I work hard for my grades. I always have. If anything, my studying and efforts in the classroom have taught me the values of applying oneself and the success that can follow.
However, it seems I am a dying breed. A recent educational program has caught the attention of the media, students and myself. The Atlanta-based pilot program called “Learn by Earn” is paying students to study. For $8 an hour, selected eighth-graders and eleventh-graders will spend two days a week in a special tutoring program. Those chosen for the program are students with high potential but low academic performance.
The invention of former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, the “Learn by Earn” program hopes to create a positive learning environment and improve the studying habits of poorly performing students. Those in support of it argue that the United States is falling behind in education (true), that other countries such as China and India are producing students with higher skills in math and science in particular (true) and that school systems doing nothing about it are a disservice to the young population (true). But I don’t think a check every two weeks is the right answer.
By paying students to learn, they are, in essence, being bribed for success. What kind of message does this send to those students not asked to participate in the program because they already are hard workers in their studies?
People constantly label our generation and the generations younger than us as egocentric youth. We have grown up thinking we are “special,” receiving trophies for tournaments we didn’t win, ribbons for 10th place, extravagant “Super Sweet Sixteen” parties and pats on the back for saying “please” and “thank you.” Does working hard to simply work hard even matter anymore or must everything come with a prize?
The creators of “Learn by Earn” understand that it may have its faults (duh). The program is still in its infancy, and if it does not have the desired effects, it will be discontinued. Even so, the fact that this type of educational program is even being introduced boggles my mind. What about all of the capable, intelligent, hard-working students who study without the temptation of dollar bills dangling in front of them? Is it too ridiculous in today’s world to expect a student, especially one in high school, to try to apply himself to his own education?
Paying students to study is teaching the wrong lesson. Those getting paid will learn to work to earn, not work to achieve. Those not getting paid, regardless if they are good or bad students, will develop a skewed definition of achievement. They will stop working hard without the monetary benefits available to their peers.
I am interested in seeing what happens in Atlanta. I do think “Learn by Earn” will be effective to a certain extent. Students being paid to study will study and in turn will receive higher grades, but their perceptions of education as well as their own power and intellect will be tested and, I fear, changed for the worse.
All I have to ask is, where is my check?
Taylor Moore is a journalism senior and a Mustang Daily current events columnist.