Pay for Play
I care a lot about education, and I haven’t written about it nearly enough. The other night I heard some talk on the radio by a host out of Atlanta about Fulton County’s new “Learn & Earn” program. Here’s the gist from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:
Students will make approximately $8 an hour, and be eligible for bonuses if their grades improve, said Kirk Wilks, district spokesman. The initial students are in the eighth and 11th grades.With the support of Fulton County Commissioner Robb Pitts, the pilot program will last 15 weeks and pay students for participation and performance. The object of the program is to determine if paying students to study will improve classroom attendance, grades and test scores, according to a news release from the district.
The host I was listening to was in favor of the idea, as were precious few of his callers. The majority weighed in saying that it’s wrong, and that motivation for students should be internal. I haven’t exposed myself to any other opinions just yet.
The first thing that came to mind for me was that yes, some students have an internal motivation for learning. I was one of them. But that motivation doesn’t always translate into studiousness and good grades. And most students don’t have any internal motivation to learn. They have other motivations that will push them to do well in school. Well, just one, really.
Here’s the scenario: as a little kid, your parents want you to learn simple things so you can survive – speaking, addition and subtraction, reading and writing at a basic level. Once you get past that, things change. By the time your 12 or 13, all you’re thinking about (and let’s face it, all your parents are thinking about) is life after you leave the house. You have to do well in high school so you can get into college. Then you have to do well in college so you can get out and get what? A good job. And for the vast majority of us, that means one thing: money.
So, when you get down to it, the real motivation for kids to do well in school is economic. The main reason people talk so much about low-income schools is so that we can get those kids out of poverty. Well, if the end goal is for a student to get a good job, the overarching motivation is money. So why should we pretend that it’s something else?
There are countless benefits from learning, but only one from performing well in school.