Readin’, ‘Riting, and ….Bribing?

As I was walking through my kitchen to my office, my husband was having his morning cereal, watching Fox News.  They were in the midst of a perky promo for “what’s coming up next,” concerning a school district that was using financial rewards to motivate students to get good grades.  I kept walking… and only heard one bit more about the subject:  “It’s working.”

That promo stuck in my mind because of those last words:  “It’s working.” 

If tantalizing children with money, money, money actually makes them get good grades, because they pay more attention in class, put more effort into their homework, are more invested in studying for exams and working on reports and projects, well, that means that a lot of kids aren’t living up to their potential.

Why would MONEY make the difference, and not the appreciation of their parents, the respect of their peers, the approval from their teachers, or the mere burst of pride in doing well?  The answer is simple:  kids these days are not raised to care about appreciation, respect, approval and pride…period!  They are brought up to care about celebrity, extravagance, notoriety, freakish attention (think reality shows), infamy as a positive experience, and extreme non-conformity to traditional values.

What happens to these kids when the money isn’t there, but there is still the expectation of profound effort and commitment?  Certainly teachers, police, firefighters, those in the military, and small shop owners (to name just a few) aren’t putting out their best efforts for the financial reward.  A police officer who “collars” a serious bad guy gets a lot of thumps on the back, a night of some beers with fellow colleagues, and a notch toward an eventual promotion in rank.  Mostly, he has pride in doing his job well. 

These children are not being moved in that direction at all by this “money reward for grades” idea (except, maybe, for the beer).

Schools have been eliminating accolades such as high honors at graduation (e.g., valedictorian) so as not to hurt the self-esteem of those who won’t or can’t rise to that occasion.  Yet, they want to give money, money, money to those who do.  What is THAT message?  No one’s feelings are going to be hurt because they didn’t get the money, money, money.  Ugh.

I think we should go back to showing respect for the children who do perform well: for example, point systems that offer monthly “perks” like not having to take a few quizzes because their grades are above a B+, or earning a class trip to the zoo, aquarium, or museum or something else that acknowledges their efforts without minimizing the meaning by throwing coins at them.