July 12, 2010

Breeding Little Capitalist Pigs.

Should we pay kids to learn?

Harvard Professor of Economics Roland Fryer Jr. conducted an experiment to determine whether offering children money for doing well in school would help them perform. The results were varied but promising.

There’s something that tastes immediately sour about this prospect, wouldn’t ya say?

I can’t help but think of an assembly line comprised of children rushing madly to produce as many sprockets—or in this case “A”s—as they can. Think Charlie Chaplin’s Little Tramp in Modern Times, or Mr. Jetson. I picture cheating at a level never yet seen—kids sabotaging each others’ Scantrons, parents texting quiz answers to their kids’ Blackberries, teachers accepting bribes from their little capitalists-in-training.

What goes forgotten in a hyper-capitalist culture is the value of currencies other than the green-paper variety. What’s more, competition is not the only mechanism for motivation to which humans respond.

I’ve got some ideas about what, beyond competition, motivates us, but my list is painfully incomplete. So far I’m thinking….

~Oral & qualitative encouragement

~Cooperation on teams

~Recognition of real-world application

~The good kind of peer pressure

~Desire to please/succeed


My question to you is this:

What, other than competition, might motivate children to do their best?

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