Capitalism Run Amok In New York City's Schools

By Glenn BeckHost "Glenn Beck"

With all the different areas of my business, I've got quite a lot of employees helping me do what I do. And as much as any of them like me or believe in my message, I'm positive that none of them would do their work for free. I want their work, they want money--it's a perfect arrangement. That's a cornerstone of capitalism--motivating people with money. It worked yesterday, it works today, and it'll work tomorrow (that is, unless President Obama has his way...but that's another column). But as well as this arrangement works with work, it doesn't and shouldn'tin every scenario.


One of the greatest disservices we can ever do to our children is to blunt their need to try.


New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg has instituted a plan to pay kids for doing well in school. These are public school kids who are given an education for free, yet Mayor Bloomberg feels it makes sense to also pay themfor doing well...compensating them for enjoying the gift of a free education. I think that's a bad idea for a host of reasons, and I talked about it on the air this week with my radio producer Stu. He was able to see things from a different (wrong) point of view, so I thought I'd use the transcript of that radio show to continue that discussion with him. Unfortunately, once I make my points, Stu won't be able to respond because he's not here. Too bad Stu--get your own column.

Before I bring "Stu" into the conversation, let me make one thing clear. Since Mayor Bloomberg started this program of paying public school kids to get good grades, it's been working. I can't argue with the results, but just because the program is having success doesn't mean that it's the right thing to do. I believe that free public education in America is a gift, and you shouldn't have to pay anyone to accept it. Now let's see what Stu had to say about it:

STU: Isn't this, though, just -- I mean, isn't it essentially the same thing as an allowance for chores? I mean, you should be doing chores anyway, helping around the house. But you give an allowance. I mean, it teaches -- it's essentially using the principles of capitalism to get things done. I'm generally in favor of that.

The difference here is that families work together to take care of the "business" of the family. With chores, you don't just live in the house for free. So really Stu, it's not the same thing at all. It's comparing apples to oranges, so let's move on.

STU: So in essence they are giving a little bit of money back. What's the problem? A performance-based incentive...I don't know what your issue with that is? I don't know how these people can figure out that capitalism works in this scenario and it doesn't work in any of the other ones. This is the only time they can ever figure it out. But in essence you are rewarding good performance. I don't necessarily have a problem with that.

The problem is that public education is one of America's greatest gifts. Imagine if I gave you a birthday present, but you said you'd only accept it if I also paid you to do so. If that sounds absurd, that's because it is, and it's a perfect analogy. Gifts are to be accepted or declined. Those who choose to "accept" the gift of free education perform better in college and the workforce...in life--they prosper and excel. That's the reward for their work. Those who "decline" the gift and don't take full advantage of a public school education that is the envy of the world over...they enjoy less success and fewer opportunities in life.

One of the greatest disservices we can ever do to our children is to blunt their need to try. You have to apply yourself in this world, and when we teach our kids that making an effort should only happen when you get paid...then we're dooming their future and that of our country. Stu...?

STU: But here if they do apply themselves, they get rewarded. That's a principle that is taught.

Wrong again (wow--this is easy...maybe I should have all my conversations with Stu this way?) The reason that too few kids don't take their education seriously enough is the fact that it is free. When things are handed to us--and not just tangible things, but also opportunities--we value them less. I feel it's much like public housing versus private housing. If someone's had to work to get their home, chances are they're going to take good care of it. But if it's just given to them for free, they too often don't care for it. For instance...

STU: But if you are talking about results, I mean, again no one would ever propose this. But if you are talking about results and you paid the people living in public housing to take care of it, you can be sure that they probably would.

I hate it when he cuts me off, especially in my own column. Look--it's like a car rental. If companies like Hertz didn't make you responsible for the car, you might not be as careful to not ding it up while it was in your acre. But since they require you to be careful by charging you if you aren't, you take better care of the car. But getting back to the example of public education, it's free!

STU: But isn't there a possibility that you actually are teaching a kid a capitalist principle?


OK, fine--I'll give Stu this point. But...while they are in fact teaching a capitalist principle, they're not making an effort to tell these kids that by participating in this program, they're teaching them a capitalist principle! It's a little abstract, so it's likely that the only kids who'll getthat this is a capitalist principle are the kids who are smart and taking full advantage of their free education and thus not partaking in this application of a capitalist principle! Oh boy, I can feel the blood welling up and getting ready to shoot straight out of my eyes, and the cleanup after that takes forever. I better wrap this up.

Yes, I am a capitalist and will be 'till the day I die. But at the same time, I'm also a passionate believer in the very American ideals of hard work being its own reward...of our need to take responsibility for our own betterment...of the idea that a hand-out hurts a man's desire to give himself a hand-up. We must teach our children these lessons as well, and Mayor Bloomberg's plan does the exact opposite.

The old saying goes that you shouldn't look a gift horse ion the mouth. Well, too many of New York City's public school kids are looking that gift horse in the mouth, and they're hoping to find some extra cash in there as well. It's got to stop--we owe our children and our countrymore..