Union Catholic High School in Scotch Plains, New Jersey is teaching its students about cryptocurrencies. Mr. Tim Breza’s Business and Personal Finance Class is the focus of a CNBC documentary that is showcasing how cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin and associated blockchain technologies are being introduced and taught in high school and college classrooms.
Mr. Breza, a 28-year-old history and financial literacy teacher, first considered adding cryptocurrencies to his Business and Personal Finance class at the beginning of this school year after a few students approached him in September and October. The students were interested in learning more about the industry and began asking him what he knew about Bitcoin and other digital currencies.
“If one student’s talking about it, many of them are talking about it,” Breza said. “So I figured we needed to include it.”
Juniors and seniors are eligible to take his elective course, in which students learn about budgeting, credit cards, taxes, investing, entrepreneurship, and how to create business plans. After receiving approval, Breza has added a section on cryptocurrencies — focusing on the history of cryptography and the applications of blockchain technology.
“I’ve very excited that the students and Union Catholic is being exposed to this… and that the UC administration supported teaching this to our students,’’ said Breza. “Not too many schools are even thinking about teaching about cryptocurrency. We’re not teaching it in the sense that you have to invest it, we are just giving the facts of it. Blockchain is the key to all of this. That’s the revolutionary piece to it.’’
What do the students think?
Despite Breza’s assertion that the class is not teaching about cryptocurrencies from an investing standpoint, some students have chosen to do their own research. Junior Max Berg, for example, chose to buy Bitcoin last year. When the digital currency hit $19,000 in December, he cashed out, using his profits as seed money to start a retail business — buying Supreme clothes and accessories and selling them on to his peers.
“UC is always on the edge of new technology with our laptops and other things, so this is just that next step of teaching what the future of investments are going to be,’’ said Berg. “It’s been a hobby of mine for years now, and it’s cool to see how big it has gotten and that the school is open to teaching about is great.’’
Another student in the class, senior Thomas Monahan, believes his progressive teachers are to thank for introducing the high schoolers to the new technology:
“The teachers and administrators at Union Catholic always find ways to give us an edge and help us learn and make us better than other high schools,’’ said Monahan. “They teach us valuable things about life things that will help us in the future.”
While this subject may be new to high schools, it’s already a popular topic at universities across the country — and the job market for the crypto-space is booming, too. LinkedIn says there are now 28 times as many people citing “cryptocurrency” skills on their profiles and 5.5 times as many people with “Bitcoin” skills than there were just five years ago.