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Kids, get ready for the rat-race

8 September 2008 226 views 3 Comments

This is exactly what life is about. You get a paycheck every two weeks. We’re preparing children for life.

That would be Michelle Rhee, Washington DC’s school chancellor, providing her rationale for pilot program this fall that will pay kids for showing up, behaving and getting good grades.  Apparently this idea is getting increasing support (like in NYC) and it’s reasonable to expect that nothing good will come of it.  After all, rewards don’t work.  And I can’t imagine that kids without bills and mortgages would give a hoot about a paycheck like every adult working a crap job to make a living.

Ms. Rhee, just stop the blather and say the truth: WE GIVE UP.  We can’t figure out how to motivate children to learn and the best we can do is to dangle a financial carrot and hope someone bites.

And frankly, if you think life is about getting a paycheck every two weeks, maybe you should get a job in a payroll department instead of letting your half-assed mind run a school system.

The article the NYT is referencing is, I believe, this.  Mr. Fisher sums up nicely:

School, as Rhee has often said, should not be a grim, bottom-line enterprise. If you can get kids to discover the satisfaction of mastering new material, you have them hooked. Paying them is the ultimate expression of surrender.

Fryer does not claim to have evidence that his program works, though he hints he will have data this fall indicating some success. But early reports from another New York City pay-incentive program show no such luck: High school students offered up to $1,000 if they scored well on Advanced Placement tests were indeed more likely to take the exams but actually scored lower than those who took the test before pay incentives took effect.

Must 3,000 D.C. students really be subjected to this degrading experiment? We live in impatient times, and Mayor BlackBerry and his dynamic schools chief want to get there right now.

Here, kid, here’s a dollar. Now shut up and learn.