Question of the Day: Does School Have to Equal Cool To Get Kids to Graduate?

From The Root:

In 2008, seven states adopted a new plan to attract low-income and minority students to college-prep courses, the gist of which was simple: pay kids $100 for every advanced placement exam they pass. The states latched on to the idea after a similar program in Texas produced a 30 percent rise in the number of students with high SAT scores. The proof is there—money talks.

With that in mind, what’s wrong with telling a 16-year-old boy, “You wanna meet exotic women? Go to school, work hard, get an international business degree and go start a company in Paris.” What’s wrong with saying to a kid who wants to be an iced-out rapper that the real money in music doesn’t go to the performers, but to the record executives? “So instead of wasting time on a rap career that odds say will never materialize,” you can tell him, “Why not go to college, study music and business, graduate and then work your way up at a label? And, if that’s not glamorous enough, start a label!”

Knowing what we know about how deeply many of America’s inner-city children value “cool,” it’s foolish to insist on trying to appeal to them with traditional, impractical platitudes about education. It shows a disconnect with reality and, almost certainly, it’s a disconnect that exists because these marketing gimmicks are dreamed up by learned people who have come to know the inherent value of their brain.

Is it tacky to attract kids to education with material wealth? Absolutely. In fact, it’s practically the antithesis of much of what proper schooling should impart. But wouldn’t you rather have another tacky plastic surgeon in Beverly Hills than another dead black kid in Compton?

Is this idea brilliant or does it make you want to cry your eyes out? I’m fine with paying kids for grades to a certain extent as my father paid me for my As on my report card. But the story also uses this quote to make a point: “Money, [prostitutes] and clothes—all a brother knows,” to explain why teenage boys would rather look cool than crack open a book and that engaging in conversations like “going to college will get you laid more” are valid if it means a boy will go to school. Why does this make me want to cry my eyes out? Um … the sexism? The motivating factor being money and sex with women, not self-improvement, self-empowerment, a desire for knowledge, but the pursuit of “hoes.” Does anyone think what a message that further encourages the denigration of women will do to the poor women who have to deal with these fools? But maybe I’m crazy. Am I crazy?

48 thoughts on “Question of the Day: Does School Have to Equal Cool To Get Kids to Graduate?

  1. I agree, offering money for grades is like priming the pump in that it does encourage kids to work harder. However, at some point the kids must internalize the idea that hard work equals success and start working hard for that reason alone and not for the short term goal of the $100.

  2. You’re definitely not crazy on this one! When I read this article yesterday, the same thing stuck out to me. While I’m glad that someone is searching for a way to make education appeal to young black men, it is sad to see that the only way they think our youth can be reached is through sex. Why not try to foster the inherent interests, strengths and ambitions of these kids & show them how education is the better way to pursue those things. I dunno, but I’m sure there is SOMETHING that could appeal to them that would be better than this.

  3. I’m totally fine with it. I say do whatever it takes to motivate a kid to work towards good grades. Once they start seeing the results, I think they become addicted. I was paid for As and Bs on my report cards. It’s how I bought my things in HS and that money came in quite handy.

  4. "Um … the sexism? The motivating factor being money and sex with women, not self-improvement, self-empowerment, a desire for knowledge, but the pursuit of "hoes." "What if you replace "hoes" with "upstanding young ladies"? Boys wanting to have sex with women, among other things (hopefully a love-filled, respectful, human relationship) is not sexist in and of itself. Sex is not sexist.

  5. Plus, I stared at Cassie and contemplated her skinny Blasiany dopeness for a solid 180 seconds before I even started reading the post. Thanks for that pick-me-up, Danielle!

  6. @ ScipioLOL. I have no problem with people being sexually attracted to one another or a healthy desire to have sex. I just think it comes off as a tad sad if you have to engage in that sort of language about women to get young males attention — to basically reduce women to trophies or conquests rather than acknowledging that they are, in fact, human beings. So yeah. I did have a huge problem with some of the language used in this article in a bid to appeal to young males.

  7. Hey, whatever floats someone’s boat. We are all not the same. We aren’t all going to be Socially aware, morally conscious, pro black, anti sexism. The truth is, young teenage boys ARE motivated by getting women and having power and status, hell, so are most men. I can’t hate on that. That is HUMAN NATURE …not all of us are at that "higher conscious" frame of mind. If that works, then IT WORKS. Most guys admire the music moguls and athletes..especially young guys from inner cities. I say educate them on ways to be more like puffy and others. Eventually they will learn more about life and its not just about the money cars and …ahem *dope womenIt doesn’t bother me…nope..I have learned a long time ago …everyone isn’t goin to be the same..and well..they shouldn’t …we can’t expect them to be

  8. I call BS. One lesson that you learn while going to school is that the rewards are not immediate or glamorous. My mother always said school is it’s own reward. I didn’t appreciate her words then but that’s why she was the adult and I was the child. What happens if they do well on all of their exams and their best accomplishment is becoming a postal worker? Now, being a postal worker is a respectable, honest career but it’s no Parisian penthouse furnished with models kind of life. This idea of material wealth is a little too close to a get rich quick mentality. Drug dealers have perfected that promo with devastating consequences; let’s try another approach. I’m all about encouraging kids to reach for the moon and achieve their dreams but they need to hear a healthy dose of realism such as dealing with failure, severe competition, or having to wait many years before they accomplish their goals. See, there is a reason why certain traditional educational values such as respect, hard work, and self-worth are called "traditional." Because they stand the test of time! Nothing new under the sun. Kids have always valued "cool" but that’s why they are children NOT adults. Back to the drawing board for revisions, folks.Also, just because sexual desires fuel a lot of motivations and decisions doesn’t mean we need to encourage it. There is no excuse for neglecting to teach a boy how to respect women instead of viewing them as lust objects. Sure, their hormones will make them think otherwise, but that too shall pass when they mature a little. Do we really need more babies running around with irresponsible fathers? Must girls continue to underestimate their self worth and view themselves as nothing more than booty shakin,’ arm candy?

  9. I think paying $100 bucks for passing an AP exam is good. In fact I think all kids should get it b/c you get college credit while in high school and it actually saves the student and their family some money. But we must also be realistic someone who barely is reading on grade level will not pass the AP exam.Sex and cars is what motivates most men, its about time the black community especially the young boys put the education at the top of their list and not rapping and playing basketball to achieve these things. But I could totally see this as backfiring also. Will someone with this attitude survive college past their sophomore year? Will they survive without becoming a baby mama or daddy? Will they survive college w/o gettiing HIV? And what will they do when they realize college does not quick wealth or quick for that matter unless you invent a Google or a Facebook?

  10. There are plenty of intelligent, motivated, but poor kids who already understand the value of higher education or vocational training as a way out of their situations, without the bait of money or sex. But that said, I don’t see much of a difference between $100 for passing a placement exam and the annual incentive pay awarded to an employee for helping an organization meet a sales goal. You achieve more, you get paid. Isn’t this the way many companies motivate their employees? Not saying it’s the best method, but still…

  11. Strangely the exotic women part didn’t bother me. I have to note however, that Daniell said "hoes", not the article. But, it’s hard to not look at a picture of Cassie and think ho, but I digress. I’d love to know the college success rate of the kids witht the high SAT scores. Maybe, it’s too early to tell. I’m really torn on this issue. We are living in the age a entitlement. Teenagers figure that they are supposed to automatically have everything without the hard work. Now, I realize that these students are working hard and are getting rewarded. My question is what happens when they are in the real world working hard and don’t see a reward?

  12. You are not crazy. This appeal is dreadfully superficial. I mean, awesome if it works, because college is a mind-broadening experience and hopefully young people, once at college, will move beyond the foolishness contained therein, but that doesn’t make it not foolishness.

  13. @ Brandi"My question is what happens when they are in the real world working hard and don’t see a reward?"They’ll spend the years until they’re about 28 or 29 learning to cope with it, like all the rest of us who didn’t get paid for grades have/do/will. They won’t be any different.

  14. not only is it denigrating to girls and boys (reinforces the black buck belief), it instills a sense of entitlement. I GOT into this school now I DESERVE your attentions.The folks who purport to help the underclass, really don’t think that much of them in the end.

  15. Paid by whom and with what? The state with my tax dollars?Kids from the most backwards countries come to this country with no english language skills and yet within a short period of time they excell in not only in the english language, but in math and science. They then go on to graduate from places like MIT and make positive contributions in medicine and science and every other area. Why? Because they are taught by their parents and community to value education and to achieve to the best of their ability.Some black people? Why, let’s just pay kids to occupy space in a class room with the expectation of money and sex if they can manage to pass the class? And if they do pass, it sure won’t be because they learned anything.No sense of achieving, of the possibility of making the community a better place, of knowledge.No wonder why every other ethnic group in this country bypasses black people.And will continue to do so.

  16. I always figured that if there were no woman in the world str8 men would just sit around in their shorts, scratching, drinking beer and watching TV. So the idea that telling a young guy that an education will allow him access to more woman in his life is not necessarily a bad thing. The slippery slope comes when the young guys are not otherwise socialized to know that we woman are not like the ones being portrayed by hip hop. That access to woman will not mean they will have groupies but that they will have opportunities to meet smart, successful women that they would not otherwise ever have a chance of meeting without an education. That would of course require some mentoring. So all-in-all I don’t think this is a bad thing if presented properly.And what about convincing Black girls the importance of education? Where is the pitch to them?

  17. @ TiredOfTheHypocrisy You should read a book like Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. The success of immigrant kids is not as simple as you seem to think. There are a lot of factors at play.

  18. "And what about convincing Black girls the importance of education?"judging from the numbers, do you think black women need to be told this?

  19. @SwivAlthough Black women go to college in higher numbers than Black men that does not necessarily mean that enough Black women go to college. We should never be lulled into thinking that we are at acceptable levels when we are being measured against dysfunctional numbers (the number of Black men going to college).

  20. I think the comparison should be against all American women. What is the percentage of all girls who go on to college and then how do Black girls compare. It’s really not that hard to understand is it?

  21. @ Monie, just wanted to make clear my response was typed as you were typing yours. I wasn’t addressing the percentages of American who go on to attend college – I don’t know what that number is (do you?) I was just mentioning that it’s become common for college campuses to be 51 -52% female.

  22. if using girls to get boys to finish school is a good idea, what are we going to do with the ugly ones who finished college but aren’t rolling in enough dough to attract the hawt ladies??? Brains doesn’t always trump the almighty dollar you know…

  23. @d, those ugly ones will do what ugly guys who can’t get the women they want have been doing for the last 45 years, they’ll deal. It’ll suck, but they’ll figure out a way to get on with their lives like the rest of men have been doing.

  24. @Scipio Africanus I don’t know the percentage of all high school girls who go on to college. But whatever that number is would be a good way to see if Black girls are going at acceptable levels. My point was only that if we measure the numbers of Black girls going to college versus Black boys then we are comparing to a group that is underrepresented in college. So we shouldn’t use those numbers as a benchmark.And yes I believe most coed colleges are a little over 50% women.

  25. the word "enough" is vague. so i wanted to know what is enough to you. according to the statistics (Black Educational Achievement and All Races Educational Achievement 50 percent of black women have some college or more, and 56 percent of all women have some college or more. all things considered, that’s not a very big disparity.

  26. Swiv swooped down with that good Excel spreadsheet. I think you keep this under a magnet on your refrigerator, don’t you.

  27. LMAO! i like engaging with smart people. plus i don’t like to BSing people with BS facts. folks be factchecking emotional rants

  28. @ that’s my point. why even go down that road? there are other ways to convince kids to go to school. I would say parents are the key but…

  29. I went to school with men who were just there for the sex. I graduated. Ask me where they were after first semester. If you’re not there for the education or the end goal of improving yourself for the real world, stay home. There are enough athletes on campus taking up space that someone who wants an education could have taken. College is not for everyone. At the risk of getting all Booker T. Washington about it, some people just need skills, not education. What needs to be sold is the idea that at some point, everyone needs a game plan that involves the ability to take care of themselves that doesn’t involve dodging the police or going to jail.

  30. Amazing that some people are happy about a stat that says approx 50% of black women have some college or more compared to 56% of women in general. We think that’s good when we see the levels of underemployment of black women compared to other women?! We think that’s good when we see the income disparities of black women’s earnings compared to other women?! And not all college educations are equal – some are obviously more equal than others and we need black women to be more represented not only as graduates (i.e., not just having "some college") but as graduates of top educational institutions who can have their choice of the best opportunities. Instead we’re reeling off statistics that we KNOW don’t tell the whole or even the true story, and want to act satisfied! I don’t know what "enough" means, but I know that what we’ve got now isn’t it.

  31. @khia213 – Amen, college is not for everyone. A college degree does not guarantee intelligence nor does it make people better citizens. There are people of all colors who are not college material – no matter how hard they tried. There is nothing wrong with learning a trade.

  32. ^^^^^ you’re right. but there’s a direct correlation between financial success and education. while people can talk about how such and such has done _ and onlyl has a HS diploma, fact of the matter is those people are the exception and not the rule.

  33. I truly believe there are much better ways to get poor and minority teens college-minded. Ways that don’t involve bribery (with my tax dollars I’m sure) and ways that aren’t so superficial and lazy. And really though, where is this money coming from? As a kid, my dad took us to dinner when we got straight A’s. Yet even if a trip to Sizzler wasn’t dangled in front of me I’d get straight A’s anyway. Why? Because my mom instilled a love for learning in me (as cheesy as it sounds) and my dad reaffirmed that failure was not an option (via "spare the rod, spoil the child" method). Hence I had a foundation that engendered excellence in school. What we really need are parents as well as teachers and counselors to instill an interest in education in our kids from jump, then teach the importance of it in the long run.Look, I have West Indian roots and this concept of the government paying kids to succeed is insane to me. In Trinidad the government rewarded you by making school free. Maybe your school handed out awards and acknowledged accomplishments, but it ended there. Also, I find it incredibly insulting that their default response to getting minority and poor kids to succeed is to throw money and women in the air.

  34. @ Court, my roots are American and the concept of federal rewards to succeed in school is silly to me also. I grew up in a projects development, and wanting to get out of them asap was enough incentive to me to study hard and go to college. There used to be a federal tuition program that awarded scholarships to students that scored BELOW a certain gpa-i still don’t understand that mess.But anyway…I read that article at The Root last week and was appalled at the writer’s ignorance. Interesting that a Black male would even joke it just takes sex and free cash to motivate his race and gender to succeed academically.

  35. @ T. aka Ricky RawSo what happens when cutbacks occur and this money dries up. I guess many poor and minority kids go back to underachieving.It’s a band-aid on a broken leg. We live in a society that targets black children (especially males) as the new generation of entertainers. Education is promoted for white kids, yet our children are encouraged to become ballplayers and hip-hop artists. Whose culture that is to blame, I won’t get into… but I do know that it is up to us to fix it now. If we make education a serious priority in the black community then maybe I don’t have to hear every other neice of mine relate that her dream is to dance and "do hair", and my nephews tout that being hotter than Weezy is their ultimate professional goal.

  36. My own experience tells me that the only way to get children to value learning is by instilling in them, from an early age, a true love of learning about the world around them and beyond. It’s not hard to turn that love into an addiction. That’s what my less than prosperous parents did for me, without even realizing it. So it’s not an ethnic/economic issue.I did well in school, because I wanted to learn. And I wanted to learn, BECAUSE I wanted to learn. If children are raised to believe that their entire life is destined to play out in one tiny little neighborhood/town/city/country even, then they feel no real need to learn anything beyond the basics. I have heard people of other ethnicities say “When am I ever going to use this?!” — usually referring to algebra/science — not just Black people, and most were middle class, not poor. I also know people who were discouraged from seeking a higher education by their parents. I had a high school history teacher — a white man — who’s father didn’t want to send him to college, even though he could well afford it. My teacher’s mother was a big believer in education, even though, being a woman, she was denied a higher education. The father did send my teacher to college, in the end, because my teacher’s mother asked him to in front of several of their family members and friends, while on her death bed. He had to be shamed into it! And after my teacher began attending college, his father would accuse him of thinking he was smarter or better than him. Before my teacher told our class all this, I thought only Black people did that to their children. It was a real eye opener. PARENTING is, and always will be, the key to kids valuing education, regardless of socioeconomic/ethnic background. When neither parent values learning their kids don’t either. And telling teen boys that getting a higher education will allow them to USE a larger portion of the female population to satisfy their sexual urges, and bring in big bucks to boot, WILL NOT work long-term. I have no doubts about that. Kids and young adults are naturally impatient, and higher education is a long, intense journey — as anyone who’s been to college knows. What are the Motivators running this program going to do when these sex obsessed boys start whining “Are we there yet?”

  37. One way to change education for black males is to make the material more relevant to the students. Teachers need to find out their likes and dislikes and integrate that into their lesson plans. Not only should they take notes on the presidents of the United States, but they also can present a rap to the class that helps them memorize the presidents. Studies should be hands on–make a 3D model explaining the parts of a plant cell. That’s how you bring content alive. Also, there should be a focus on positive black role models who are not making money with music videos–doctors, lawyers, dentists, business entrepreneurs. They should be brought into the class to speak and paraded on t.v. just as much!One thing that is bound to make some of the most change is parental involvement. The parents should provide the encouragement for these young people to achieve. Some parents have no clue what they need to do with their child or they feel as though the teacher is responsible for teaching, not only the standards, but also behavior. There needs to be a deeper look into what will help these young people.

  38. Uh…inner city schools suck.Many treat kids like imbeciles or criminals or both.The education is subpar…many inner city schools don’t even offer AP or advanced courses…the curriculum often is a joke.If you’re in this type of school system from birth you aren’t going to value education…all you have to do is provide kids with the same education they would get if they were in a wealthy suburban environment from pre-k on and – voila – you will produce kids who value education and will go off to college wanting to be doctors, lawyers, engineers etc.This isn’t neuroscience…it’s real damn simple…

  39. I live in a pretty wealthy school district. The high schools have amenities that some small universities don’t even have. The kids attending these high schools are middle to upper class with maybe a few who got lucky and were bussed in from poorer areas. The sad part is, these middle class kids want to be thugs and they have major behavioral problems. No one wants to openly talk about that. I mean their parents are doctors, lawyers – essentially educated people. You can blame poor parental involvement but some of the biggest offenders’ parents are on the PTO. Now the white schools have big problems too – mainly drugs. But somehow these kids are graduating and going to college. @swiv – you can’t deny the direct correlation b/t education and financial success. But, how about an assoc degree in ac repair or welding? Not everyone has the mental stamina for a 4 year university. Also, not to droan on too much, my district is also mandating that every HS student graduates with some sort of certification. These certifications can either put them at the head of their college class or help them get a job after high school.

  40. "Uh…inner city schools suck.Many treat kids like imbeciles or criminals or both.The education is subpar…many inner city schools don’t even offer AP or advanced courses…the curriculum often is a joke.If you’re in this type of school system from birth you aren’t going to value education…all you have to do is provide kids with the same education they would get if they were in a wealthy suburban environment from pre-k on and – voila – you will produce kids who value education and will go off to college wanting to be doctors, lawyers, engineers etc.This isn’t neuroscience…it’s real damn simple…"I agree with JJ and Snob. This entire idea is garbage. Take your 100 dollars and give it to a college fund so that some kid doesn’t have to spend the rest of his or her life after college in debt.

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