By Andrew Pillow
Unless you have been living under a rock for the past couple months then you have probably heard the many tales of bitcoin success. Most of us have seen the stories online. If you are generation x or a millennial, then you probably have at least one friend on social media who can’t stop bragging about it.
So what exactly is bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a form of digital money or “cryptocurrency”. It is both created and stored electronically. It is not controlled by any single entity which makes it appealing to lots of different types of people and businesses.
And yes, you should be teaching your students about it. It’s not just about its popularity at the moment (although that does make it relevant) It’s also about the future of commerce and the changing ways of economics.
“Bitcoin is not in my standards. I don’t need to teach it.”
If you teach English, Music, PE, or Art then yes, you probably have a legitimate reason to not talk about bitcoin. But if you teach social studies, economics, or any class where current events matter, then you should probably at least talk about it.
A good teacher will teach students relevant content regardless of whether or not it’s “in the book.” And considering the current exchange rate for dollars to bitcoin is $17294 to 1, it’s relevant. Yes, your state standards and pacing guides aren’t updated to include the “cryptocurrency boom of 2017”. Textbooks in the 2000s were not updated to include the advent of social media, but good teachers who kept their ears to the ground taught their students about it anyway.
If you teach any form of economics in your classes, it is difficult to understand how you could justify not at least discussing it.
“But bitcoin is just a bubble.”
Even if that is true, that doesn’t preclude the need to teach it in school, nor does it mean it will not be an important factor in the global economy going forward. The “Tulip mania” bubble of the 17th century is taught in pretty much any class that touches on that time period. The roaring 20s and subsequent stock market crash of 1929 is a standard of pretty much every economics class.
The “dotcom” boom of the late 90s was also a bubble. Does that mean schools shouldn’t have taught students about the internet? When the dotcom bubble popped, did this whole internet thing cease to be important? Obviously not.
Too often teachers teach only the topics and skills they are required to teach and neglect new topics or skills and our students are worse off for it. Imagine the impact that could have been made if inner city teachers were exposing their students to programming in the 80s or HTML in the 90s? Often times teachers teach history and fail to recognize when they are living history. Bitcoin may not be “the next big thing’, but its big enough for you to devote a little time in class to right now. If it does become the next big thing, your students will be glad they were exposed to it at an early age.