Consumers or Critical Citizens? Financial Literacy Education and Freedom
Toronto District School Board
Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto
Given the recent and ongoing economic crisis and high levels of consumer debt, the teaching of financial literacy in elementary and secondary schools has received widespread support. Too often, however, financial literacy education policy documents promote the individualization of economic risk and privilege the autonomy of the consumer or consumer-citizen over that of the critical citizen. This article argues for the necessity of a critical financial literacy education aimed at supporting critical citizens by providing a Marxist critique of the dominant liberal and neoliberal notions of freedom and responsibility reproduced in financial literacy education policy documents. The choice highlighted here is not between financial illiteracy and financial literacy but between accommodating oneself to neoliberal capitalism’s needs so as to remain in perpetual competition with others or understanding and collectively altering an economic system that promotes alienation, insecurity and exploitation.