Thursday, May 6, 2010


I think paying kids to learn is wrong. And yet, educators, and teachers say it's a good idea. Carola, a brainy, sensitive relative, read the post I wrote in March, "Paying Kids to Study" and said, "But it seems to work, Em. As long as we don't have the solutions to make schools better, then maybe some hazard pay is called for."

"But it's not good for kids, Carola," I replied. "Paying them is teaching them that earning money is the most important thing in life."

"Do you think that earning money for basic living expenses is what life is all about? Even if a person tithes, donates dollars to help the poor, and pays taxes that support many of the good things in America -- is that what life is all about?"

I knew Carola didn't think so, and I certainly don't.

Research was published, saying that Texas school kids earning cash for passing exams got better grades, and in college, had better attendance -- statistics in the study showed that it helped Black students more than whites -- 10 percent were more likely to enter college, and 50 percent more likely to stick around till graduation.

The researcher who did the study for the National Bureau of Economic Research said, "It (paying kids) gives cool-minded kids an alibi for success --'I don't like math but I'm saving for an X-box.'"

That's what's bothering me, Mr. Researcher. Kids learn what life is all about from what they do and see. School opens their eyes to ideas. Discovering a new idea excites a kid, and that's IT -- it can be sports, art, teaching, writing -- or the bible, an adventure story, an historical character, a teacher, whatever ...

School days are so brief, such a small part of your life, and school is the time to look around, to dream and dare to wonder, picture, feel out what you would like to do.

If you're paid, the PAY is probably going to be what inspires you -- money becomes IT, the thing you want more than anything else.

I can't help thinking, based on my life and lives of others whom I admire, that the most important thing in life is what you do.

Attention researchers, educators, experts, and Carola -- instead of paying kids to study, use that money to pay the teachers to study, think up new ways to influence and intrigue student -- get the teachers inventing projects that'll capture their students' imaginations -- challenge the kids, get them doing more.

Doing gives you energy, and courage to do more, and more.

It gives you a powerful sense of yourself.

To do, is to be alive.

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