Saturday, October 18, 2008


This is a fascinating idea, paying students for perfomance, and one that has generated some controversy recently.  Critics argue that kids should want to learn for learning's sake and not need money to perform in school.  

While this view seems resonable at first glance, closer inspection suggests that it does not reflect reality.  Few, if any, kids I know now and when I was in school loved learning for learning's sake.  We hated learning.  Homework was a chore.  Studying for tests took time away from social activities and sports.  And I had more important things on my mind: which of my friends I was fighting with, who I wanted to go to the dance this weekend with, why my forehead was breaking out, how I was going to perform in the hockey game later that night, etc.  It wasn't until much later in life that I began to appreciate learning for learning's sake.   

The reality is that in the suburbs, kids have been getting money for grades all along.  There, our parents had the resources to provide incentives: get good grades, you get to drive the car; make A's and B's and you go to the mall; fail a test and you don't go to the dance. 

Unfortunately, there are a lot of families out there that cannot afford to offer their children such incentives.  Or for various reasons are unable or unwilling to invest the care and attention needed to establish an ongoing system of incentives that over time will produce good grades and get students into college.

An initiative like this enables poor families to do what other families have been doing all along.     

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