than the real world. “Paying fake rent does not trump what’s happening in real life,” he said. Logical consequences over punitive punishment, he said. He also added that he would take into account the criticism. “You gotta call it out when you see it. So thank you for keeping me in check,” he said.


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