Paying Students to get Good Grades

On the Colbert Report, the guest was Roland Fryer.  Fryer is an economics professor.  He has noticed that black students are the lowest minority gaining an education.  So he has applied his economics into society.  Basically, use the free market to encourage kids to study as an incentive.  In other words, if the students get good grades, pay them money.  This is for everyone, and so far it’s been implemented in Chicago, Washington D.C., and New York.  Fryer’s website is here.  In fact, you can see the whole Colbert interview here for the whole context.

It’s a radical concept, but it may work.  I have my views on it, although it’s still developing.  But I wanted to see what everyone else thought before I express my views.

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About shaunmiller

I am a Ph. D student at Marquette University. The primary purpose of this blog is to get my ideas out there, and then have other people scrutinize, critique, build upon, and systematize beliefs. This blog will sometimes pertain to what I'm learning in my classes, but it will occasionally deal with non-classroom issues that I'm thinking about as well.
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8 Responses to Paying Students to get Good Grades

  1. Killer J says:

    At first blush, that seems like a good idea. It seems really easy to exploit though.

  2. Nicole says:

    It has it’s pros and cons but if there’s money to support this theory then I say go for it. If it helps get people educated then there is nothing wrong with that. People will end up smarter and happier with a bit of change in their pocket. But I would just loathe all the nerds who would just reap all the benefits without lifting a finger….so to speak.

  3. shaunmiller says:

    I know what you mean, Killer J. I think exploitation could easily come out, but I think we’re using “exploitation” differently.

    I’m assuming that when you use “exploitation,” you mean something like “taking advantage of something economically.” It’s basically the same thing as what Nicole’s saying. While I sympathize with that view, I’m worried about another type of exploitation where it means “commodified to the point of alienation.”

    What I mean is that if this program does work out, I think the long-term outcome will be disastrous. People will no longer try to gain an education for the sake of gaining wisdom, but because of some other benefit, namely money. In this sense, knowledge will no longer be a special value. Education will become totally instrumental and people will see education as simply a means.

    Now I know that most people see education and knowledge as something instrumental, but I think this program may cause this even more. I think people will see education as more of a chore or purely as work. That’s how we see work nowadays: something that we don’t like, but we have to do. I think education will become like this too.

  4. Killer J says:

    You know, you’re probably right. When I was a kid, education WAS totally instrumental. My Dad would talk with me about the virtues of having knowledge and wisdom, but at the time, it fell on deaf ears.
    I hated school, hated learning, hated class… everything. So, my parents would bribe me. If I got great grades come report card time(which I usually did), my parents would buy me a video game.

    You could say I was externally motivated, but somehow, I ended up becoming internally motivated to learn. Why else would I end up LIKING the subjects I was studying? Why would I bother reading your blog, and posting, for that matter? Well, I enjoy learning.

    I don’t know why the transition happened, or even specifically when it happened. It just did. Maybe it’s an age thing, which would be good news for this program. By the time they got to late high school, early college age they would want to learn and would be in the position to continue their education due to their monetarily rewarded success earlier in life.

  5. Nicole says:

    Wasn’t this money going to be a scholarship? If not, then I’m a genius. Why don’t they put good grades into a scholarship fund for the student? Then it’s back to the simplicity of good grades gets you a scholarship – not what race you are. However, I am fortunate to have Asian in me to get a $12,000 scholarship without even asking for it.

  6. shaunmiller says:

    Interesting Killer J. I was thinking it would go the other way around, but your example shows that this may be the motivation to stimulate learning.

    I was thinking that may end up like a job. With all jobs, they start out as fun. But over time, you only work because of the pay and you no longer care about the work involved.

    As for Nicole, the money actually goes to the student. Watch the clip. You get paid $50 per class every five weeks if you maintain an “A.”

  7. Anonymus says:

    To must kids, school work is like a job. They hate doing it but do it because they have to. If the kids aren’t being paid, then the parents are the ones who are making a kid do his or er homework. Say you let a kid not do his or her homework for a week. Most kids will just slack of and not do it. Some of course will still do it. But with money motivating kids, even a little bit, they will do their homework with out parents have to tell them. It is like giving an allowance to do jobs around the house.

  8. shaunmiller says:

    Anonymus, I understand your position. The thing I’m worried about is that if we start paying kids to get good grades, then they’ll eventually see education as something not intrinsically valuable anymore. They’ll educate themselves, not because education and knowledge is a good thing, but because it gets them toward something else: money. There will be a shift in what is valuable when it comes to knowledge. With this shift, knowledge will become (if it hasn’t already) a commodity.

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