There are a few things that get my blood boiling. This is one of them:
Let me take a deep breath and try to regain my composure.
It’s possible that the school had the best interests of the kids at heart. Maybe. The principal expects students to learn for learning’s sake. Maybe he should have done the same. The principal based his decision on the work of the “educational guru” Alphie Kohn’s ideas that rewards and punishments are both methods of controlling behaviour and if we really care about the children, we need to work with them, not manipulate them. Kohn’s works include:
The problem is that academics have been duking this out in academic journals for the last 20 years! The research is not cut and dry and there are plenty of people who argue that it is easy to overcome any problems of demotivation. (It usually involves making sure that real effort is required to achieve the award.)
The problem with listening to these gurus, is that people take their word as gospel and fail to look at the actual research themselves. If you’re going to turn your school into a social experiment, I think you have an obligation to truly understand what you are basing your experiment on. Are you a visionary, blindly following someone who may be wrong, or are you just bitter because maybe you didn’t get on the honour roll when you were a kid?
If Kohn is wrong, then this principal is taking away recognition that means something to some students for nothing. And I’ll tell you something that is 100% demotivating, no reference required: asking someone to work hard, and then when they’ve achieved their goal, taking away what they’ve earned.
Ouch! Don’t believe me?
Just ask the kids whose parents told them they ate all their Halloween candy.
By Veronica Ciolfi