This particular fund raiser involved selling cookie dough. Expensive cookie dough. $17-a-tub cookie dough. The kind that will be delivered frozen and parents will have to come and pick up. The kind that always gets me worrying about food safety.
To encourage the kids to actually sell the over-priced cookie dough, fabulous prizes were dangled in front of them. The most enticing turned out to be rubber ducks on lanyards. For every three orders, the kids received a duck. These weren't just ordinary yellow ducks, mind you. No, they were superhero ducks. They were designed to look like Superman, Iron Man, Batman, and others. Sort of. If no one had told me what they were, I never would have guessed. The kids absolutely went crazy for them.
At our staff meeting on Monday, we learned that our quick one-week cookie dough fund raiser had netted us $16,000. Never underestimate the power of rubber ducks! Yet, somehow I found that troubling. I began to wonder, what are we teaching our kids when the only way to get them go participate is to bribe them with prizes? Here we were raising money for computers that they would use, that they love to use, and that benefit their education. This fund raiser was a chance for them to do something for their school, a chance to feel that they had made a difference.
I can't help but feel we took that away from them. We told them we didn't think they were willing to contribute to their community. We told them that you should only participate if there is something in it for you.
I am sure many will disagree with me. The ducks were incentives. They simply encouraged the kids to put effort into the cause. They can feel proud of all the money they raised.
All that is true. It just seems to me that we are more and more, as a society, conveying the message that the only things worth doing are ones that result in personal gain. Instead of looking at how actions can benefit others and one's community, we seem to always to be asking, "What's in it for me?" When we pay our children for good grades, when we offer trinkets for books read and AR tests passed, are we not trivializing the true accomplishment? Are we not teaching them that the reward is the money or the prize and not the learning? Are we denying them the opportunity to see themselves as contributing members of society and part of a much bigger picture than just themselves?
Maybe I'm overthinking all this. The kids got ducks and we got Chromebooks. It's a win-win. Right?