Monday, March 12, 2007

Paying students for grades

On mornings that I do not get up with Scott, I sometimes watch a little bit of the morning program, Today. While watching this program usually makes me want to vomit due to the unnaturally polished faces as well as the smut that those reporters call "news" (sorry folks, but whether or not Anna Nicole Smith is buried in the Bahamas is not news), I cannot rip myself away. As you may already know, I am a "Bad TV" junky. But there's another reason for watching this filth from time to time. I am fascinated by the information that is presented to the America that seriously watches programs like that for their only source of news. I find myself learning a lot about the moral fabric we have created in this country. Unfortunately, awareness usually brings a deep sadness.

I watched a little bit of Today this morning, and they were presenting us with this brand new program designed to pay students for their grades. I remember friends of mine mentioning a financial reward for their As and Bs, and I know that this practice exists throughout the country, depending on the household. Apparently, the Advanced Placement program (remember those AP classes you could take?) has done a little research into this "Pay for grades" practice and have decided to create a "scholarship fund" to pay AP students for the grades they earn in their AP classes.

After the smarmy AP men presented their ideas, Dr. Keith (the Today show's equivalent of Dr. Phil) responded with his feeling that this practice is wrong because it will not teach students the value of internal motivation. Poor Dr. Keith could barely get his words out when AP men, full of smirks and hypertension, cut in and said again that this is only a "scholarship" program designed to help students pay for college. AND, they added, it would help teachers get bonuses they deserve for a job well done IF their students do well on the exam. So, not only are we bribing students, we are also bribing teachers to work harder as well. Dr. Keith, of course, reminded us that the teachers that inspired us most in our school days were the ones that were motivated out of the desire for the students to LEARN and not necessarily earn good grades.

As a college teacher, I am continually facing what was or was not done at the Public/Private/Home School level. Many of them cannot write. I don't just mean the occasional misspelled word or run-on sentence, I mean they don't even know they can't write. Send them to the Writing Center, you say? Sure. Like they're going to miss their fraternity/sorority meetings to go to a stupid Writing Center. They don't know how to read. You must be thinking to yourselves, oh come on you MUST be exaggerating! But no. I have had to point out to my students that they not only have Listening Guides that accompany each track of music on their CDs (so they know for what to listen), but there's also a glossary and an index if they need to look up specific terms and/or composers. This was a revelation for some of them. While I am very happy to help these students hone their learning/studying skills, I'm a bit reluctant to think that I should be doing this at the college level.

One of the reasons, I believe, for this lack of learning skill is due to things like the MEAP as well as certain bribes, like the ones addresses above. I do not believe students understand why school is necessary. I have heard many of my students say that the only reason they are going to college is 1.) to have fun and 2.) to get that piece of paper that allows them to apply for a high-paying job. This is what they learn in school. Somehow, along the way, they got it in their heads that a college degree (NOT an education) is their ticket to financial security. Further, the fact that financial security is a reason for being in school makes me want to cry. These zombies will continue this attitude after college- the only reason they will be in their jobs is to make money, the only reason they make money is to send their kids to college so their kids can make money, and so on.

Can somebody PLEASE tell me why money is so important?! Yes, money gets us stuff. That stuff in turn makes us happy. I just went through a whole bunch of old stuff of mine in my parents' basement yesterday. It smelled like the basement and no longer made me happy. I have a lot of stuff around the house. Do I think about all of my stuff on a daily basis in order to feel happy? No! Eventually, I get tired of my stuff and get rid of it. What makes me happy, then? People. My friends. My family. SOME of my students- when I feel that they are "Getting" it. My cat. The anticipation of spring. The thought that there's a life inside me. Did I go to college for any of these things? In terms of friends, that was kind of an added bonus. I didn't get family in college, except for Scott, but again, that was, as they say, icing on the cake. Did I get financial security? Heck no! And neither did very many of my friends, and I'm not talking exclusively about the musicians. Are we all unhappy because many of us are financially unstable? Heck no! I feel more rich than George Bush any day.

So, I'm rambling. But I am curious to hear your thoughts about paying for grades. Is it sending the wrong message, or is it creating at least some kind of motivation for students in a society that is incapable of teaching the concept of internal motivation?

I just spell-checked my post and it showed me that CDs was incorrect. Apparently, CD's is the preferred spelling by this program. What is it that the CD owns?! So much for the spell-check designer's education!


Animal said...

Of course I feel that learning is its OWN reward, and I think the practice of paying a kid for her grades is shameful. I'd like to CELEBRATE Roslyn getting all A's, but PAY her for it? I guess that's the "child-of-a-teacher" coming out in me.

On the other hand...that concept of "paying" AP students in the form of money for college...well, yeah, that's kind of a slippery slope, isn't it? Colleges across the world give financial awards to students based on their grades; are these academic scholarships really so different from paying students for their grades? "Here, Roz, I'll give you $10 for each A you get." Mmmm...not so much. "Here, Roz, you graduated from high school with a 3.95 GPA, here's a $10k scholarship." Is that a subtle difference...or the exact same thing, simply reworded?

Mike said...

When i first met my father-in-law he asked why i was in college? To which i replied, "why, to get an education." This concept blew his mind that i had to real long term professional goals. Thanks god i was just dating his daughter, we weren't going to get married or anything. whew.

The concept of a degree equates to financial security is not recent. i met many women working or their MRS. degrees at Central.

Most of your students, unfortunately, just want to be told what they need to pass, so it can be brained-dumped later when a career and important, non-artsy stuff can take it's place.

Sucks, but hey...i'm the cynic. a concept to help with regards to taking a horse to water but it not drinking....figure out a way to salt the oats.

Mike said...

oh yeah, TAKE 5's are the greatest candy bar evah

sdb said...

Paying your child for any "achievement" is a slippery slope.

This AP program just enforces the attitude that if I do something special, I need something for it. I shouldn't just do good things because they are the right things to do.

L*I*S*A said...

Nope, no paying for grades here. I am a perfect example of intrinsic motivation for good grades.

I'm 38 years old, a new-again college student, and while passing the class is never the issue (yet), I push myself to get the "A" because that's just how I am. I want that "A" for me, and nothing else. I don't know how that was ingrained into me, but I'm thankful it's there.

One thing we try to do with Tyler is to introduce him to something different every so often SIMPLY FOR THE SAKE OF LEARNING. It sounds hokey, but learning is lifelong.

I know that our current societal views are depressing at times, but the bottom line is this: we live here, and unfortunately, it's not about to change anytime soon.

I know that change starts with me, but I have a lot of people who don't share my views.

It's exhausting.

Steph said...

I think this generation of college students is suffering from a massive delusional sense of entitlement. They think they are owed an education with good grades attached and if you don't give them good grades you personally are sabotaging their chances to make money, ergo be happy and succeed in life.

That CDs vs. CD's thing totally pisses me off too. Also centuries: 1900's vs. 1900s. Urg.

Steph said...

And what, is the AP program like a corporation now? Are they a subsidiary of Halliburton or something?