Jay-Z and Jack Dorsey raised some eyebrows when they first announced The Bitcoin Academy, an initiative meant to spread the good word of cryptocurrency through free online and in-person classes. The educational program was held at the Marcy Projects, a public housing complex located in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, and the same location where Jay-Z grew up.
Classes ranged from “Careers in Crypto,” to “Crypto Scams & A Security Mindset,” and were limited exclusively to Marcy Project residents. Participants were given smartphones (if needed) and 100 MiFi devices were distributed with a one-year data plan. The courses, which were offered online and in-person, ran from June through September.
This timing coincided with a decline in the market, as Bitcoin itself has experienced a precipitous drop in value over the last year (about 54 percent) and multiple high-profile exchanges facilitating blockchain transactions have gone up in smoke. Testimonials from some of the students, as first reported by The Daily Beast, have questioned the aim of the project and whether or not crypto-related education is necessary given their economic conditions:
“How are you helping us if you’re asking us to put in five dollars, 10 dollars, and we’re all on fixed income?” Lydia Bryant, 57, told The Daily Beast.
The risk — Bryant also added that investments like crypto, as volatile as they can be, were riskier than say, purchasing “a real stock.” Aside from the inherent risk involved with the crypto market, the subject itself can be convoluted and difficult to make sense of, let alone digested well enough to make financial decisions. Another person noted that they “took the class but didn’t comprehend a lot.”
Not all of the testimonials were negative, and some students managed to take away enough from the summer sessions to transfer their own money into crypto. Upon completion of the program, residents were given $1,000 in crypto to use as they see fit — but this sum was viewed as negligible to other people, with one anonymous tenant pointing out that “[residents] are broke and struggling to live.”
Have, or have not — People like Jack Dorsey or Jay-Z — both of whom are billionaires — can withstand a sudden drop in the market, but small investors, like those at the Marcy Houses, would be significantly more impacted by the same kind of landslide.
The Bitcoin Academy claimed that this initial program is just the first step, and that another phase will be developed after reviewing feedback from those that completed it. Ultimately, reading through some of the responses makes one wonder if improving public infrastructure in and around a complex like The Marcy Houses would be a better use of resources.