Our daughters’ elementary school has organized a raffle to raise money for travel to Austin. I’ve never felt strongly about raffles one way or the other, but when my daughter J told me, “My teacher said I MUST bring a dollar tomorrow to get a new bicycle,” my reaction was strong and immediate. “No way. Besides, you already have a perfectly good bicycle.”
By the time I got around to discussing this matter with my husband, I’d figured out what bothered me so much about the raffle. Moving to a house with 300 fewer square feet than our old one helped me realize how much more stuff we have than we actually need or even use regularly. The kids have too many books and toys in their room to keep tidy, and the last they need is more stuff. We don’t want the raffle prize.
Even more important, though, is that the idea of a raffle, betting a small amount in the hopes of winning big, is in direct opposition to the ethic of hard work. We don’t want to teach our children that success comes by way of shortcuts, but rather that rewards are earned. If they want to participate in the raffle to support their school, I’m all for that, but not if they’re just in it for the prize.
We’ve taught our children that giving to others is important. On their 5th birthday, we requested canned foods for donation to the local pantry in lieu of gifts. When a neighbour asked J what she wanted for her birthday, she said, “A toy would be fine, but it’s nicer to bring food for hungry people.” If we’re going to support the school, I’d rather donate money outright than buy a raffle ticket, and will ask the principal about how to go about doing that instead.
It isn’t the school’s job, of course, to teach our children values. Teaching kids what is important falls entirely on the parents. However, the sale of raffle tickets and junk food to the children at school makes it that much more important that we explain to them how we choose to financially support the institutions we care about. I can’t help feeling that these fund-raising approaches fly in the face of the educational mission of the school. No one teaches home economics in school any more, but I would imagine that a key lesson would be to invest wisely, and that there’s no such thing as a free lunch.
How did you/do you intend to introduce the concepts of money and responsible finances to your children?
Sadia’s identical twin daughters attend public school in El Paso, where her husband is a soldier. When not over-thinking every tiny aspect of the girls’ lives, she works full time as a computer geek.