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Where was all of this cash for good grades when I was in school?
The first whipping I got in school was in the first grade at Main Street Elementary in Gainesville, Ga. Miss Winters laid my little innocent self across her lap and spanked me for not doing as well as my brother, Kenneth, who preceded me by four years.
I wet all over that teacher.
Kenneth, you see, was the firstborn in our family, and Mother took time to teach him some things before he got to school. He knew about our native tongue and its alphabet when he first walked into Miss Winters’ room. I knew only that mealtime came when the big hand and the little hand were both straight up.
But I’ve been thinking: Miss Winters could have preserved a lot of energy, not to mention her dry lap, if she had paid me for making better grades. Would that have been too much to ask? Just a quarter now and then for doing better work? Maybe a dollar if I did really, really well?
The idea, as you know, is not that far-fetched. Some schools are trying it. Maybe not in the first grade, but certainly with fourth-graders and higher.
In suburban Atlanta, a pair of schools paid 8th- and 11th-grade students $8 an hour for a 15-week “Learn & Earn” after-school study program.
In New York City, students in fourth and seventh grades could win as much as $500 for improving their scores on the city’s English and math tests.
In Baltimore, high school students could “earn” up to $110 for raising their scores on state assessment tests.
In Albuquerque, N.M., a kid could get $300 if he attended 90 percent of his classes.
A professor at Harvard thinks the concept has merit.
But why didn’t somebody think of this when I was in school? I could have given up my paper route and stayed home every afternoon to study. I would have foregone listening to the Lone Ranger on the radio and watching Howdy Doody on TV if somebody had kicked in a few bucks for good grades.
My buddy Jimmy in high school could have been spared a life of crime if he’d collected a nice stash in school and seen the benefits of applying himself as an honest citizen.
Kids from poor families could have bought new Keds before their bare feet, instead of the rubber, hit the road. All of us could have shown that, yes, success is its own reward, but money talks louder.
Did I miss anything? Have I named all the benefits of paying students to do well in school? If so, I apologize. The ramifications are so immense.
After further consideration, however, I think I was better off not getting bribes for studying hard. I might have grown up thinking the government owed me everything. All I had to do was take up space on the planet.
Just give my grandkids a good teacher and a straight chair to sit in.
You can keep your cash.
Phil Hudgins’ column is published in many newspapers around the Southeast.