Should some students be paid to go to school?

At least some education experts think so. (Read the story here)

The Toronto District School Board is seriously considering it.

Is it a good idea? A necessary strategy to engage students who are falling through the cracks or who face economic and other challenges that prevent them from learning?

Or is it merely an attempt to cure a symptom (students dropping out) rather than dealing with the (many) causes: systemic poverty, lack of engaged pedagogy in many classrooms, discrimination in schools — to name just a few?

If education is something that we must pay students to value, does this incentive negate the inherent value in education? That is, does paying kids to “learn” (let’s be honest, the goal is to get them to behave themselves, NOT to learn critical or creative thinking skills) reduce education to a mere credential. More so than it already is?

I (Michael) contend that this is a terrible idea born out of genuine concern about a real problem that demands our attention. However, I think that those who mean to do good here make a key mistake: they conceive of education far too narrowly. That is, they decontextualize the classroom from the conditions affecting it from outside the school.

In fact, efforts to depoliticize schools by failing to recognize the systemic barriers that so many students face is an inherently political, and deeply problematic act. No wonder so many kids are so disaffected. They are all too aware of the challenges they face on a daily basis. And they don’t see schools as a place that will help them to deal with these challenges. In fact, schools generally won’t even acknowledge that they exist.

More to say about this another day – I am disturbed by the creep of financial compensation into the classroom. As if our schools weren’t already geared enough to teaching kids about how to earn (supposedly) and consume (definitely) in a supposed meritocracy.

But I’m interesting in hearing from others on this: what’s my blind spot?

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