A middle school in New Jersey lost $1.3 million in funding because of the district's high absentee rates, so they decided to take action. Using money and gifts donated by local businesses, the school is using iPads, bikes, and other gifts to incentivize kids to come to class. So far, it's working. The principal reports that attendance is up and that the kids are loving the contest, which ends June 11.
Sure, the incentives may be working, but ultimately, aren't they working against our children?
If we give them prizes for things they should do, and are legally obliged to do, we are failing them. If we can't incent our kids to go to school with the simple fact that it makes them better people, will help them get a job, will make them productive members of society, or at the very least, will enable them to go to college where they can roam free for four years and skip all the classes they want, we're not doing our best.
It's also a failed system in that it sets them up for disappointment. In the workforce, you don't get a prize for showing up. You don't get promoted for showing up. Showing up is a given ... shouldn't kids be taught that they won't be handed presents for doing what they're supposed to?
I mean, I'd love an iPad for filing my taxes on time, or a pizza party in my honor for obeying traffic laws. Unfortunately, that's not the way life works.
Comedian Chris Rock says it best when riffing on dead beat dads.
"I take care of my kids."
You're supposed to, you dumb motherf*cker! What kind of ignorant shit is that?
"I ain't never been to jail!"
What do you want, a cookie?! You're not supposed to go to jail, you low-expectation-having motherf*cker!
When our tweens and teens are taught in school, by school that they'll get a cookie just for showing up, it's not helping them. I understand the quick-fix mentality to try and get more kids in the classroom -- it's kind of like when a seventh-grader runs for student body president and promises candy and soda for lunch -- but it's an unrealistic, if not damaging formula that is possibly detrimental in the long run.
What do you think about incentives aimed at getting kids to go to school?
Photo via davitydave/Flickr