Thursday, September 24, 2009

"My class"

"Whose class are you in?" the eleven-year old asked the three-year old. Upper elementary students help walk new primary students to class during the first weeks of school, until the younger ones learn the way to their rooms and get comfortable walking there independently.

"My class," she replied.

I broke out in a big grin. Was this answer a statement of philosophy? Eleven-year olds are eminently practical, so the upper elementary student rephrased her question. "Who's your teacher?" She got the answer she needed and the two of them walked into school hand-in-hand.

The current issue of Education Week deals with this as a philosophical response. In Joan Goodman's article, "Anything a child can do, a teacher shouldn't," she talks about ways to shift perception, so that children come to feel that the school is "mine rather than theirs."

What is she reacting to? In schools that impose, "a rigorous curriculum along with strict behavioral regulations ... The cost of achievement is submission by all."

Is this a nightmare or an educational ideal? Wouldn't this result in well-behaved students who learn what we want them to learn?

Or is this the key to a mystery?

When I asked a group of business people how many consider themselves entrepeneurs, most hands went up. When I asked how many are told what to do when they go into work in the morning, every hand went down.

I asked who gets excited about learning a new skill or some new bit of information. Every hand went up.

Then I asked who liked school. Nearly every hand went down. Down.

Why is it, I asked them, that a group of adults who love to learn, disliked school?

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Danger: don't read this blog

"If you want people to perform better, you reward them. Right?"

That's Dan Pink speaking. He goes on to say that there is a gross mismatch between what science knows and what business does. What? Because in answer to his question he reveals that

actually dull thinking and
block creativity.

"Rewards don't work and often do harm."

"This is NOT philosophy. This is NOT a feeling. This is a fact--or as we say in Washington DC,

'a true fact.'"

Dan Pink has a new book coming out: DRIVE. It is about the science of motivation.

Two friends sent me links to Dan Pink's TED talk on the same day: Bubba Levy here in Houston and Tom Larsen in San Francisco. And a few days later, Emily Hansen sent me this from the New York Times: "When a parent's 'I love you" means "do as I say.'"

Same idea.

I guess most of us got the idea at home from our parents and pass it on to our children, so it is no wonder that we run our businesses this way and describe it as "The Real World".


Does motivation really mean getting your child or your employee to do what you want him to do?

Dan Pink quotes the scientific research. Rewards only work to improve performance if the task is simple. If it is complex, or requires creative thinking, "rewards don't work and often do harm."

And what harm do rewards and punishment do to children? Check out the Times.