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Friday, February 22, 2008

Gambling for School Age Children

Hope I caught your attention! This week's Yated features some responses to last week's Chinuch Roundtable. Unfortunately the email version of the Yated does not include the Chinuch Roundtable, so I'm working off the Readers Write section.

As my regular readers know, I have little interest in elaborate reward systems for children and have many doubts about their long term effectiveness or propriety. There is academic literature to the same effect and any reward system used should be used sparingly in my opinion.

It seems that a number of mechanchim have established a system of rewards where those with tickets must gamble for prizes via a Chinese Auction. I'm afraid that on of my local schools will be doing this, if they haven't started already. Some parents have already told me the rewards system is too over the top for them. But, we aren't attending that school. So, it isn't my personal battle, at least not presently.

My regular readers also know that I am no cheerleader of for current, very popular, fundraising method amongst adults. But, I find it outrageous to be introducing gambling (and that is what a Chinese Auction is plain and simple) into schools, making gambling seem exciting and acceptable. Of course, the kids who worked hard and gambled their tickets away for no return, will hopefully be turned off by gambling (the impetus for the Chinuch Roundtable question I believe). But, those who win will probably be excited by gambling, and that isn't a lesson I expect schools to be teaching children.

In the last post I asked if Financial Education for school children is something we should asking our schools to implement. I voted Nay because I just don't trust that what could be taught will mesh what I would like taught and will actively be teaching. Giving children an option to gamble their tickets away as a "reward" is more evidence that our schools just aren't ready to introduce personal finance into the classroom.

If you seek being active in the chinuch your children are receiving, a review of the rewards system and a letter writing campaign where inappropriate would certainly be in order. I know friends of mine (whose children go to school/attend events where big rewards are used) are concerned that reward system is a negative, creating little negotiators, entitlement, and larger than live expectations. So, I'm sure any parent that decides to be the squeaky wheel will be much appreciated.


Mike S. said...

I really don't like fundraising that involves something other than asking for donations. I am not in favor of couple tzedokah with gambling. I also don't like having kids sell wrapping paper or other goodies to raise funds. Particularly since the amount the school gets is far less than the difference in price between the promotional merchandise and what one can buy at a discount store.

I don't even like dinners. Ask for a donation and let me write off the full amount please.

ProfK said...

I also don't like the dinners because the caterer is the one who makes more money then the organization does. I don't like the auctions because they cause people to way overspend, not because they are giving tzedaka, but because they are gambling on getting something for their money.

I don't agree on when the school is selling a particular item. There it would depend on the item being sold. One of our local yeshivot sells wine and grape juice for Pesach beginning around now. The more they can sell, the better their price from the distributor. Everyone in the neighborhood buys from them and they do make a lot of money this way. The wholesale liquor store across the bridge in Bayonne is only about ten cents a bottle cheaper, and that's without figuring in the toll. When we lived out of town years back the only place we could get Bartons candy for Pesach--the only kosher candy at the time--was through the day school. The local stores didn't carry it. They were actually doing us a favor in selling the candy.

Mike S. said...

Prof K.,

I haven't a problem when the sale is of something of use to the community. What bothers me is when the items are priced far above retail, and the school only collects a fraction of the difference. This generally occurs when the item sold, or at least the specific brand, is marketed as a fund raising gimmick. Same thing with magazine subscriptions. You can almost always get a better deal for both you and the charity by calling the publisher (or Publishers' Clearing House), subscribing to the magiazine and then sending the charity a check for say, half the difference between the "charitable" subscription and the publisher's subscription price. I remember once having someone offer me a magazine subscription for $15 over the retail subscription price with $1 to the charity.

And my kids' schools have occasionally had wrapping paper sales drives where the wrapping paper was twice retail, with about 10% going to the school. I thought it was a scam and refused to let my kids participate.

SephardiLady said...

Mike S-My parents also did not allow us to participate in peddling gift wrap, etc.

ProfK said...

I agree that the gift wrap with that small a margin of money going to the yeshiva is a waste. Any item with such a small margin would be a waste. Then there are the gray areas.

Chanukah time the local yeshiva ketanas (all part of one bigger organization) have a Chanukah boutique. Sellers come down and display their wares. The yeshiva provides them the gym to set up in and gets 10-15% of the sale price. It's not just gift items and general judaica that is sold. They sell menoras and candles and oil and the oil in the glasses packs. Just for arguments sake say that you buy $40 worth of stuff. How many people who might buy the stuff outside the yeshiva are going to send the yeshiva $4 or $6 dollars? People tend to donate to yeshivas when they have an appeal or at set times of the year, like before Rosh Hashana. For very little effort on its part the yeshiva cleared this year about $2200. That's $2200 it didn't have before, and I suspect that most people just would not have sent them such small checks.

Mike S. said...

When it is in the context of a clearly commercial sale and everyone understands that it is mostly a commercial transaction with the charity getting a small cut for providing the venue, I don't have a problem because it isn't deceptive. Everyone understands that the sellers are merchants making money. When it's a school kid going door-to-door (or hitting up grandma) it feels more like a charitable solicitation, and it's deceptive if the fraction going to the charity is too low.

anonymous mom said...

I've done the "class store thing" when I taught younger kids. The kids get tickets for cooperation, organization, good behavior and then use those to purchase different toys on Rosh Chodesh. The choices are arranged by ticket numbers (1-5, 6-10) and the purchases are made as they are at a carnival. You can buy two tiny, cheap toys/erasers... or one bigger prize. The choice is there, the reward is there. The kids like it very much. We do a raffle too. I even do that with my older students. All people like a raffle that they don't have to pay for.

triLcat said...

A lot of evidence suggests that verbal rewards are at least as effective as tangible ones. If the teachers make an effort to notice and praise good behavior, it reinforces the behavior just as well as small prizes if not better.

I also see a problem with children being rewarded for behavior that should be expected. My sister's kids are in a youth group that meets Shabbat afternoon. The rules are simple - you don't come for mincha and daven with everyone else, you're not allowed to be in the activity. You don't meet expectations, you lose privileges.

Sure, when a child acts exceptionally, they should be rewarded. It's okay to have contests for things that are above and beyond (eg memorizing mishnayos, knowing brachos) and to give little prizes, but I think that giving prizes for expected behavior becomes very problematic very quickly.

anonymous mom said...

Tril, I think giving prizes for memorizing Mishnayos--a skill that by nature will be easier for some than others--is problematic.

Chaim B. said...

A classic on the dangers of the reward system is "Punished by Rewards" by Alfie Kohn
Worth reading, even if you in the end think he exaggerates his case a bit.
I may be too cynical, but I have long since given up hope of any yeshiva taking research like this to heart.

Chaim B. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Chaim B. said...

>>>Tril, I think giving prizes for memorizing Mishnayos--a skill that by nature will be easier for some than others--is problematic.

Is it problematic for a basketball team that wins more games than the competition to get a trophy while the losing teams and the many kids who simply have no talent to play get nothing? What's the difference?

If you do a good job at work, should your boss not give you a raise or bonus because it's not fair to other workers who may simply not have your talent?