In my ongoing effort to define what Liberalism 5.0 might mean, I want at some point to talk about the work of buisness writer Dan Pink, whose books Whole New Mind, Drive, and most recently, To Sell is Human, are important contributions to our understanding about work and motivation.
His reporting on the research about the negative effects of carrots (as in carrots and sticks) was surprising to me, but made sense the more I thought about it. The key insight is that to the degree that we do things for extrinsic motivations, we lose touch with our intrinsic motivations. Intrinsic motivations are what give us purpose and joy; extrinsic rewards give us a quick fix that wears off, and so we demand more or higher intensity fixes in order to feel motivated to do the work. Extrinsic rewards kill intrinsic motivation.
Pink makes clear that reward incentives are necessary for the jobs no one could find any intrinsic motivation to do, but has a negative impact on creative or non alogrithmic work, work that requires imagination, adaptation, innovation. Creative people want to be paid well, but getting paid isn't the thing that gets them up in the morning.
And so when we look at the chart at the top of the post, why do you think that most students at the beginning of their education are "into" it, and by the time they are in high school most are not. Do you think it might happen because they have lost their intrinsic motivation? Why would that happen?
Pink quotes the Gallup report from which the chart above was taken:
As this Gallup blog post explains: “[Our] research strongly suggests that the longer students stay in school, the less engaged they become.” Primary school kids begin their educations deeply engaged — but by the time they get to high school, more than half are checked out. And the problem is even worse for our most entrepreneurial students.
Brandon Busteed, Executive Director of Gallup Education, points to several factors for the decline. An “overzealous focus on standardized testing.” Not enough project-based or experiential learning. Too few pathways for students who won’t, or don’t want to, attend college.
Every normal healthy child should be required to attain a basic level of numeracy and literacy, they should know basic things about history, the natural world, art and music, but after 8th Grade kids and their parents should be allowed to choose an educational path that will keep them engaged. Standards, yes. Standardization, no.The school district should ensure the quality of the training and education that the school provides for students who chose these different paths, not insist that every kid meet a university prep standard.
Education should be a preparation for life, not just for a STEM job.