Earning an “A” in Chicago Public High Schools, a freshman student could gross $50 dollars. Receiving a “B” or “C” could put $35 and $20 dollars respectively in the pockets of 5000 high school freshmen students in 20 Chicago public schools. This initiative is part of a Harvard-designed test. The study was noted in the September 11, 2008 Chicago Tribune . The program, “Green for Grade$” which involves no tax payer money, received 2 million to pilot the program from private sources.
This is a new manner in approaching the academic gap between Black and White students in America. Recently on the CNN special, “Black in America,” Harvard economist Roland Fryer’s efforts to engage Black elementary-aged Black students by means of paying them to do their assigned school work was briefly discussed. Chicago is following programs in cities like New York and Washington D.C. Some proponents noted that this is approach is not harmful for many parents have always paid their children allowances for good grades. In addition, some see the program as a way to motivate students “who are not getting the motivation at home…” Critics believe that the program will not “cultivate an interest in learning, curiosity…”
In my scholarly opinion, programs like this will do more harm than good. Black students have substantial stereotypes already playing to their demise. Moreover, as in the past, within the 21st century, actions that enable the power and privilege of Whites in part are fueled by stereotypes and the fear of non-Whites.
The bold scholar and intellectual hero, Frantz Fanon said:
I was hated, despised, detested, not by the neighbor across the street, or my cousin on my mother’s side, but by an entire race. I was up against something unreasoned. The psychoanalysts say that nothing is more traumatizing for the young child than his encounters with what is rational. I would personally say that for a man whose only weapon is reason there is nothing more neurotic than contact with unreason.
Paying Black students for their grades sends a covertly accurately translated message to Whites that Blacks proverbially fit within the historical stereotypes of lazy and “shiftless.” Strategies such as paying students are nothing but a continuation of the medical model which simply illustrates a focus on the flaws of the individual instead of the system. The system of public education needs to be seen as a factor affecting the academic outcomes of students of color. Until this is honestly approached, we as a society will continue to look for cures to the symptoms instead of the disease which is merely institutional racism in public education.