Tuesday, July 01, 2008

NYC Bribes Students To Improve Academic Performance

Parents paying little Johnny or Suzie for each "A" on their report cards is a tried and true motivational strategy well known within America's more affluent families.

But when New York City herself gets into the act, it's natural to wonder if this practice has gone just a bit too far. Under a new system, high school students getting high scores on advanced placement exams could earn thousands of dollars in prize money!

From an article in the New York Times:
The city is expanding the use of cash rewards for students who take standardized tests with a $1 million effort financed by philanthropists who will pay students who do well on Advanced Placement exams.

High school students who get a top score, a five, on the exams will earn $1,000. A score of four will be worth $750, while a three will earn $500.

What do I think?

America has, in so many ways, devolved in recent decades into a culture of middling results and expectations based on the luxury of denial that affluence affords. Nowhere is this more evident than in our schools. In my opinion, the sorry state of education in our nation is so dire and desperate that we should do whatever works, whatever it takes, to turn things around. And if this means local governments colluding with private benefactors to bribe students into working harder on academics, so be it!

Relying on greed to motivate kids to do their work is a pretty miserable thing to have to do, and the need to do so says it all regarding the sad state of affairs in early 21st century America. Sure, learning for its own sake and for that of personal development and character building should be the norm. But this truly is an emergency, and we truly do need to find a way to climb out of the whole into which we've dug ourselves. Remembering that "if wishes were horses, beggars would ride," it's far too late for us to categorically say "no" to anything that might work to reverse our national slide into horrifying mediocrity.

If bribing students gets them to work harder and achieve more, and taxpayer money isn't involved ... I say that's fine, for now.

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