Academic Bribery

When my two kids were still in high school, I offered them $20 for a three page, double spaced fictional essay or poem.  My reasoning behind this was the following:

  • I am not kidding myself; I know that I am going to give them $20 some time during the week no matter what.  I might as well get something back from it.
  • I’ll be able to explain to them the difference between your and you’re, its and it’s and that “a lot” should always be two words and not one.  If my kids can learn these three rules, well then I believe they will have successfully mastered grammar.
  • Generally teens respond well to financial bribery.
  • Any opportunity to promote creativity and writing should be encouraged.

And this exercise worked.  Well mostly worked.  My son’s effort resulted in getting $10 instead of $20 (I also have the right to provide the final financial grade).  This was because I wanted three TYPED pages double spaced, not written.  There is a difference.  And I did tell him typed when I outlined the offer.  Also, while I appreciated the overall concept of the story, I felt it could have been more detailed (I mean, every story has the “pull on the golden torch and see what happens” line).  But he gladly took the $10 and was off.

My daughter’s effort was a bit different.  No doubt intended to piss off her brother (which it did – requiring her to provide a verbal explanation of: “This is purely fictional and does not actually describe any incident that may or may not have actually happened.”).  I also think it provides a strong message that she loves her dog, Casey, more than her brother but that’s okay; sometimes I like Casey more than my kids, too.  Probably more embarrassing was that Christina completed this in class and went to ask her teacher if she could go to the school computer lab to print it out.  This resulted in her teacher asking her exactly what she needed to print and finding out that I had offered $20 for a short story.  I was a bit chagrined hearing that Christina shared this information (but honestly, when will parents learn that we have absolutely no control over what our kids share with others?)  But the fact that the teacher did let Christina leave the classroom to print it out and that I didn’t get a phone call to meet with the school counselor to discuss parenting skills helped. By the way, she got $20 bucks – she turned in a poem as well.

Directions to Nowhere
By Michael  (age 15)
April 15, 2010

Wouldn’t you want to find an awesome treasure beyond the power of your imagination?  Well, it’s your lucky day because this is directions to just such a thing!  So get excited because these are the directions to “The Magical Briefcase!” 

Okay, first you’re going to want to go to the old arcade with the bum that lives behind it.  From there you are going to head southeast but a little more east than south.  Keep going until you trip over something.  This is fishing string I set up previously for just this event.  After that you’re going to do a complete 360 degree and then stand on one foot.  This will open an underground cave.  After you get in the cave follow it until you see a golden torch and pull this.  A ladder will drop down.  Climb this and come out in the country side of the great country of Ireland. 

Now, at this point I’m sure that you’re completely lost but not to worry.  Just follow the sheep to the deserted barn of the old Amish man of Zeroud.   He will give you a riddle that you must answer. If you get this riddle wrong, it will cost you your life.  But if you get it right then he will reward you with a scroll to the final location of the magical briefcase.  (It is in a nearby tree trunk).  Inside is anything you wish.   But if I were you, I’d wish my way back home ‘cause I don’t even know where in the hell you are.

Terror in the Night
By Christina (age 17)
April 16, 2010

Sleeping.  Crashing down stairs, I jolt awake.  “Hello?” I call down the stairs.  Before descending, the lights are out.  A breeze wafts through, the front and back doors are open.  I creep into the kitchen; kitty’s asleep in his chair. 

Someone stumbles up the basement staircase. The door opens, revealing a sloppy, drunken younger brother.  Music’s blaring from downstairs.  Walking upstairs to see if my parents are in bed, they aren’t even home.  I quickly roll my eyes, check the time, and yell for my puppy.  He’s nowhere to be found,

“MICHAEL! WHERE’S MY PUPPY?!”  The very sloppy, drunken younger brother stampedes up the staircase with his arms behind his back barely slurring, “Chill out Christina, Casey’s right here,” before handing me my puppy.  He looks so scared so I swoop him in my arms coddling him.  “It’s okay puppy, the big bad boys didn’t hurt you.”  I walk to my room and climb in bed, falling asleep almost instantly.

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