Educational Bribery - monday 2009-06-08 1258 last modified 2009-06-08 1259
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Do I trust the Post as a research institution? When they claim a nearly 40% improvement when children are paid for better test scores, does that figure hold up? I suspect it doesn't.

A couple of disconnected flaws in the plan, aside from where the money is sustainably coming from (it's presently privately created and funded by Harvard's EdLabs - who should use some of their millions to hire a competent web designer). The streetwise kids are going to mug the high scoring kids on pay day. Other schemers would capitalize on their earning reputation by assisting their classmates for a percentage of the take. The pay scheme promotes creative cheating. The unspoken lesson is that the only things worth doing are those that pay, or that it's worth doing things you don't enjoy if you get money in exchange. Those are flawed messages regardless of age. Other streetwise kids are going to notice that $500 for hard work each year doesn't compare to the money you can get on the street - now why bother with school at all?

EdLabs is releasing more literature on their research later. I look forward to seeing how critical objections are handled, but I think the decades-long results of this study are going to be much more interesting than one school year's worth of observation, and I hope they have it in their mandate to follow these kids and some of their unbribed peers into adulthood.



So, they think they found a way to get the grades up but still haven't figured out how to get the students motivated to learn.

I think the problem lies in modernist values with people desiring to determine the best - the creme-de-la-creme - and rank people according to a standard. Were it not for competition and the need to filter people out of certain societies, there would be no need for this type of school system that employs 'objective' standards of performance. The students themselves perceive the school as just that - a system and a mold - and adapt by making it easier for themselves, either by believing that that's the way to go and striving for approval or by tuning out and finding other ways of fitting in. They become objects, not subjects. If only teachers would - or had the liberty to - focus on the students themselves, their learning styles, and their abilities...

My idea of an ideal education is more postmodern. I imagine it being a whole lot more fun were it unplanned and unorganized, say, the day starts out with a talk about water, which leads to learning about the properties of it (physics), then about the rivers and oceans (geography), the scarcity and proper stewardship of water (ecology), life living in water (biology), then going on a tangent, about sailing, wind, knots, and maybe even horsepower (and all that technical stuff I still have no knowledge of; physics, engineering, mechanics), then about all the countries you could visit that have ports and havens, how their geographical location helped (or did not help) their economy, other factors that deter an economy - lack of land justice, economic justice, poor climate, culture and world view, gender issues (politics, economy, sociology, religion, philosophy), and so on. The whole class as a community is involved and determine what to learn next, their curiosity being the drive and catalyst. Nothing is planned other than the determination to learn something new.

I imagine tutors of princes being like that centuries ago... generalists and specialists at the same time. If you can't have a Renaissance Man in the classroom, why not have multiple specialists co-teach?

Just some random thoughts. :)

Kiona Rhee on June 11, 2009 09:36 AM

It is of course ...

It is of course an old idea that one might motivate behavior with rewards, and so it has been extensively tested. The data is clear that you can increase a behavior with the promise of a reward. Further it is well documented that this displaces other motivations[1] for the work. It so effective at doing so that one of the best ways[2] to supress a bad behavior is to pay for it and then remove the payments.

The above a well known in the social sciences (except possibly naive branches of economics). Particularly in the education field, which makes me wonder who these people doing the research are. I see their mission statement says "We embrace untested, even "hertical" ideas and rigorously evaluate and reevaluate ..." Ah, I see - this is a branch of the Broad Foundation's efforts bring all the latest business management cultism into the schools.

[1] [2]

Ben Hyde on June 09, 2009 08:17 AM

I'm a fan of eco...

I'm a fan of economic behavior modification - particularly recent studies on quitting smoking. There's a poignant difference between parents taking kids out to their favorite ice cream parlor for doing well and the educational institution paying out cold, hard cash - in a word, love. It should be no surprise that primary and secondary education fail to inspire recognition in their pupils that learning is its own reward. Replacing caring, personal attention and self-motivation with money is a true modern American solution. Oh for the day when the best schools are also the ones that pay students the most for their grades.

I'm more eager than ever to see this paper.

Ryan Lee on June 09, 2009 07:10 PM

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