Education: how will we teach the value of money without cash?

With the increased fear of the dawning cashless world surrounding us, the matter of pedagogical upbringing and financial responsibility is at risk. The capacity of people, in developed economies, to manage the money they have is falling, with worrying levels of over-indebtedness and homelessness. A trend which will get worse if and when money loses its material support: the banknote.

The object is useful to learn and give reality to concepts. This is the reason why, in a child’s education, words such as chair, table and bed are taught, long before others, such as trust, desire and responsibility. This pedagogical capacity we have, to learn and teach concepts using an object, is so deeply rooted within human nature that a specific science, named OBL (Object-based learning), is dedicated to it. Sheffield University teaches OBL and writes: “Object-Based Learning (OBL) is a student-centred learning approach that uses objects to facilitate deep learning. Objects may take many forms, small or large, but the method typically involves students handling or working at close quarters with and interrogating physical artefacts.” This phenomenon, in which things will appear more or less real according to whether we can see, touch and hear them, trickles into many fields, namely marketing. This explains why businesses, which aim to gain “existence” in the market’s eyes, will always write their names on the products they sell, and even resort to object-based publicity, as with promotional T-shirts or children’s toys.
This is a problem when it comes to money. Over the past 20 years, banks have been slowly pressuring cash out of our societies. This archaic type of currency hampers banking profits, and banking institutions around the world would love to see all types of money turn to the electronic world, where it can be more easily managed and monitored. Banks have many allies in this struggle and have already scored a few wins. Scandinavians countries, as well as Denmark and Australia have drastically turned away from cash, and an increasing amount of shops in America are now cashless operations . If an outcome successful to banks were to occur, money would never have the form of tangible, collectible, banknotes again, and would simply be a number on a screen. The act of stacking banknotes in separate piles (for each child, or purpose, for instance) would be a thing of the past. For those of us, or of our children, who learn by touching, this could be an issue and lead to a highly-problematic decrease in the societal ability to manage money.
The learning of money management, be it for children or for adults, is greatly helped, therefore, by the physical nature of cash, because of the symbolic gesture of giving and receiving: money in one hand, the purchased object in the other. The simple view of a thinner wallet illustrates the hard and necessary reality: work will make the wallet grow fatter, expenses will make the wallet thinner. Guardian columnist Oliver Burkeman experimented on this, following recent studies by Time Magazine , and writes : "It's hardly news that people spend more freely with credit cards than when they're using cash. But until recently, researchers who study the psychology of money had assumed this was for one reason only: "payment decoupling", a fancy term for the fact that credit cards mean you get to enjoy your new pair of jeans, or Learjet, weeks or months before you have to part with the money. Newer studies, though, add a fascinating wrinkle: spending actual cash feels uniquely painful even when decoupling's not an issue. When experimental subjects are given free cash and invited to spend some of it, they do so more conservatively than when given credit vouchers – even when they're told they'll get their change in cash either way.” No matter how convenient credit and debit cards, or electronic wallets, are, cash has the unique quality of reflecting the reality of available funds. With the regular advances on the front of the war on cash, we must expect a societal-scaled depletion in the ability to manage personal finances.
As many whistleblowers have warned , the economy is built by experts who have freely moved on to immaterial money, such as e-wallets, Google pay and credit cards. They are assuming that cash is no longer a necessity but if they are successful at killing off hard currency, a long list of harmful consequences will arise, including increased difficulty in teaching younger generations the value of money - something they are bound to need

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The cashless society from an ethical point of view

The debate about the move towards a cashless society has been at the center of the scene for several years, now. Various angles have been taken by economists, politicians, banking institutions and sociologists. Beyond the technicalities of the debate, lies the question of freedom, of inter-citizen solidarity and of governmental responsibility. The debate cannot remain in the hands of financial specialists, it is first and foremost an ethical, political and societal issue.

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