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Hot Topics: Paying for Good Grades

Hot Topics: Paying for Good Grades

The complaint was aired as soon as the door handle turned: “Dillon’s dad is giving him fifty bucks for his report card!” Your son just received his grades, but the primary thing on his mind isn’t his disappointing mark in social studies. It’s the “injustice” being leveled against him by you, the parent ripping him off while all the “cool dads” fork over a Jackson or two in exchange for a slate of A’s.

The debate over paying for grades has been around as long as grades themselves, yet the topic’s two sides remain confident, persuasive, and divided.

The Case for Paying Up

“It could cost you a lot more if they fail” is one of the most frequent and compelling arguments for rewarding grades with dollars. The potential scholarships that could be thrown at a 4.0 graduate could be worth tens of thousands of dollars to a family’s bottom line. Anything that increases the likelihood of such a scholarship windfall is worth it, they say. Those less concerned with finances have another take: setting your child up for success is life often starts in school.

Studies show that lifetime income directly correlates with level of education. And those who fail in school are less likely to continue in their pursuit of higher education. Alas, empathetic parents can view grades as a tiny investment in a huge, life-changing path toward success.

A third (and most simple) argument: school is like a job, and jobs pay. Who could argue with that? Apparently plenty.

The Argument Against

The primary argument against paying for grades is that it hinders the development of a mature work ethic. Sure, some of adulthood is rewarded financially, but not all. Academia presents an opportunity to learn responsibility disconnected from pay. Moreover, exchanging cash for grades puts even greater emphasis on grades rather than learning. The “cram and dump” method of studying has long been one of the great headaches of educators. Students who value grades above learning are more likely to pursue good test scores over long-term knowledge. And finally, there’s this: studies have shown that financial incentives actually reduce enjoyment of tasks. The pride your child had for that hard-earned A? In a few years, it could be all but gone.

Grade-A Alternatives

The middle ground in this debate doesn’t require much, but it can have a significant impact on your child. Kids--like all of us--hunger for recognition. A financial incentive makes it clear that you value their hard work, but it’s not the only way to celebrate their academic achievement. When their report card hits your mailbox, find ways to celebrate. Perhaps it’s as simple as making their favorite dish for dinner, replacing their plate with a special one, or toasting their high marks with a root beer float.

If you want to treat them to a surprise without spending a dime, a number of well-known brands will foot the bill for your reward. Baskin Robbins will trade a solid report card for a free scoop, Chick Fil A will treat them to a pack of nuggets or a free ice cream if their card shows A’s or B’s, and Krispy Kreme will fork over up to 6 free donuts--one for every A.

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