The View From Here:

Scanning the front page of the Feb. 5 edition of “The New York Times”, I came across an article which seemed to confirm some of my long-formed doubts about the education system in this country. The article titled “And for Perfect Attendance, Johnny gets a Car,” led me to believe, specifically, that students and administrators alike seem to have long since forgotten the whole reason behind why people go to school in the first place.

In this article the reporter highlights an incentive program many schools have adopted in order to combat a nationwide problem of an ever-increasing drop in regular student attendance. In this incentive program, students in public schools across the country are now earning money and other awards just for showing up to class regularly. The article cites several examples of awards given at various schools include anything from $25 to (as the headline indicates) new cars.

Increasing absences in the public schools have been hurting many schools financially. As the article states, through the No Child Left Behind law, schools receive money from the state government for regular student attendance; when students don’t show up to school, neither does the money. This was a big incentive for the various schools to up attendance by creating the same kind of incentive for the students. It all appears to be about the money.

Through all of these money and prize related incentives to up attendance, I believe the real message can become clouded. I’m not bashing teachers; I believe there are a lot of teachers out there who are truly committed to their job of teaching. I do believe, however, that offering incentives like prizes and money to students with regular attendance is sending the wrong message.

The message it sends is that education is a bother and that one should be rewarded for the troubles one must go through in attending their classes regularly. If students truly see education as a bother then we have been teaching our students incorrectly. Learning is meant to be an enriching experience which allows us to think more deeply and critically. Students should want to come to class because they want to come to class. The joy of learning something should be the biggest incentive.