Getting Paid to Learn

So of course you know that I tuned into Black in America on CNN. I damn near ran home to make sure that I recorded it and didn't miss a second of this experience. While CNN did a good job in informing their audience about the issues that effect African Americans, I think that for us it simply showed us what we go through on a day to day basis. One day I would rather see someone come up with some solutions to all of these problems.


Yesterday one of my fellow bloggers Freeman posted a comment after my post on Crabs in a Barrel and commended me on coming up with a solution to the syndrome. While I didn't come up with a solution that would end the Crab in a Barrel syndrome for good, I created a Support Group amongst my friends and offered to give everyone else the template for starting one.

So with this comment in mind, I was eager to see if CNN would point out any solutions to the many issues that effect our community. With Pen and Pad in hand, my eyes stayed glued to the screen, patiently waiting to jot down all of the solutions that would be offered. While there wasn't solutions jumping out of the screen onto my paper, one guy did come up with one.


Harvard economist Dr. Roland G. Fryer believes that to fix the Public Education system and to close the gap between African Americans and their other counterparts, students should be paid to achieve. He believes that students need some type of motivation. With test scores at in all time low, he thinks that giving them money will inspire the children to want to study and get high scores.

For every test students can gain up to $25 depending on their score. When Soledad O’Brien asked students what they thought about this, four students spoke out and said that it encourages them to want to do better and since parents get paid for their work, they should also. One boy said that he is saving his money for college and plans on giving some of it to his dad to pay bills. Another student said that she was saving it to go towards college also. While this program has already brought a lot of controversy, some parents say that they have already seen a positive change in their children.


I had already heard about this program before, but it was interesting seeing how the students reacted to the program. I set for a moment thinking about if I thought the program was a good idea. After a few moments of going back in forth and understanding the pros and cons, I concluded that I thought the program was a good idea, with some stipulations.

Students obviously need some type of motivation to help them achieve under the conditions of the inner city. Money of course is always good motivation for anyone. It is a good idea as long as children are taught what to do with the money. It is enlightening to hear that a lot of the students want to put it towards college and helping their family. Within the program there should be lessons on saving and beneficial spending. They should also know that if they work hard in school they can receive even more money because they will be able to get good paying jobs. This is something that every student should learn anyways. Maybe when they grow up they will not make bad spending decisions like many adults do today.


This program is still be tested out and the results will not be released until later on. While we wait, Keeping up with the Huxtables would like to commend Mr. Fryer for trying to come up with a solution to our education system and lack of motivation from our children. Even if his solution does not work, he did something instead of just talking about it.

What do you think about his program?

Do you think that it could really help close the gap, or will it hurt students more in the long run?

Also what did you think about CNN's Black in America?



Jenn said...


I'm a longtime reader and I absolutely love your blog.

I raced home to catch the show and take notes last night, as well, and I have to say that I was a bit dissapointed. I honestly thought they were going to offer insight and propose real solutions, but to me it sounded much like a broken record. No new information, just things we've all heard before. As a Black woman who pretty much grew up in a Huxtables-type environment, I could not relate all that much but I recognize many of the issues that Blacks face as a whole. I felt that this show was more for people who didn't know much about the Black community, rather than for Blacks themselves to watch. Even so, my friends and I felt like it portrayed us more like animals incapable of being self-sufficient and unable to have it all. The fact is, there are plenty of us who live the Huxtable life, but you didn't see much of that last night. Just snippets in between the drawn out stories of HIV/AIDS, violence, poverty, baby daddies, etc. If CNN wanted to do the series justice, it would have closed off the program with an in depth look into the Black family who is anything but the negative portrayals seen last night. I wish I could see tonight's segment on Black men but I won't be able to...

As for the issue of kids and education, at first I didn't like the idea of paying kids to learn because I was always told that you were supposed to go to school and learn--it was not a paid job. No one got allowances or bonuses for good grades in my house. We only had one responsibility as kids and that was to get our education.

philosopher said...

I find that it unfortunate that most students don't just do well in school for internal desires, but I do think this program is a good one. Frankly, kids usually get rewarded for good grades. If you are in a better family financial situation, then you probably get rewarded per grade by your parents. I used to get $5 per A, $2 per B. For those students who don't come from families like that, they are probably missing out on that benefit. So that could be made up for in this program, I suppose.

Frankly, whatever the school needs to do to help all kids succeed needs to be done. If this is the way, then so be it. I think parents should be more involved too, but not everyone can be, and we've unfortunately accepted that as acceptable. So the burden falls on the school system. As an education minor, we constantly learn about the power of motivation. Anything that can be done to positively motivate a student NEEDS to be done. Otherwise, you get so many other problems because of it. Psychological, physical, emotional, etc. Everything can pretty much tie back to whether or not that student was motivated. So, if giving students $25 for doing well on a test will motivate them, sounds like a plan to me.

Anonymous said...

I was quite annoyed with the program. The program was marketed to African Americans as if they were going to talk about the problem and solutions. The funny thing about the program is that they did not even touch on the underlying problems of why African Americans are struggling in the first place. CNN could have saved their money. This program was for the blind of America but since it was marketed towards the Black community I wonder if the program even had an impact!

As for the money as a motivator program:
I think it is a great program. Although my parents struggled when I was young, they made it a point to treat me to something for making honor roll. The treat would be either my favorite meal or a new shirt which was a lot because we only went shopping twice a year. As I got older the material incentives manifested into an internal motivation. I saw how happy my parents were when I brought home good grades and I saw how if I put a little effort towards studying I would recieve a good grade that would put me one step ahead to reaching my goal. This program shows the kids that someone cares and although in the beginning it will be about money, as they grow older, for some, it will manifest into an internal motivation deeper then money. Kudo's to the professor for reaching back! It takes a village;^)

Torrance Stephens - All-Mi-T said...

chk this outside the box

and chk todays post too

"work hard and don’t complain"

Catherine said...

I'd have to agree with Jenn, there was simply nothing that we don't already know. We know the problems, we need solutions. I believe the program would have been more beneficial if it showcased more individuals and organizations like Dr. Roland G. Fryer. We need to know what solutions are already in action so that we may support them, and implement them, tweaking them to suit the needs of our specific communities.

I was also raised that academic excellence was what I was supposed to do. You will not always be paid or praised for everything good thing that you do, especially something that you are supposed to be doing anyway. Learning was not my job, but my responsibility, there is a clear difference. I was rewarded for my good grades, sometimes my reward was as simple as a smile, kiss, hug, and encouraging words (which can be given no monetary value). For report cards she might have purchased me a few things that I wanted. However, I was also applauded on my good grades by others, and that is where my motivation to succeed came from. There is some things that should have no monetary value, and that no amount of money can make up for.

Now, I must also say that I grew up in a Huxtable style household as well, except my mother was a single parent. Despite that, I never needed or wanted for anything. Quite honestly, I am spoiled. I have been very well taken care of my entire life. My environment has greatly shaped who I am to this very day, but what of those whose families are not financial stable? What of those whose families do not stress the importance of education? What of those whose families worry more about getting by, and thus acquiring money takes on a whole new meaning for them?.....sigh.

Perhaps the can children can be rewarded with field trips within our country, and abroad?

Nevertheless, I commend Dr. Fryer on his solution...although I might not completely agree, I do recognize his efforts and that the monetary reward is helping low-income families keep their heads above ater.

The Socialite said...

Jenn- I agree with you when you say that they should have focused on some of the positive aspects of being Black in America. They could have shown some of our leaders in our community and other strong black families. They showed one, but they could have gone alot deeper in alot of the areas.

Also when you make the point of your parents teaching you that you are suppose to learn, my parents taught me the same thing. However, that is not what alot of inner city kids are taught, nor do they care. They don't have positive influence around them, so they need something to motivate them.

Philospoher- I loved how you compared that to children that get rewarded by their parents to this new program. I can remember when I got money at first for good grades. Then it went on to things like I can get a new car at 16 if i got all A's. Middle and Upper Class children always get rewarded or at least their parents motivate them by being very in the mix when it comes to their childs school work. That is not the case in lower income households all of the time. So they do need some type of motivation in school.

anonymous- I soooo agree when you said that it was advertised towards Blacks to watch the show, yet it told us what we already know. The real target would have been people that don't understand whats going on in our community and can possibly be enlightned. If it was going to be geared towards us then it should have been created a little bit different

Catherine- I am glad that you recognize that the household that you grew up in probably motivated you to want to learn, and that others might not get that in their homes. So they neeed some type of motivation at school.

The Songtress said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Songtress said...

Now, I understand that a lot of the things covered inthe program were things we've heard before and a lot of affluent blacks could not relate. But to be totally honest, most blacks don't live the huxtable lifestyle. Most blacks still go through what the program covered. If it's so cliche why are the death rates of black men by homicide still so high? If it's something we've all heard before did we really think that Soledad O'Brien could,along with her guests and contributors, come up with a solution in a two hour program. I think her purpose was to remind us that we haven't, as many affluent blacks in tax brackets similar to my parents believe, "arrived". We definitely have that crabs in a barrell syndrome and we never turn back to help those in our OWN family that are still trying to make it. We acheive the six figure salaries and we detach ourselves from the majority of black America. The growing black middle and upper class is just that. Growing.

So, I think the program had it's flaws, but it was neccessary. Because,obviously, we just aren't getting it. I don't thik Ms. O'Brien just decided to do serious journalism without a purpose. If she'd found a solution, I'm sure she would have presented it. Basically, she's saying the solution doesn't rest in the hands of her or those who are in her position, but it's going to take a conscious effort on behalf of ALL black people, especially those who are in position to truly make a difference, in order for the reality of what it means to be Black in America to change. We cannot change social institutions, we cannot change systems until we first change ourselves.
As a journalist, I respected the program. I understood it's purpose and I realized that we as a people sometiems need to be reminded just where we are in this country.

And as far as students being paid to work...I have mixed feelings. I feel as though half of the money should be placed in a secured account that can only be touched upon high school graduation. It will give students a sense of fulfillment, teach them how to save and give them something to look foward to in their future.

The Socialite said...

the Songstress- Our issues are very cliche, and we point the issues out all of the time. And you are right when you say then why is stuff still going on.It is still going on because all we do is talk about the issues and don't do anything to solve them. I think that it is very important to highlight the issues that effect us, I just think it is about time we ALL come together and figure out some solutions. I think that CNN did a good job in covering the issues, and that is what they wanted to accomplish. However, it is time for someone, anyone to come up with some solutions. That is why I created this blog, so that together my readers and I could come up with some solutions together and implement them.

Also I agree with you when you say that maybe the money they earn should be put away. It could be put away for college or towards something beneficial for the child in the future.

foxxychica said...

As an inner city educator, I don't agree with handing students money for achievement. I mean if the money is going into an account that they can't touch until college, maybe it is a good idea. I think paying students for grades could create bigger issues. I know some of my colleagues just hand out grades. Some of them don't know their students' names.

I watched the program with a fellow educator to see how we could implement the program into our classes. She grew up on welfare and went to college and has her master's degree. Although she was able to make it, she still has that poverty mentality. I can tell how the way our parents reared us is very different. My parents didn't go to college, but they worked. We were working poor. Her mom had all of her children by the time she finished high school. She felt like the program was airing our dirty laundry. I had to explain to her that we have done a good enough job of that already. She also has to realize that the news media is really geared toward white males, and they have the upper hand when it comes to the images they want to project.

I digress, I too came with pen and paper waiting for some realistic solutions and I couldn't find one. I think people don't know how to fix a system that has been broken for so long. I hope things will change in my lifetime, but who knows. I think all schools need to receive the same amount of funding in order to somewhat level the playing field.

the maroon said...

it reinforces detrimental ideologies to our kids. 1) we never needed it before to be successful 2) the issue of education is one that Carter Woodson, and subsequent scholars attributed to a lack of conceptual knowledge of self. The movement at Howard University in 1968 "Towards a Black University" should have been institutionalized, not a system of paying kids to learn (which might I add, can never be implemented on a large enough scale, take a look at the economy). the purpose of education is not to attain wealth. that is a problem. our struggle is not about making money moreso than it is about making institutions. education should be geared towards that end. I think you all should research and evaluate Roland Fryer. His past work proves he operates from a position that blacks are inferior, do you want to listen to someone who thinks that way? In terms of solutions, they will never come from the media, they come from the people who actually do the footwork in the community. Many of our solutions have already been written about, theorized on (ie, the Howard movement in '68), but because of many factors have yet to be tried on a large enough scale. Our solutions have been inscribed in our history...that's my take.

Langston said...

Hi, great post btw.

First, I'm naturally sarcastic, so I really didn't believe that I'd get much out of CNN's Black in America. I could understand why many of my peers were excited about it. I already knew that, for many of us, life is rough. I knew that growing up. I know that now. I hope that many outside of our race were able to see the difficulties of being Black in America. I would think that most African-Americans already know the story.

I commend Roland Frier for attempting to come up with a practical solution to the the relative lack of interest in education among African-American youth. Rather than simply complaining, he's out there trying to do something about it. While it appears to be working on a small scale, I do not see this as a realistic solution to the achievement gap.

I wish that, rather than giving money to students, we could pump money into the piss poor schools that exist in our community. I grew up basically working class in Houston, Texas, but went to the best (affluent) schools during my elementary and middle school years. I excelled there and saw that there was life outside of my poor neighborhood. I was in a culture that stressed academic excellence. It facilitated intellectual development because it had the funds to do so. Computer labs, many outstanding field trips, creative school projects, clean facilities were all things that contributed to my success as a student. Additionally, administrators, teachers, parents, and even the custodial staff all stressed education. I feel all of this fed into the success of the students.

For high school, I went to a school in the southwest side of Houston, close to my home. It was (is) predominately Black and very different than my previous schools. The building was dirty, the books were old, the teachers were less engaged as were the students. I did not see the commitment to education that I saw previously. After one year there, my motivation to excel dipped greatly. I still made some of the highest grades at the school, but only put out minimal effort. Schools such as this get the least funding and some of the worst teachers. That's real. The teachers that do really try, in many cases, get frustrated and leave. I've seen this many times. Or, if they don't leave, the get pulled down into the culture of mediocrity. Everyone in these environments are basically "going through the motions." This isn't a good situation for students who already deal with immense stress outside of school. Because I had great parents, I didn't get totally sucked into that pathology. By the time I finished high school, I had great grades, but I initially struggled in undergrad because I was terribly unmotivated. I partly blame myself, but I feel high school had a lot to do with it.

Anyway, I feel like, at some point, that little bit of money is not going to be enough for these kids. While they are children, cool, it can work. When they hit high school, things become real. They start becoming more aware of the issues surrounding them. Money becomes more of a necessity. If they don't have to help out with bills and such, they may want things that they see their peers acquiring. I had great grades in high school, but I still couldn't afford a car and other things that I saw my peers get because of their street money. Again, I thank God that I had people at home who demanded excellence. Both my parents were college educated, so there was no other direction for me. Many of my class mates didn't have that reinforcement, so they made bad choices. I feel like giving these kids money will only go so far. You aren't changing ideologies and pathologies. They are making good grades to get money. What is going to happen when they get older and the street money is much more than the grade money??

For the last two years, I've been the assistant instructor for a college class. I see that, even for the kids that do make it to college, its a struggle to keep up. Because of the poor education the received in grade school, they are steps behind their college classmates. We really need to somehow change the culture of our failing Black public schools. That would do a lot to fix this problem.


The Socialite said...

From the last three post I now see another point of view. They pointed out the the money thing would only go so far and can't be implemented on a larger scale. I think that the program simply outlined that there has to be some type of motivation. So maybe someone can come up with something based off his program, that doesnt include money. I also agree with the comments before that said one of the issues is more school funding and basically make the learning field more even. That is a solution that we all need to put our heads together and figure out, because how many times are we going to complain to the government until that happens? How can we increased the funding for these inner city schools?

ShAé - ShAé said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ShAé - ShAé said...

I think some people will always find away around the rules. If you hand out money for grades you'll have kids doing each other's homework for a percentage or giving them the answers to study for $10 bucks. And what happens if the program isn't successful and they need to end it? There will be outraged children who are expecting to be paid. It's a good idea to give the kids an incentive, but I made the honor roll & the dean's list for free. So can they. They need to find another incentive.

Langston said...

I don't see how you can truly better these schools without some sort of revenue sharing plan. Public schools are funding off of property taxes, so as it is, there will always be inequities between schools in wealthy neighborhoods and schools in the hood.

At the grassroots level, its going to take a renewed commitment between school faculty, parents, and other community leaders to create an environment that facilitates intellectual development. It can be done, but there has to be charismatic leadership that will get everyone truly on board. I don't want to say its hopeless, but its hard to think of a solution that doesn't involve the government.

The Socialite said...

Thats true, it is very hard to think of a solution that doesnt involve the government. I think there needs to be a plan developed to attack the school boards and still motivation programs need to be created for the students. Either way this is a battle that has been going on for awhile, I hope something happens soon.

Catherine said...

1. Their can be more one than one solution to the problem. It seems that while Dr. Fryer's efforts are appreciated, his reward system is seen as lacking. It is a fact that his method cannot be instituted on a state, much less a national level (and perhaps even district or county...a large scale reward system would of course require a different reward than money.), however, he has evolved a solution into fruition that works well in the area that it is being implemented in. That being said I repeat, there can be more than one solution to the problem, even one that differs greatly from Dr. Fryer's. I do believe that reward system to be an excellent idea, especially for those who's motivation to succeed in school is not stimulated by other means (i.e., encouraging parents, seeing the effects of academic excellence or an appreciation for learning).

2. Want better schools? Parents NEED to DEMAND it! And actually, this is something our community is familiar with. Did not Dr. King, Malcolm X even, set the example? If you want, or in this case and in the case of civil rights, NEED something, you take a STAND for it. THERE IS POWER IN NUMBERS. I believe that is one thing that our community has forgotten, despite this side of our past being just a few steps behind us. We win a couple of struggles and then sit back for smooth sailing. Quite obviously it is not smooth sailing for many of our people! We are such a complacent race, so comfortable with mediocrity, sub-par standards, low quality of life. Until the parents of the children who are attending the schools where learning has taken a backseat to discipline and unruliness, white-based standardized testing, etc., then there will be NO change. And this is not some fly by night struggle, this a struggle that will take MONTHS, perhaps even YEARS to invoke change..and we have become to lazy to embark on the path that has worked tremendously well for us in the past. I understand that in many cases daily life, survival, and physical and emotional health issues become most important, and that as a result the physical and mental energy needed to sustain such a fight becomes more like a extracurricular activity than necessary, VITAL involvement, HOWEVER, there is NO other way to achieve state or even national change. People say that members of our race could found schools that are better suited to attend to the needs of the children in our, WELL, you STILL NEED to take a STAND for that to happen! Immense sacrifice is necessary part of struggle...and everyone is just too exhausted from making love in the club to fight.

"Be the change you wish to see in the world." --Ghandi

I would love to obtain more information on his program, so if anyone can assist in this, respond to this posting! Also, the maroon commented, "I think you all should research and evaluate Roland Fryer. His past work proves he operates from a position that blacks are inferior..." Where did you obtain this information? I'd like to observe it for myself. The first thing that popped into my head was the need to clarify your statement. Does Dr. Fryer himself feel that blacks are inferior, or is he working from the standpoint of many in our society who believe that blacks are inferior and his trying to prove them wrong? You also stated that, "In terms of solutions, they will never come from the media, they come from the people who actually do the footwork in the community." I agree. Unfortunately we still need the media to publicize what work is being done, even though they choose not to 98% of the time. That is one reason why I wanted the CNN broadcast to showcase other African American individuals and groups who have already implemented solutions, or are in the process of implementing them.

foxxychica said...

I was at church yesterday and my pastor made an announcement to the congregation and the viewing audience. On the 1st day of school, he is requesting that parents take off work and don't take their children to school. Instead they are going to take buses to an affluent suburb in Illinois called Winnetka. This school district spends $18,000 per student where as most school in Illinois spend 1/2 or less.

The reason behind this is, we have to demand more and oftentimes you have one or two parents who will complain about inferior schools. If parents don't send their children to school on the first day, maybe this will send a message to the legislators. The sad reality is most school districts receive the bulk of their funding through property taxes. When you have schools full of poor people who don't own property, the end result is shitty schools and even shittier teachers.

I work in an urban school and I understand how teacher become lax. The first thing people need to understand is this: Most urban schools are not concerned with what is going on in the classroom. The primary concern is ATTENDANCE! Yep, I was told that if the students are in the building, it is my responsibility to get them in my classroom. What is blue blazin is going on here? How can I get the student in my class if I have never met him/her?

Also, when you are the only teacher trying to teach, you get penalized for it. I have been called into the office because my failure rate is 50% or more in my classes. The bulk of the failures are attendance based. I can't do anything about that. I call the non-functioning numbers that are given to me and I mail letters, but I am still unsuccessful. When you are dealing with issues like that, I see how teachers get frustrated.

I am entering my 4th year of teaching (it was a career change, and I am thinking about changin again) and I am not sure if I want to continue on with it. I know the kids are not responsible for their home lives, but my school (like many other inner city schools) are so toxic it is pathetic. I think part of the problem is the majority of the students like the look of stupidity. Think about it, the media makes it seem like stupid people are the ones who prosper. It's sad but true.

Let me offer some suggestions as to what I need in my class/school:

1. More positive Black Male role models. I am not talking about an uneducated athlete (you do know a good number of them are), I am talking about a business owner, father, husband, someone vested in the community.

2. I need to work with people who have a vested interest in the school. The problem with many inner city schools is they have high turnover rates. They attract these young white teachers who stay for 3-5 years and then the leave to go to more affluent areas. Many of them are not concerned with the students and their problems because they are planning their escape before they get there.

3. Administrators who are truly concerned about the well being of the students and not just the numbers. It is a numbers game. The proof is always in the pudding. When you are graduating or pushing all of these students out, where do they go? I get tired of hearing about the graduation rates going up but the college graduation rate isn't. What is wrong with that picture?

4. Legislators who will properly fund these schools and level the playing field for all. It is absolutely a shame that you can vote yourself a raise, but not the educators. I mean let's wake up people! When will we see that we are creating a bigger problem.

I could go on, but I am going to save it for another time. Check my blog and I'll continue to rant.

Niki215 said...

What do you think about his program?
I like the idea of having children getting paid to get good grades especially if this will motivate them to get good grades. I also believe that there should be some rules involved stating how the money will be spent. One suggestion would be to save half of it to go towards college tuition since the cost is constantly going up and then the other half would be for them to spend however they wanted to.

Do you think that it could really help close the gap, or will it hurt students more in the long run?
I think it will help close the gap and it will help in the long run. What person out here do you know that does not like money? NONE that I can think of. Giving them an incentive to learn is wonderful. I think that there will be so many more people willing to learn and this will prepare them for college.

Also what did you think about CNN's Black in America?
Personally it was nothing that I didn't already know but as so many other people were probably wondering, where were the solutions to these problems?

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SDL said...

I very much like this idea and the suggestion by a commenter here that putting financial rewards in trust for future education might be better than handing it out in cash form. Like another responder suggested, the potential for abuse is glaringly obvious. I can see the twinkle in a child's eyes at finding out there is an account just for their education and future, that they've earned themselves, and that no one else can tamper with. I hope this idea is put into action for today and future children and adults. It's definitely worth the effort.

macon girl said...

Hi, My name is Faith
I am shackic about this program. This program would good, there are many students who are dropping out of school all do to not being motivated. I believe that this program will keep kids in school, its a positive out look. I am twenty years old, I just wish that this program was out when I was in school.

Bob1 said...

Hi, my name is Bobby Glover
I came across your blog online and I think this is an very intriguing idea. From experience working with children these days, they worry about how they are going to get carfare to catch the bus to school or having food to eat for lunch or not having an hat to wear during the cold days in cccchicago. When children worry about things like this it can cause depression and lack of motivation. This idea will help them to excel and see that there is someone out here in this world that's really cares about them, their well being and education. This is an great idea. I have you pitch this to Barack?Obama

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