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Don't Pay Them, Pay Us!

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"We have the answer!" scream the multitudes of election-year politicians.

"We have the solution!" write the editors, the despondent parents, and the grumbling teachers.

Yes, the qualified and unqualified alike publicize their personal solutions to our nation's educational woes. You've heard them all before--teacher-competency tests, across-the-board pay increases, longer school days, merit pay, stricter Orwellian discipline, prayer a la Reagan, and the back-to-basics movement. These solutions are all wrong, of course, because they are far too complex to put into action and much too theoretical. Luckily, I've arrived at a simple solution that cannot help but work: Pay the students. It can't fail.

Do you complain that your English students wouldn't know William Faulkner from Larry Flint? Do you wonder how to reach your students? Think for a moment about a language they all understand. Money. Let's not underestimate the power that these little green bills exert on our very souls. The wish for money causes adults to do some pretty strange things. They start wars over money. They get ulcers. They chew Excedrin.

Teen-agers cannot quite reach this level of blind determination, but they come very close. Think how hard your babysitter works for the measly $2 an hour you pay her. Remember 12-year-old Tommy next door who was stupid enough to mow your 5-acre front lawn with a push lawnmower in the middle of last summer's heat wave--all for $5 and a glass of watery Kool-Aid. If children are willing to be exploited for so little, don't you think they would sit in an air-conditioned classroom if it would make them a fast buck?

I considered rewarding students with the date of their choice, but this raised some tricky moral questions. If we pay students, however, all we do is create a national debt. That's no big deal; politicians have been doing it for years.

Launching the plan is simple. You pay students on the basis of their grades or time spent in school. Personally, I think a mixture of the two would be best. Each student would start at the minimum wage. If, at the end of one semester, Joe Student had earned a 4.0 grade-point average, his salary would be raised to $6 an hour. If he produced a B average, he'd receive $4.50 an hour. For a C average, Joe would stay at the minimum wage, and for a D average, we start cutting his income. If he happened to fail ... well, I guess we boot him out into the cruel world.

Just imagine: No one would skip class, because he or she would lose an hour's pay. There would be no discipline problem, either. Principals would only need to threaten to kick the offensive student out of school and he or she would shape up immediately.

Logically, some incentives would need to be created to get teen-agers to take challenging courses like elementary analysis and physics. I believe a bonus of $250 per semester for these courses would ensure overflowing classrooms. Students would prefer to take full schedules for they would make the most money this way. Inadvertently, through all this academic exposure, students would learn. If you think the Renaissance was big, wait until "pay-school" goes into effect.

Various desirable spin-offs would result from this program as well. Imagine the close parent/child relationships that would develop as Mr. Jones decides to ask 12-year-old Tommy to float him a loan.

If schools extended this system to cover extracurricular activities, the world would see a blossoming of all aspects of American cultural life. More people would try out for school plays than could possibly fit in the audience. You would see high-school sports more exciting than ever because each player would be striving to do his very best to receive the Christmas bonus of $500. And finally, student pay would produce an incredible number of qualified scientists, philosophers, and economists--because the easiest way to get another dollar to play video games would be to get an A in chemistry and business.

Granted, there would be a few problems. Children would be trampled in the evening rush to get to the library and study. Teachers would go sleepless because all those papers that actually came in on time would need grading. Yet these are only minor problems and could easily be overcome with a little thought.

So forget about prayer in school and forget about teacher-competency tests. There is a simple solution: student salaries. Does this say something about college as well? Wouldn't this sort of system work there, too?

Let's not get carried away ...

Vol. 04, Issue 25, Page 17

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