Paying High School Students to Show Up for Class Is Brilliant

piggy bankI'm pretty sure if you ask most adults if they want to go back to high school, they'd say you couldn't pay them money to make it happen. And yet that's exactly what a Cincinnati area high school is doing. They're paying teenagers cash money to show up for class.

It's such an odd idea it might actually work. Oh, I know what you're going to say. How dare they inject materialism into education? Knowledge is free! Education is to be treasured! Blah, blah, blabbity blah.


I'm completely sold on public education folks. And I still think this is a great idea.

The Dohn Community High School will be rewarding kids with Visa gift cards and creating small savings accounts thanks to a $40,000 incentive program. They'll get money not just for showing up on campus, but actually attending class and staying out of trouble. With 90 percent of the student population living in poverty, even small sums like $25 for seniors and $10 for underclassman has -- not surprisingly -- been welcomed by the kids.

And now for the kicker -- it's been so welcomed that more kids are showing up for school in a district where the graduation rate last year was just 14 percent. Quick, tell me something America, is it better to hold onto some idealistic notion that kids will thirst for knowledge or to actually have them show up for class and learn? I'm going to go with the latter.

I say this as your typical geek. I did love to learn. I did hunger to know more about the world. And if someone had told me I didn't have to go to high school, I would have gotten down on the floor and kissed their toes.

Even for kids who do love to learn, high school is not fun. It's a time when your body is a mess of hormones and you're being expected to get up much earlier than science says you should. Throw in bullies, piles of homework, and then all the crap at home -- especially in a poverty-stricken household -- and you have a powder keg just waiting to erupt.

Handing out money may sound crass, but for kids, it's a tangible reminder that what they're doing right now has value. It's in-your-face proof that solving quadratic equations may not seem like it's going to be useful at all, but there is a point in doing it. And, honestly, it's preparing these kids for college, when every minute of your education IS money, money being spent by your parents (or being loaded onto your shoulders via expensive student loans).

With each year's dropouts costing this country more than $200 billion (a figure that represents lost earnings and unrealized tax revenue over their lifetimes), is this really such a bad move?


Image via Razor512/Flickr

Read More >