Covering Cinema From All Across The African Diaspora

Should We Pay Black Kids To Learn?


Not specifically about black cinema, but still somewhat related...

Carmen Dixon over at the Black Voices blog just posted an entry about a controversial new experiment, helmed by Harvard professor Roland Fryer, that "pays black and other disadvantaged and underachieving school kids for good grades and staying in school."

She writes:

It's a controversial approach. Many ask why kids should be paid for something they are required to do?

On the other hand, kids in affluent homes are routinely paid allowances and given graduation trips of cars, trips and/or cash as rewards for acknowledgment of jobs well done. Fryer is simply determined to try anything to stem the out-of-control dropout rate and to close the achievement gap between black and white (and Asian) students.

Fryer's theory, to pay kids to do better in school, comes from many years of research and his own sense of desperation.

"The theory here is to try innovative things that will help children achieve," Fryer says. "In our urban centers, we're spending $12,000, $15,000 a kid, and we're not getting any results. So we must do something."

According to the post, the early reviews of this experiment appear positive, with some school officials and kids responding enthusiastically. For example, from the
Times Online:

The scheme is still in its first year, but previously skeptical teachers have already begun to report marked improvements in their children's attendance and attention.

"I have to say that my first reaction when I heard of this project was, 'I can't believe they are doing this'," said Sheila Richards, the principal of the Brooklyn school. "I'm old school – I worked hard for good grades and no one ever gave me money."

Yet Richards has seen a "very good" increase in her students' grades and is thrilled that many of them are choosing to open bank accounts to save their earnings. "It's more than just an incentive," she said. "It has taught them the value of saving."

And Washington, DC Schools Chancellor,
Michelle Rhee, advocates the program, stating:

The reality for so many of our kids is that there are a lot of incentives to do all the wrong things out on the street, and we believe that having positive incentives for doing the right thing is a good counter balance to that.

So, what do you think? As Carmen asks, should we pay kids to learn?

My thoughts? As I stated on the Black Voices blog...

Controversial indeed! As the saying goes... desperate times call for desperate measures.

However, this idea frightens me for a lot of reasons - notably, whether many of these kids will develop a false sense of entitlement as they age, expecting monetary reward for accomplishing mundane, everyday tasks.

I just can't quite fathom how this kind of commercialization of a child's education can be a good thing for both the child and the system of education in the long term.

What could this lead to? A hierarchy of payment incentives? Super-star students, like super-star athletes enjoying fatter "paychecks" than star students who aren't as "super" as the super-stars? Students eventually demanding more for their efforts? Parents deciding on which school to send their children to, based partly on the kinds of cash incentives each school gives their students?

And on... and on...

I'm all for encouraging children (and adults) to learn, especially those underachievers; but, surely, we can come up with a better solution than this?!? At least, I'd like to think so...


  1. M. Wolfe said...

    In India, students compete for admission into crammed schools, where they study intensely in order to compete for admission into colleges. Their families pay a lot of money each year for this opportunity, which, for many, is a a financial challenge.

    In Korea and Japan, students attend after-school classes to boost their chances for college admission.

    And we wonder why we are lagging behind other countries.

    This solution of paying students is just another bandaid on an ever-evolving problem. Even if it shows some short-term success, I can't see it working over the long-term.

    We should be putting this money into getting to the core issues, and not temporary, experimental solutions.

  2. Liz said...

    This is surely one hood way to negate a child's understanding of the inherent value of learning, and that's not a good thing.

    This scares me.

  3. Liz said...

    Oopsy. Lol!

    That was supposed to read "one GOOD way" not "one HOOD way."

  4. Geniusbastard said...

    As an educator, I have to say that this plan is the path to oblivion. Kids have already got the attitude that education is worthless in and of itself, and that's the problem. This will cement that belief in their heads.

    And how on earth are we going to pay students when we can't pay teachers, fund schools or do anything else?

  5. UK Black Chick aka Wendy said...

    Ditto what M. Wolfe said.

    Pack them all of the a country where education isn't universally free, then maybe they'd understand the value of an education.

  6. drhjones said...

    I agree that desperate times call for desperate measures. Black children suffer from serious problems with under achievement..this underacheivement starts in elementary schools and continutes on. Research has shown that stundets that hve more resources available to them are more likely to achieve academically, irrespective of whether they are attending an urban public school or a more affluent school.
    I think this program is a great pilot program--the results will have implications for future programs targeted toward helping to eliminate the achievement gap between Black students and other students.
    The only problem that I have with this is that the focus on on extrinsic as opposed to intrinsic motivation. What will happen once the students are done with the program? The hope is that by that time the students "achievement behavior" will be reinforced and ingrained so that it will no longer be about the monetary reward. Perhaps their behavior will also be reinforced by self-satisfaction and feeling good about receiving praise from teachers and parents (who also play a major role). Longitudinal studies will give us the answer--let's wait and see...

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