OP-ED: Lack of Gift Giving

Nevan Malwana, Junior, Associate Editor-in-Chief

Firemen, police officers, and even politicians are often recipients of gifts from their constituents. However, for teachers, arguably the most important group of public servants, the idea of receiving gifts from students has become taboo. Schools across the country are now trending in the direction of not allowing teachers to accept gifts from students. Why is it that those charged with equipping the next generation to be functional members of society cannot accept tokens of appreciation? While some may claim that accepting gifts from certain students can lead to a degree of partiality, measures such as standardized tests, and final class scores, can ensure that a teacher is not giving preferential treatment to students who give gifts. Furthermore, allowing teachers to receive gifts may be able to show schools which teachers can connect with students the best.

The primary concern brought up by opponents to student gift-giving is that there may be an obligation felt by a teacher to show preferential treatment to those who give them gifts. Even if not done consciously, it is reasonable to assume that a person receiving an expensive gift may begin to show an inclination toward certain students. However, it is already illegal for a public school student to give their teacher a gift worth over $50, and a group or class of students to give a teacher a gift valued over $150. Yet some still claim that any gift, regardless of value, can force a teacher into a quid pro quo-like situation. In order to assure there is no special teaching or unfair attention given to kids who receive gifts, comparing standardized tests scores between kids who do and don’t gift teachers can show which, if any, teachers display bias which would allow schools to implement workplace ethics policies specific to their faculty.

Besides being able to root out potential bias, recording which teachers receive gifts may be able to indicate to schools which teachers can most effectively teach and reach their students. If schools were to tally how many gifts each teacher received, they could combine that with other measures of educational success, such as test scores, to see which teachers not only produce the best results, but also develop the best relationships with their students. Of course, while some teachers may have either stricter or more formal methods of communicating with their classes, which could negatively impact the number of gifts they may receive. However, if these same teachers who don’t receive as many gifts also have students who don’t score as high on standardized tests, this may indicate to a district that this teacher may not be the right fit for the position. On the other hand, teachers who receive a higher number of gifts indicate a strong rapport with their pupils, as well as having students who get higher scores on standardized exams may indicate an especially effective educator. If some kind of scale were to be developed to quantify the relationship between gifts and scores, teachers would be able to receive a sort of score that could measure their effectiveness as a teacher. Of course, one has to account for a number of other variables that could impact gifts received, and test scores such as the difficulty of a class, and prior history of a student, but if a scale could be created that account for these and other factors, it would be able to utilize student gift-giving as a tool for measuring teacher success.

Apart from the usefulness that gift-giving could provide for faculty and staff of a school district, it can also benefit the benefactor. According to the California Department of Education, most childhood development happens before the age of seven. One can see how it becomes even more important for schools and parents to encourage student gift-giving, as, beside behaviors exhibited by peers, researchers cite moral development taught by parents and other adults as one of the prime contributors to morals carried on later in life.

It is unfortunate that schools across the country dissuade gift-giving in a society in which the existence of morals that may have been alive decades ago are being questioned.