Friday, June 18, 2010

Bribing Kids for School

Man we get so hyped up over everything don't we!? Education, Religion, Sex... We are so touchy! The most recent freak-out (besides the oil spill) has been paying kids for school.

Education has been such a huge issue for us. We're constantly complaining about it. We get upset because kids are being sent on to the next grade without actually passing, and then we standardized tests and we started complaining that "grades don't measure success!" And then we found out that some teachers were cheating on the SATs and that does not make us happy either.

This is one of our most frustrating issues in the US. We are constantly debating it. One of our biggest frustrations is getting kids more interested in their own education.

So why do our feathers get so flustered when someone comes around to do some experiments with paying kids for performance in school? Because, we cry...

"Children should be intrinsically motivated to do well in school!"

But are they? Should does not equal IS. Let me ask you this... When you were 15 did you go to school everyday because you really wanted to learn about math and grammar? Or did you go to school because that's just what you did? Because Mom and Dad made you? What was your favorite day of the week? Monday or Friday?

Let's be honest. Kids are not intrinsically motivated to learn. Kids, just like the rest of us, are motivated by incentives.

Schools have started experimenting with the idea of paying kids for excellence and it's been in the news. Some people are furious with the notion. the Times recently published an article asking the question DOES IT WORK? Some guy named Roland Fryer Jr. decided to find out, and people were infuriated.

Steven D. Levitt at Freakonomics finds it interesting that people get so upset about bribing kids to do well in school. He points out that we offer all sorts of financial incentives in society all the time. Why do you go to work? For fun? We pay for people to recycle and some parents pay their kids to do chores. Jobs offer 401K matches, banks offer cash incentives as well.

Sure, I agree that kids should do well in school just because they should. I also think that at work we should do our best and not try to cut corners. But often we do not do our best unless there's an... wait for it... incentive.

IF bribing kids with money WORKS then what's the harm in it. If it doesn't work then let's stop. But what's so bad about testing the theory?

Roland Fryer Jr. conducted several experimental studies on this very subject in several cities and in different types of schools. He used different methods to find out what worked best. What he found was that every school was different and not all the methods had equal results. This is what resonated to me...
Times said: "Kids may respond better to rewards for specific actions because there is less risk of failure. They can control their attendance; they cannot necessarily control their test scores."

If children are rewared for things they can control they do better. When they are rewarded for things they cannot neccesarily control they don't do quite as well. I'm sure you can relate. Some people test better than others. Some people have test anxiety, and I think most people would agree that a test score doesn't measure you're inteligence or ability to perform. It's just a number. You may try hard to study but still get a B instead of an A. So if you are paid for something that you do not have direct control over it doesn't effect you the same way as if you were told, if you are on time every day you will get an extra $20 in your paycheck. I'd be on time.

I used to work at Target. If you're ever been to Target you were probably offered the opportunity to sign up for a "Red Card" (ie: a Target credit card). We were told that if we sold a certain number of cards then we would be put into a drawing to get a reward. I tried to convince them that that wouldn't work but they stuck by it. Who wants to put out all that effort to get people to sign up for a credit card for the CHANCE to get a prize? I finally convinced them and they changed their minds; if someone 'sold' a card, they got a candy bar or a soda for free. Period. No CHANCE of getting something. And it worked.

So what are your thoughts on bribing kids for school? Are you for it? Against it? Open to it? We all have reasons for our opinions. What's yours?

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Please feel free to comment. I do review my comments to deter slander. Thank you for your consideration and again, thanks for reading. Have a lovely day! - Ciara