Money! It's a gas...Courtesy of Tracy O, Flickr

Money! It's a gas...Courtesy of Tracy O, Flickr

I often have some down time at work, which I try to spend reading articles that have something to do with my my job, but there’s only so much written about it. So, I inevitably find other things to read to pass the time. I came across this New York Times Health article about rewarding students’ academic success with money or prizes of some kind.

This is a part of education that has bothered me for a while. Over my years in DC, I’ve tutored at a few education-oriented organizations. One paid kids a few bucks to show up for the program each week. This then led to good attendance, but once the kids were there they did nothing, they fooled around, they got in trouble, but they didn’t care because they’d already been paid. Additionally, a lot of kids in these programs went to charter schools or even public schools that paid them for good grades, attendance, or high test scores. These kids were used to getting money for doing things that they should be doing anyway.

I didn’t like it. And I didn’t think it worked very well. I know that the majority of kids in DC’s school system need some sort of help or motivation to get work done and to do well. I just couldn’t imagine getting PAID to show up for a class that they were expected to show up for anyway.

The real world don’t work like that, even in college, no one’s paying for you to show up to a class. You have to pull your weight and do well. And you’re not getting any money for passing a class or even getting an A. And in the real world, if you just show up to work and then mess around all day, you’re not going to succeed in your given profession. It may take a while, but eventually you’re going to lose your job. And, as I’ve learned, even if you’re hauling ass and doing the best you can in your job, in this economy you might lose your job anyway.

It sets up a dangerous precedent for these kids for future behavior. Yet, what are you to do? Kids are failing left and right, and whatever a teacher or school is trying to do, it’s never enough. It’s easy to turn to either monetary rewards or some kind of gift system to give kids the incentive to do well. I’m not sure it’s the answer.

The New York Times article does mention giving children rewards that encourage them to work harder and learn more. For instance, you ace your English exam on British literature, you get a Charles Dickens novel as a reward. I’m all behind that. However, I find most schools and programs turn to monetary incentives because they’re what speak the most to students. A hundred bucks? Kids are listening. Oliver Twist? Not so much.