My friend, Ben Shapiro, reported that Los Angeles Unified School District is giving away free cars, cash and iPads to kids who show up to school every day. In the article, he suggests that LAUSD is focused on attendance because the union teachers and administration get $32 per “backside” in seat, amounting to $156 million in losses for kids cutting class this year.
I debated this topic this week on Fox News with Tamara Holder. My points notwithstanding about whether this is fair or just, the question for me becomes, “Is it psychologically and culturally destructive?” I believe it is.
Tamara adamantly disagreed. “These are private companies,” she said in the interview on “Your World with Neil Cavuto.” “I have worked in the city and I’ve seen that a lot of parents aren’t involved in their children’s education because they don’t have an education of their own, they don’t value it, or whatever. … but here private individuals coming in and saying … there is actually a value in going to class and you do get something, you do get rewarded.”
Cavuto asked, “What does that say about our society now that you have to pay kids off this way to get them to go to school?”
It says a lot more than we may want to admit.
The messages we send our children are critical. Psychologically, an elementary or junior-high student will have trouble distinguishing that they will one day need to do more than "show up" to get a reward.
Sports teams in schools are now awarding "participation" trophies. Kids are given "awards" for self-esteem, rather than athletic or academic accomplishment. This is not only unproductive, this is damaging to our children and their future for several reasons:
1) To reward children for merely existing creates graduates who expect the same as they enter the real world. It is no wonder that students believe they are more gifted academically than ever before. They've been told they are great just for warming a chair in a classroom.
2) Children tend to internalize messages they learn early on. Many problems in adulthood stem from childhood experiences. This mentality will be hard to change later in life. This will create adults who still believe that merely showing up is more important than excelling.
3) The entitlement mentality is destructive. Suicide rates are at an historic high, especially among baby boomers. The reason? Government programs have replaced the friend, neighbor, family member, church and charity. The person knocking on the door, coming to help has turned into a nameless/faceless electronic funds transfer from the government. Isolation turns to depression, then to suicide.
4) It omits intrinsic value. Children need to learn to develop their ability to appreciate things based not on material gain, but rather on wisdom or character gathered along the way. Otherwise, tough times in life will hit much harder, and their coping skills into adulthood will be diminished.
When I was in college, I would interview professors before taking classes to find out if they had an attendance policy. I had little respect for those who did, because I learned early that attendance policies often meant vacuous class content, and I didn't have time for that. I refused to take classes from professors with attendance policies because I knew my time was valuable. I planned to go to grad school, and I knew if I wanted a valuable class, I needed to take them from someone who made me want to come to class. This strategy prepared me well, and I graduated as the first ever, female president of the Psychological Honor Society, because I applied the approach to the courses I paid for and spent my time well.
Then, when I became a university teacher, I knew to have no attendance policy. But let me assure you, my students showed up for my class. My students know that if they miss one day, it will affect their future. That's not because I downgrade them for it, but because I make sure that there is value and worth in what I teach in every class, to the best of my ability. That is my challenge and my responsibility as an instructor.
Tamara Holder's argument that private funds are used rather than public money is irrelevant. Rewarding children for merely showing up is psychologically damaging, no matter where the money comes from. We create one more occupier each time we give a child an award for achieving nothing.
California graduation is among the worst, with union teacher pay at the very top in the country. There should be value in each day that should signal intrinsic motivation to be in class every day. That is the responsibility of the school, not the students.
Although I am no fan of teachers' unions, I would rather have the prizes be given to teachers who garnered attendance through potent instruction than to students who did nothing more than show up. That would seem to be a better investment of our resources. Then, if businesses are still feeling charitable, they can give academic awards to students who excel, improve or have special needs expenses.
The best answer remains. Privatize education, and then taxpayers won't have to fund the overpriced educations and educators can get back to the business of reading, writing and arithmetic, and not have the $156 million temptation to give away $18,000 cars to get backsides in seats.
Can I have a little "school choice?" Hey, I showed up.