New York City mayor-elect Eric Adams threw down the gauntlet earlier this month when he vowed to accept his first three paychecks in bitcoin.
The Democrat and former police officer has since doubled down on his plans to make New York a crypto hub along the lines of Miami, which under Republican Mayor Francis X. Suarez hosted one of the leading crypto conferences, attracted several crypto-focused startups, and is pushing for a law to give city employees the option to receive payment in crypto.
While states such as Wyoming have set the gold standard for creating a welcoming legal environment for crypto, Miami has stood alone among American cities in laying out the red carpet for the industry. Now Adams is making the case that New York, which is already a major hub for crypto innovation and employment, should commit to taking the lead.
Indeed, a friendly competition appears to be heating up between the two cities. Mayor Suarez said last week that he also plans to accept his next paycheck in bitcoin after a prominent crypto investor called for the first American politicians to accept their salary in bitcoin.
Their personal commitment to bitcoin aside, they both face the challenge of convincing the wider public that bitcoin — a highly volatile speculative asset — is worthy of public investment.
For Adams, that means teaching the subject in the city's schools.
In an interview with CNN's State of the Union on Sunday, the mayor-elect said New York must "open our schools to teach the technology and teach this new way of thinking when it comes down to paying for goods and services."
The statement came after Adams said explaining crypto was difficult even for experts, and that he personally had lost "thousands of dollars in the stock market" due to crypto's volatility.
The crypto community, meanwhile, is predictably celebrating Adams' pro-crypto rhetoric, but it remains to be seen how far the mayor will go in pushing New York to the head of the pack when it comes to laying out the red carpet for the sometimes controversial industry.
One looming question is what exactly Adams means by "open our schools" to crypto.
While crypto largely remains the purview of investors, technologists, and some extremely online enthusiasts, there are precedents for teaching crypto to the wider public, particularly in higher education.
Columbia University, for instance, currently has a course called "Blockchain, Cryptocurrencies, AI, and Beyond," which aims to teach the basics of decentralized finance and crypto to those who are already interested in the future of finance and technology.
The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, meanwhile, announced in October that it plans to launch an online program called the "Economics of Blockchain and Digital Assets" that was developed in partnership with a crypto consulting firm and will accept bitcoin as payment.
“Blockchain and digital assets are not going away," said Wharton Professor Kevin Werbach, director of the program, in a statement. "We hope to equip business leaders, consultants, and entrepreneurs to identify the value drivers of these innovative technologies and to give them the practical understanding to build solutions.”
Yet it's one thing to teach business majors and working financial professionals about the importance of crypto. It's another to try to teach the subject in primary or secondary schools.
While Adams hasn't elaborated on whether he plans to push for new curricula in New York City schools — which, it should be noted, is determined at the state level by the New York State Education Department — there are examples of schools embracing crypto education.
Union Catholic Regional High School in Scotch Plains, N.J., as early as 2018 introduced a crypto section into its financial education class for juniors and seniors.
More recently, the Georgia House of Representatives passed a bill mandating financial literacy classes in high schools, and crypto was included on the list with more traditional subjects such as how to apply for a loan or balance your checkbook.
Outside of the U.S., the French Ministry of National Education amended its study plan back in 2019 to address bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The lesson plan requires students to look critically at cryptocurrencies and compare them with existing fiat currencies.
In the private sector, of course, there have been fledgling efforts to educate laymen on the complicated topics of cryptocurrencies and blockchains.
Gemini, the crypto exchange backed by billionaires Tyler and Cameron Winklevoss, earlier this year launched Cryptopedia, a free and open-source portal for crypto education.
"We know that the lack of comprehensive education around crypto is one of the main barriers to entry and adoption for consumers — which is where Cryptopedia can help," said Cameron Winklevoss in a press release.
Another way to increase public awareness of crypto is through the launch of a municipal crypto currency, as Miami did over the summer with MiamiCoin, which was launched on the nonprofit and community-run CityCoins platform.
The CityCoins community had been exploring where to launch its next coin when Adams told Bloomberg this month that he was committed to competing with Miami for crypto-hub status.
"When the mayor of New York asks for an NYCCoin you have to give him his coin," CityCoins community lead Patrick Stanley told Cheddar.
NYCCoin was activated on Wednesday with the beginning of mining operations. This set in motion a protocol that will start churning out coins — 30 percent of which will go into a wallet designed for use by the city government. It will get 100 percent for the first two weeks.
Stanley anticipates the city will earn up to $2 million in the first two weeks.
"They can spend that money however they like," he said. "They can spend the money on educating children about crypto. They can spend it on housing the homeless. It's just a net benefit to the city."
As of October 1, MiamiCoin had made $7 million for the city of Miami since launching in August.
Stanley also commended Adams for committing to educate citizens around crypto.
"When you think about financial literacy, schools aren't teaching that today," said Stanley. "It doesn't make any sense, and the fact that we have a technologically progressive mayor who wants to help his citizens become financially literate and understand a big change that will possibly impact their lives is a visionary thing to do."