Rapper Jay-Z and Twitter founder Jack Dorsey have teamed up to launch a bitcoin-focused financial literacy project called The Bitcoin Academy. The project consists of free fortnightly classes, both in-person and online, for residents of the musician’s childhood home: the Marcy Houses complex in Brooklyn, New York City.
The partnership isn’t surprising given the pair’s long, shared history in business and bitcoin. Dorsey’s digital payments company Block (née Square) bought a majority stake in Jay-Z’s Tidal streaming service in 2021, and the two have used their personal bitcoin holdings to fund a trust designed to support the use of cryptocurrency in Africa and India. to promote.
The Bitcoin Academy itself seems to have quite a bit in common with this latest project. The website of the academy promises that his lessons “will provide the community with knowledge and remove some barriers so that residents can learn more about Bitcoin in particular and about finance in general.” The only instructors mentioned are two bitcoin influencers, Lamar Wilson and Najah J. Roberts, who promise to teach people “about Bitcoin, how it works, why you should care, and how to build your own financial future.”
While offering free financial literacy classes would be undisputed, the academy’s focus on bitcoin has come under heavy criticism. The cryptocurrency world is littered with financial scams, hacks and fraud, encouraging unsuspecting investors to buy into various coins with promises of quick returns, only to find the carpet being pulled under them and their savings destroyed. Reply to the Announcement from the academy on Twitter, many users therefore labeled the project a “pyramid scheme.”
The cryptocurrency world has always used the promise of financial freedom as part of its appeal. Indeed, due to some measures it presents fewer barriers to entry than the traditional banking system. It’s no surprise, then, that marginalized communities are drawn to crypto investments, such as Tonantzin Carmona, a Brookings Metro fellow who studies economic inequality and race, told TechCrunch†
“It’s understandable that they’re looking for alternative outlets to generate wealth or make payment transactions,” Carmona says. “But that doesn’t mean that the alternative is actually better, that it’s safer, or that it’s really going to help them achieve their goals.”
Details of the exact curriculum of the academy are unclear, but rolling stone reports that scheduled classes “What is money?”, “What is cryptocurrency?”, “What is Blockchain?” and “How to protect yourself from scammers.” Participants receive free MiFi devices, smartphones and a year’s worth of data to help them follow the lessons.