A co-worker just informed me the other day that my tax dollars are currently being used to pay teenagers in the Washington, DC area to attend high school. HUH?? I really couldn’t believe that. Has a portion of our society seriously forgotten that we are fortunate to have a public education system where any child can receive education (and receive free meals, school supplies, etc in many cases)? And now we’re going above and beyond that entitlement to now adopting a mindset that tax dollars should be used to PAY teenagers to get them into a classroom? What’s wrong with this picture?
I am assuming I see the decision-making process that goes into decisions like this: Kids aren’t going to school. Parents aren’t doing anything about it. They are going to end up ignorant and having little skill sets to earn an income….so once they drop out of school and don’t attend classes, let’s pay them to return to the classroom. This is so very short-sighted and has so little logic. What message does that send? What kind of person does that truly produce? Why can’t students who are doing well be rewarded? How about perhaps “paying” kids to stay in school for a certain amount of time, etc? What impact does this increasingly-popular American stance of “bailing out” those who choose the wrong path have upon our society?
Unfortunately I have seen many educational “incentives” and “saves” first-hand when I was a high school teacher in Texas. Each year I had students who I would speak to about their poor attendance, lack of effort in class, their potential, the impact of not passing a course or a grade, you name it.
And each year do you know what I heard from students? They’d literally tell me that it didn’t matter, they could make it up with a few computer classes and catch up later. And they did. They told me, it’s the same diploma, why come to class every day? Wow. Skip class, skip the real interactions and real education and lessons, no big deal--take a couple computer classes and you’ve passed the course and you graduate. This is very sad. We are not creating critical thinkers or minds that will make us competitive in world markets, that’s for sure. But from the psychological perspective, I am more concerned with another issue. We are also not creating young adults who are equipped with things such as confidence through achievement, pride, accomplishment, work ethic, self-efficacy…things needed for mental well-being.
And we seriously wonder why we see senseless shootings and violence and unhappiness?
My grandmother once overheard a friend of mine saying that raising her daughter was so hard—the most difficult thing she’d ever done in her life. My Nana, in her infinite wisdom, said, “Oh good grief. Raising my children was the most enjoyable thing in my life. Your generation hasn’t had to go through hard times. You think easy things are difficult. If you never go through anything difficult you have no perspective.” So very true. I think it would be wise to get back to some of the principles our parents grew up with. As you read these, think how many of them can be obsolete at in today’s society in many ways: Hard work pays off. You can’t get something for nothing. A penny saved is a penny earned. The early bird gets the worm. You get what you give.
What would be smart is to create incentive for achievement and progress. It may seem “nice” to help people who are floundering in life. But what about empowerment—what about true life lessons and strengthening? Teach and reward those as they do the right thing—don’t keep focusing on and rewarding negative behavior. Isn’t this basic behavioral psychology?
Natosha Monroe is a counselor and PhD candidate passionate about increasing Troop access to counseling services. Her blog contents are not representative of the Army or Department of Defense in any way.