An Open letter to Roland Fryer

Dear Dr. Fryer,

I am writing this letter to you because my wife wants to kick your ass.  I think you made an ass of yourself, but I am not inclined to come look for you.  I will just say that you should count your blessings that her niece went to Boston University and not Harvard.

To say she is deeply troubled by your belief in paying children to encourage them to is just not accurate.  I, sir, am deeply troubled by by your belief in paying children to learn.

She is enraged at you because you have chosen a short cut to success.  A shortcut that is antithetical to the true purpose of Education.

Education is not a means to an end.

Sorry, Education is not merely a means to an end.  It is the end.

And the beginning.

and all that stuff in between.

Education is not a road to success.

Education IS success.

Education is a way of life.

There are no shortcuts.

To act otherwise is to short circuit the circle of life.  Whatever short term gains these children receive will come at the expense of what the larger goal SHOULD be.

My wife thinks you have lost your connection with your people.  I disagree.

I respect your committment to closing the achievement gap but I am deeply troubled by you hanging your hat on such a hamfisted short circuiting of educational reform.

You sir, have managed to become the Atkins diet of Educational Reform.  Paying for scores may benefit some children in the short term, but it is certainly not healthy won’t do anything to effect the long term health of the child’s educational prospects without fundamental change in the long term.

There are no Shortcuts, Dr. Fryer.

A full and thorough and unyielding thirst for education is the most valuable attribute a family can have.  Traditionally it is instilled by parents and manifested in their lifestyle.

You cannot buy that.  You can only build it.

To pretend there is a shortcut does a disservice to the children and our culture.

Please rethink this before my wife finds you, for your own safety.


The InkogNegro



  1. Jazzy

    I will have to disagree with you concerning Dr. Fryer. He suggests balancing his short term goal (i.e. paying children to learn) with a long term plan (that no one has yet developed). Children are not motivated and in the day and age were it is all about the dolla dolla bill you have to come up with something. He has done that. I suggest people wait for the empirical data before they begin lambasting his idea. Of course this will take several years for the children to reach the age of maturity, but at least he is trying SOMETHING. Until people can come up with other motivation for these kids give his plan a try. This is really no different as he said than white people or any person that can afford to buy their children a car for graduating or an Ivy League education because they make good grades. These kids know they will have a reward if they make good grades what’s so different in what he is suggesting. Good thought provoking debate topic.

  2. small1171

    Dear Dr. Fryer,

    I wouold like to take opportunity to “Thank You” for all your doings with helping and reachng out to the children. In today’s society with crime on the rise, without proper guidence, children can easily fall into wrong hands. Children need positive mentors, starting with Mom and Dad, and then working its way up ladder to other, who can also instill great value in them.

    There needs to be more positive mentors, to step up to the plate and help our kids. Times are changing…a new generation is in the processing of blooming, like a flower, at the beginning of spring. I am a firm believer, “Change is coming”, which will greatly have an impact on the children regardless of race.

    May you continue to be used in way that will not change, by reaching out to the children, who wants to be challenged and challenging others in a positive way…educating the mind for success.

  3. tjsthings

    I’m wary of any solution that instills materialism (and the idea that it is okay to accept a bribe) into children. I think the black community has enough of that across the board. But what if it gets these children on the path to achievement which has eluded them because of the failures of the people entrusted with rearing them? Would the end then justify the means?

  4. Jonzee

    I am with Jazzy. I disagree. This is the way I see it. Like Dr Fryer, I see with the children I live next to in the hood, and in the children I mentor now and in the past that there is a significant disconnect for many of these children between the value of the dollar and the value of an education. “Getting money” is what they know–they do not know the value of education in “getting money”–and they are surrounded by living examples of folks who are uneducated daily. Lack of money often keeps really poor kids from attending class in addition to not being able to see the tangible benefits in getting an education.

    To me it is a high-minded idea to say that we can show kids the value of education when everything around that kid show “get money” not “get an education”.


    At the end of the day, many of us got an education so we could “get money.” For many of us, it was not about the cathartic nature of learning, but about dollars and cents. His program is a means to making a connection for something many of us did–but the opposite way.

  5. ladybird

    As an elementary teacher of ten years I can say that Roland Fryer’s short term goal, paying children to learn, is only one of many incentives to help motivate and encourage children to do better in their academics. It can be instilled in a child that they will not always receive an incentive every single time they do something because they have to do it anyway, however, to take the initiative and try something innovative to keep the achievement gap moving forward, is beneficial to their future.

  6. msfriendly

    As a high school teacher…and one who recently taught in the inner-city…I can honestly say that I feel split in my opinion of Dr. Fryer’s efforts. I commend him for TRYING!!!! However, my biggest concern is instilling the false notion that the real world will reward you for doing what you are supposed to do. Also…there are so many other intricate factors that must be taken into consideration. What happens to transient students? Inner-city students are EXTREMELY transient…not every school they transfer to will adhere to the same methods of motivation…then what? What TRUE coping skill has the student been given to press on with their education? Also, having taught high school…I can tell you right now…$25 ain’t shit to no dope boy/girl (yep, my students have taught me their lingo too)!!!! He/She won’t be impressed with earning $25 per every “A” on a test…so…I don’t know…I’ve been teaching seven years now. August 2008 will begin my 8th year…I don’t have the answer yet…I just continue to try.

  7. missjazzy

    The InkogNegro,

    I am not here to defend nor disagree with Dr. Roland and his philosophy as I am a bit biased for reasons I won’t disclose. I will say – what have you done to turn the educational system around? Before criticizing how about giving an alternative solution? What about partnering with Dr. Fryer for the benefit of our children? Sitting back to criticize is easy – how about standing up and speaking out on what WE can do to help our young black boys and girls who have no voice?

    The children I mentor have struggled for most of their lives and any incentive given be it monetary or not is welcoming. Did you even watch the CNN special? The little boy who helped his father and saved the rest? This is no different from your parents paying you for good grades. Yes, paying someone for doing what they should be doing in the first place is a bit stretched but I have no other alternative and it is working.

    Our children need help – Dr. Fryer is helping. Each one teach one…..

    In closing, I’m sure your threat of kicking Roland’s ass was a bit far fetched. I really don’t think that would happen – read his bio! I know Roland and he is a wonderful person and my hat is off to him for attempting to change and making it better for our young black youth.

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