Over the years, I've been concerned with what we actually teach our children when we do fund raising things for our schools. First, there's always a catalog full of things no one really needs. I suppose there's an argument that during the Obligatory Gift Giving Season people "need" gift wrap. But no one needs gift wrap that is that expensive -- even if it is high quality. I mean c'mon? It usually gets ripped off the package, and thus is not reuse-able, and since it's really all ink, it's not recyclable. But I digress. The kids get a sheet to go with their fund raising catalog. That sheet tells them what they'll "win" when they sell either a certain number of items, or when they hit certain dollar amounts in sales. The more they sell, the bigger the "prizes" are. While this may be a lovely incentive, I've always wished that the money that goes for all those stupid geegaws could just go to the school (you have to sell hundreds of dollars' worth of stuff to "win" any prize of any value). Fund raising is necessary -- the schools do not get enough money from the state to do what needs to be done. Fine. But fund raising is also a great opportunity to teach the kids philanthropy. Instead of winning cheap plastic magnifying glasses... the kids could learn to be proud of what they've built. They could learn how good it feels to do good for others. Instead, they learn to be greedy -- to want more things -- to strive only for material gain.
This has bugged me for years. And now... I've learned that our schools are using the same tactics to get the kids to do the things they're supposed to be doing anyway. Yep. Not only do we bribe our kids to help raise money for new computers or band trips or football teams, we bribe them to come to class, do their home work, and refrain from behaving horrifically in the halls.
Somewhere along the road someone decided that it's the school's job to teach our kids certain values. It's not the parents' job anymore to be sure that their kids don't drop out of school, it's the school's job to entice them to stay. It's not the parent's job to be sure the that the kids show up for school, it's the schools' job to lure them in. And evidently, it's not the parents' job to get them to behave like responsible students when they're in the building.... it's the schools job. (Huh??) So, the schools have adopted various programs designed to get the kids to come to school, behave like civilized people while they're there, and resist the urge to drop out. Oh yeah... and do their homework once in a while. What they SAY they're doing is encouraging kids to stay in school, graduate, stay out of trouble, do their homework. They believe that they're instilling the value that education is important; that it's valuable. I think they're teaching consumerism and greed. I believe that they're teaching kids to expect payment for doing the bare minimum.
Here are some examples:
In the middle schools (and possibly at other levels), there is a program in our district under which the teachers try to catch the students doing something good (for which there are, allegedly, criteria). When a teacher catches a student doing something good, he or she fills out a form, and submits it to the right place. I do not know whether the kids get copies. These forms also qualify the kids for raffles. Last week, one student was awarded a $100.00 gift certificate to WalMart in that raffle. My youngest knows this girl. When she asked the student what she did to get the award, the girl told her that she got it in science when she was just doing her work.
Now, I'm all for recognizing kids for doing good things. But don't we want to instill a sense of pride about doing good things instead of a sense of entitlement to material rewards for doing good things? Pride comes with recognition -- we don't need the money part. The money part, in fact, detracts a bit from the pride. It also creates the expectation that they'll received something tangible for doing what they're supposed to do.
Similarly, there's a huge doo-dah every quarter for the Honors kids. They hold a dance party with pizza etc, for which the kids get to skip their regular classes. I don't know whether there are prizes too... but the school spends money, and takes away instruction time, to celebrate good grades. I'm all for encouraging kids to get good grades. Heck, and Honors thing once a semester even makes sense, I guess. But they sure spend a lot of money doing it -- there's a separate party for each grade. I would likely approve of this if the other things weren't in play.
Next up... the State's Standard Achievement Test. We're gearing up to take them again. This means that we stop the regular curriculum (which clearly doesn't prepare the kids for the standard tests) so that we can prepare them to take the test. They've also got another incentive program going here: those kids who "Stand Up To" the _SAT's will earn a green ticket. The green ticket gets them into a big dance party (during school hours), where they'll have a DJ,and pizza and other fun things... and a raffle. The raffle will include several prizes, the top one of which is a $200.00 shopping spree!! And you know what they have to do to get that green ticket? They have to avoid disciplinary infractions during the preparation for and days of the test. They have to come to school on time, and sit quietly without disturbing the class in the test. Hello? They have to behave like responsible students. And someone is going to go home with two hundred freaking dollars for doing what I expect as a matter of course.
And now, they're using class time for questionable fund raisers. We know they need fund raisers, after all, how else are they going to pay for all these awards. The latest game? They had all the kids take a "friend survey" in their social studies classes. This survey covered things like hobbies, favorite foods, favorite kinds of house, self descriptions (artistic/athletic) and other things It's to help them identify which students in their grade would be good friends. They're doing e-harmony in middle school. And the best part? They can't get the results of this survey (which I guess will identify the students that the survey system thinks will be good friend potentials for each student) without paying $2.00 for them. They're using class time for a questionable survey asking personal questions about the students, which questions can't be anonymous for the whole thing to work, and then charging for the results. In a school where a significant percentage of the students qualify for free lunch, and thus are unlikely to be able to afford the results. Does this seem wrong to anyone else? How about the fact that NO notification of this event was given to the parents.... that the students only had 2 days (well, a day and half) notice?