Wednesday, May 20, 2009

On Cash for Class

The Chester Upland School District is considering giving each of its 363 students entering ninth grade this year a $50 bonus for attending a 20-day accelerated learning program during the summer.
There are those who would say this is bribery, and they may very well be right. But that begs the question: So what?

See, most things in life (the things that work, anyway) get done through the subtle art of bribery. You want me to help you move? Then you know to provide beer and pizza. You want me to vote for your handgun bill? You better give me a vote on my health care plan. You want me to fix the leaking roof? Then we are going to do some weird stuff tonight in bed.

Just look at the expenditures in Iraq and Afghanistan. How much of that is funneled to local despots just to ensure troops can pass through a particular area unmolested, or that supplies reach their intended destination? How much to ensure good intel from spies, or that guards can't be bought off?

See, in the real world, people (ideally) get paid for the work they do, or whatever is produced from their efforts. Since school is supposed to prepare students for work (which we all know it does not) then it follows that paying students for the work they perform in school is maybe not all that bad an idea - granted you pay based on the work produced (read: grade received).
None of this is new stuff, by the way, just a rehash of some old ideas.

Charlotte Hummel, the eminently quotable school board director from the William Penn School District, chimed in on the Daily Times Web site to suggest that instead of a bonus, summer jobs could be found for these students. Which also wouldn't be such a bad idea if it didn't totally ignore the class aspect - you know, the point of the bonus?

CUSD Empowerment Board Chairman Marc Woolley tabled the cash plan in the face of some pretty staunch disapproval from fellow board members. He suggested other incentives, however, like a field trip to an amusement park.
Again, that's a bribe, and it's fine by me, but it should also be merit-based. You know, like sports. Tell the kids at the beginning of the school year: You don't hit a certain GPA, you ain't goin' to Disneyland (or, more likely, Hershey Park). Mark my words: You put caveats on rewards that have hither-to been perceived as inalienable rights and kids will respond accordingly. Just see how many moan at first, then put their heads down and get to work.

Granted, this won't work on everyone. I wouldn't have given a damn about a field trip when I was in school and $50 was easy enough to find if I really needed it, so there's a percentage you just won't be able to reach with anything short of the threat of being press-ganged aboard a Somali pirate ship (which, come to think of it, probably wouldn't have worked on me, either).
For the most part, though, bribes get results - doesn't matter if you're in the Senate or a hostile foreign land or high school. So I say by all means, hit the feds up for the funding and spread the cash around a little.
Just don't let 'em spend it all at Harrah's.