Education Reformation:Rewards

If I were allowed to accomplish one goal before I died, it would be to completely reform America’s public school system.  I told that to my aunt the other day and all she had to say was, “Good luck!”  It seems we all know our school system is failing, we’re just ignoring it.  The attitude that I have observed in people (and politicians) is that education, while serious, is low on priorities in our nation today.  After all, look at how many irons we have in the fire right now: a two-front war, healthcare reformation, and an economic recession.  And those are merely the “big” three.  Is it any wonder there’s no more energy and resources left to use towards our kids?   Here’s my argument: had America been more focused on education to begin with, we wouldn’t be dealing with the sticky situations that we are currently in.  The honest truth is that we need to invest in education to get out of these messes, as well. I am going to discuss the three basic changes (over three separate posts) that I believe American education needs to make in order to sharpen our childrens’ minds and improve the state of our people.  Here is change #1:

About three years ago, I had a brief job at an elementary school library.  There was a teacher there who had a candy bucket by her desk.  She dolled out these suckers, starbursts, jolly ranchers, etc. as prizes for good behavior, good grades, correctly answering a question, etc.  Any time you did something right, you got a treat.  Now, I never got to observe her class close enough to legitimately research the reactions from the kids, but going on supposition….what message do you suppose her students got from this method?  Kids (especially young kids) are pretty literal.  They probably learned that doing something correct=getting a treat. 

This method is not exclusive to the teacher I knew.  It is called the reward system and I hate it.  We should not be training our kids to think that whenever they do the right thing, they’ll get something good out of it.  That is a dangerous (not to mention false) lesson that will hurt our kids later in life.  I want to see kids with character!  Kids who are told to do good simply because it is good.  I want to see it explained that many times when we do the right thing we will suffer for it, not be rewarded. 

I’ve watched many teachers play this “reward game” to keep order in the classroom.  I understand that it is hard to keep kids under control.  I have worked with kids of all ages at church functions (Sunday School and Vacation Bible School), through my work at a Bible camp as well as working at two different school libraries.  Kids can be frustrating and they are almost always disruptive.  I am not denying that dangling a piece of candy or extra credit in front of a student will keep him or her in line.  I am questioning the ethics of it.  I call it bribery.  I was watching The Andy Griffith show the other night and have to wonder: what happened to the days when not doing your homework earned you the teacher’s ire and completing your assignments earned merely her smile?  Life used to be as simple as that. 

So what would I do instead of rewards?  Push history!!  Don’t just give kids briefly written textbooks that tell a timeline of events and expect them to be riveted by it.  Tell kids entire stories.  Pound into their minds on a daily basis the truth about life.  Do whatever it take so that those students hear about Corrie Ten Boom, who hid Jews from the nazis and was tortured at a concentration camp or Martin Luther King, Jr., who was murdered for standing against racism and fighting for Human Rights.  Tell them modern stories about September 11 and heroes who died that day.  Tell them local stories of people in your area.  Read books. Put on plays. Watch movies.  Channel these lessons into their heads however you can.  And then live these values in front of them yourself.  This will not solve problems in the school, but it would teach subtle lessons the same way the reward system does. 

If you’re a teacher, you’re rolling your eyes about now.  I know I appear to be living in fantasy land if I think this will “make it all better.”  But please don’t be offended by this next comment.  Out of all the cases of class disruption I’ve witness or heard about, 8/10 times fault can be placed on the teacher, not the student.  Normally, when kids are misbehaving or not doing their homework or any other number of things that are wrong, it is because they are either a) bored or b) they have realized that the teacher doesn’t care about them, they are no more than a number.

Sincerely care about your kids–and show them that you care–and they will produce the results you desire.  Class troublemakers are usually the smartest ones in the class, but if teachers don’t spend extra time investing in them an channeling their creativity into something inspirational, those kids struggle through school and some don’t graduate at all.  Teachers will have bad days; its what they sign up for when they decide to work with kids.  If you can’t handle the chaos of children, can I humbly beg you to pursue a different occupation?  Teaching positions are too important to be filled by unqualified individuals.

To the wonderful teachers out there who inspire instead of bribe: THANK YOU!!

(change #2– My beef:Why schools need to push health and nutrition.  Look for it soon!)


4 Responses

  1. […] series on Education Reformation in America.  This entry is part two.  Part one can be found here.  […]

  2. […] Comments Education Reformatio… on Education Reformation:Rew…Shawn on A Grand Entrance!Shawn on Healthcare pollShawn on a nice quoteShawn on […]

  3. I had a History teacher in 7th grade named Mr. Conklin. Instead of reading out of the book he would tell these amazing stories. It was almost like you were there. You could feel the battles. You could hear the anguish. I learned more in that class than any other History class in my life.

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