Reason: Bucks for Brains

Reason has posted a good article discussing the merits of New York City Department of Education Ronald G. Fryer’s plan to give kids monetary bonuses for both taking and scoring well on academic tests. Some have praised the plan as providing much needed incentives to poor students; others slam it as corrupting the noble nature of learning for the sake of learning.

I’ll leave aside the debate over the merits of the program; what bothers me is that we don’t do enough to foster this kind of creativity, and that the knee-jerk reaction isn’t “let’s see what happens!” but rather “this is wrong, let’s kill it!”.

Education has become too dogmatic, and too monolithic in this country, and it’s getting more so thanks to massively bureaucratic federal mandates like No Child Left Behind. We don’t need national standards, and we don’t need the federal government imposing order from on high — we need the flexibility for our schools to try wildly different programs … and for parents to choose the schools that work best for their kids.

New York’s plan might be flawed. It might be brilliant — we don’t know until they try it. What we should all be doing — those who agree and disagree — it’s letting them try.