Monday, June 08, 2009

Big Gains for Paying Kids to Do Well

See this article.

To be completely non-PC, I think this is actually a good idea. As Alexander Sidorkin argues (paraphrasing badly from my memory of some of the articles this book is based on) in many places, especially in low-income schools focused on test prep, education is simply a form of forced labor. (It's no accident that you often have to look twice to figure out whether a building is either a school or a prison.)

Okay, so let's pay them for it. Let's stop pretending we know how to make low income schools feel less like prison or a child-labor sweatshop. At least child-laborers get paid.

(If it's wonderful constructivist learning, well, then we don't need to pay them).


Praxis test said...

Its true that in the low-income schools education is forced labor.Good to know that you are going to help them. keep going. I am with you.

Anonymous said...

There are many examples of schools serving low-income children that provide well-rounded learning experiences and that children enjoy going to. If you actually visited schools you would know this.

Unknown said...

I'm not sure how I feel about this, the most important question to me is whats going to happen to their grades when they are put into a situation where the rewards are not immediate?

Aaron Schutz said...

To Anonymous, I would say that of course there are many wonderful things happening with good teachers in poor kids' schools. But I doubt much of this is related to the increasing frenzy about preparation for standardized tests. It's hard to see this kind of test-focused preparation as anything but unpaid labor.

To mnelson17, I would ask, would you do your own job if nobody paid you to do it?

If not, then why should kids do jobs that people make them do without getting paid?

To some extent, I think this "what will they do when rewards aren't immediate" question is something of a red herring. Kids do lots of stuff on their own that don't have immediate rewards. Ever see 12 year olds practicing all day trying to jump their skateboard without flipping over? Schools are not the same as life.

Furthermore, as I have argued elsewhere, for many low-income kids of color there is in fact little hope for much of a long term payoff for studying in school. They see people all around them that graduated school in one way or another and are barely hanging on.

Think of it this way. Imagine you had a one hundred thousand dollars. Would you spend all that money buying lottery tickets? For some kids of color in central city schools, working like hell for a future of not much is something like spending all your money (or time) on lottery tickets that are very unlikely to pay off.

Someone on another blog mentioned a passage in Vankatesh's book on gangs where he talks about how the low-level drug dealers started asking him if he could get them jobs as janitors in the university once they found out he worked there. Janitor was a higher step on the scale--and better paid--than drug dealing. But they couldn't get a good janitor job.

This is the world we are talking about.

Unknown said...

Yes I do have a job, and no I wouldn't do it if I wasn't getting paid for it, but School and Work are two different things even though School can feel at times as if it is a job. I also have a volunteer job where I don't get paid but I continue to do it because I can see the benefit it will have in the long run, this is not the same as the 1 year old practicing kick flips on his spare time, and I am sure that the kid that is practicing his kick flips just so he can show off later on does not work as hard a the kid who hopes to become the next Tony Hawk.

You work differently depending on what goals you have, these kids receiving money for passing test have very short term goals opposed to the child that really has a firm belief that what they learn today will benefit them in the long run. It is my opinion that it is better to teach a child the dedication it takes to achieve goals in the long run then to encourage them to learn ways to accomplish short term goals.

As far as there being very little to look forward to in the long run for children of color in low income households, this is not a fact at all and can not be qualified by any study or research. If we look at the accomplishments made by low income children of color who were able to complete college then we wouldn't pigeon hole them what they can only achieve if they get out of high school. Getting out of high school should only be the first step and I think this is where the difference in short term and long term goals come in at, if all we want is for these children to get out of high school then sure, giving them money to increase motivation might work, but why should we settle for just that.

Anonymous said...

Again, Schutz would learn more about poor children and the schools they attend if he climbed off his soapbox and actually visted their schools and talked to them.

Craig A. Cunningham said...

I don't think Anonymous has any idea what experiences Aaron has in poor urban schools...and, moreover, this is a stupid ad hominem argument. This blog isn't about Aaron's's about ideas...let's talk about that.