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Economic Awareness

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A recent survey revealed that one in five people in Britain have a credit card debt of more than £2,000. It seems that most of these people are unaware of how this is a very expensive way of borrowing money. Edward Mayo, chief executive of the National Consumer Council, recently stated that companies using sophisticated sales techniques to persuade people to take out credit cards are just as dangerous as drug pushers. The analogy is a good one as many of these people are said to be “addicted” to the use of credit cards.

The situation is now extremely dangerous. A slight downturn in the economy will result in large numbers being trapped in over-indebtedness. As well as creating a great deal of individual misery it will also severely damage the country’s economy.

I would like to pose two questions: (1) Is this situation in Britain being reflected in other countries? (2) Is there anyway that schools could help with this problem?

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Personal Finance Education has indeed become more important in the UK and I believe is now a government priority.

I recently put together some resources for 14-15 year olds on this topic which teachers may find useful in PSE and/or Citizenship lessons

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  • 2 weeks later...
Economic and political awareness are best taught with reference to current news items, as there is up to date material available, and the issue has immediacy. A good topic in January is Corporate crime. Parmalate an Italian food group has found that it has a £3 billion hole in its accounts. The company employs 36,000 people in 30 countries.

There are also many examples of corporate crime that can be used in the history classroom. I have always been interested in the way the wealthy Germans who backed Hitler were treated after the Second World War.

The case of Alfried Krupp is particularly interesting. During the Second World War Krupp ensured that a continuous supply of his firm's tanks, munitions and armaments reached the German Army. He was also responsible for moving factories from occupied countries back to Germany where they were rebuilt by the Krupp company.

Krupp also built factories in German occupied countries and used the labour of over 100,000 inmates of concentration camps. This included a fuse factory inside Auschwitz. Inmates were also moved to Silesia to build a howitzer factory. It is estimated that around 70,000 of those working for Krupp died as a result of the methods employed by the guards of the camps.

In 1943 Adolf Hitler appointed Krupp as Minister of the War Economy. Later that year SS gave him permission to employ 45,000 Russian civilians as forced labour in his steel factories as well as 120,000 prisoners of war in his coalmines.

Arrested by the Canadian Army in 1945 Krupp was tried as a war criminal at Nuremberg. He was accused of plundering occupied territories and being responsible for the barbaric treatment of prisoners of war and concentration camp inmates. Krupp was found guilty of being a major war criminal and sentenced to twelve years in prison and had all his wealth and property confiscated.

Krupp's American lawyer, Earl J. Carroll, began work on persuading the authorities to free him. In February, 1951, John J. McCloy, the high commissioner in American occupied Germany, ordered Krupp's release from Landsberg Prison. His property, valued at around 45 million, and his numerous companies were also restored to him. When he died in 1967 he was one of the richest men in Germany and was the owner of the 12th largest corporation in the world.

McCloy was an interesting character who was later, as a member of the Warren Commission, was able to help cover-up the Kennedy assassination. Richard Bissell and Richard Helms were two other Americans involved in gaining the release of German war criminals. Both went on to become leading figures in the CIA and were the men behind the Executive Action strategy (a plan to remove unfriendly foreign leaders from power).

In 1975 the Senate Foreign Relations Committee began investigating the CIA. Senator Stuart Symington asked Helms if the CIA had been involved in the removal of Salvador Allende. Helms replied no. He also insisted that he had not passed money to opponents of Allende.

Investigations by the CIA's Inspector General and by Frank Church and his Select Committee on Intelligence Activities showed that Hems had lied to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. They also discovered that Helms had been involved in illegal domestic surveillance and the murders of Patrice Lumumba, General Abd al-Karim Kassem and Ngo Dinh Diem. In 1977 Helms was found guilty of lying to Congress and received a suspended two-year prison sentence. Once again showing how the world has a two-tiered justice system.





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