How Much does Inspiration Cost?

After giving John Harlow’s piece on the responsibility of teachers and the educational system in general another read, I thought a lot about why the “onus is on us” to begin with. And after considering the multiple layers of the system, I realized that our system is adversarial, almost like our legal system, except with even more inefficiencies and road blocks. And unfortunately, the solutions are ad hoc bandages which serve more of a political than educational agenda.

Case and point, Michelle Rhee’s awful band-aid for DC schools:

As Washington, D.C., students start back to school this week, that’s the thinking behind a new program just launched in the district. As early as October at 14 of 28 D.C. middle schools, students will get paid to perform as part of a pilot program that rewards kids for good grades, attendance and behavior.

Kids could rake in up to $100 per month, getting paid every two weeks through the program.

“These short-term incentives … are intended to ultimately spark our students’ long-term interest in their own education,” said D.C. schools chancellor Michelle Rhee in a statement last Thursday.

Consider for a second that this is occurring while teachers struggle with sub-par salaries and decrepit facilities collapse underneath their own inefficiencies. What’s the message of a school system directing funds away from qualified teachers and programs to instead otherwise truant students. It makes you wonder who this system really seeks to benefit in the long run.

Now I’m no education scholar, but I realize the absolute short-sightedness of this all. Incentivize learning by paying students? If education is teaching the man to fish rather than giving him fish for a day, Rhee’s program is instead giving students a coupon for fish sticks. Congratulations Ms. Rhee, you’ve officially made the obligations of a student “real work,” and I mean work in the literal 9-5 sense. Ignore the obvious misallocation of resources for a second and consider that you are substituting a financial lure (and a pittance at that) for what should be the beginning of a truly inspiring lifelong quest for knowledge. And to what benefit? The appeasement of the PTA? Or the parents of children who cannot seem to make the 3rd period attendance?

Maybe someone can point this out, but I cannot make the connection that Rhee makes when she states that this monthly salary will “spark long-term interest in (students) educations.” I have seen this social phenomenon before in numerous social science experiments featuring children having difficulty resisting short-term gratification in favor of obviously beneficial long-term consequences. I can understand this because it is supposed to be endemic of middle-school age children. My question is, why is Ms. Rhee displaying the same idiosyncrasies?

–Eugene Lee

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1 Comment

Filed under ULOT Thought

One response to “How Much does Inspiration Cost?

  1. Resolute Defense

    I remember when I was a kid and asked my parents why if I could be paid for good grades like some other kids I knew. They told me something I’m going to say to my kids one day: You’re not going to get paid for something you’re supposed to be doing.

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