Bribing the unmotivated

Paying students for attendance and grades raises educators’ hackles, but David Harsanyi, a Denver Post columnist, is willing to try anything to keep low-income kids in school.

Are we more concerned with outcome or process? What if students lack “intrinsic motivation”? Isn’t the most important thing keeping them in school? Perhaps a love of learning will kick in later. Isn’t it at least worth a small-scale experiment to see?

We can’t blame teachers all the time. They can only be engaging to a point. Siegfried and Roy couldn’t have made my algebra class fascinating.

Fifty bucks, though …

He’s got more on his blog.

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Comments

  1. Walter E. Wallis says:

    Let them quit as long as they have a full time job.

  2. “Isn’t the most important thing keeping them in school? Perhaps a love of learning will kick in later”…well, perhaps. Or maybe the students will learn that they need never do anything unless there is an immediate reward, and hence fail to ever develop intrinsic motivation.

    See this for an interesting study on the importance of intrinsic motivation.

  3. I have to say I worry about what David’s mentioning.

    (That, and I’d feel a right chump to have gone to school for 20+ years for without being bribed to do it…)

  4. Mark Roulo says:

    Isn’t the most important thing keeping them in school?

    No, I don’t think it is. The students getting an education
    is the most important thing, not the number of hours that
    they are present at the school.

    -Mark Roulo

  5. “Or maybe the students will learn that they need never do anything unless there is an immediate reward, and hence fail to ever develop intrinsic motivation.”

    You can also flip this on it’s head. The reason to stay in school is so that they can be more productive in life, thus have more options in work, and ultimately be paid better.

    But that reward is far in the future.

    Why not pay them now, so they learn that work pays?

    I know that paying people who would normally be intrinsically motivated risks removing that intrinsic motivation (and the enjoyment). But let’s think of ways to solve that secondary problem, rather than throw out this solution.

    If we can get more poor kids to learn while in school, I think it’s well worth it.

  6. Samuel Johnson famously wrote:

    “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money.”

    What was that about the inherent inferiority of extrinsic motivation?

    I submit that for most people in most realms of endeavor, extrinsic motivitation precedes intrinsic motivation. Historically, this might have been parents rewarding their children with praise for good grades or punishment for bad grades, but neither of those is intrinsic either. In the absence of those sorts of extrinsic motivational tools, perhaps paying kids for progress is not unreasonable.

  7. Extrnsic motivation is necessary to eventually develop intrinsic motivation. It’s a simple case of conditioning.
    The problem is that schools and other organizations are using the reward system in a haphazard way, which actually prevents the individuals from learning any behaviors.
    I’m all for rewards that are carefully used to prod along the mass, such as pay for achievement on major tests and quarter or final grades, but pay for attendance and homework is destructive. It’s also here that cultural differences appear – certain parents will reward their child for a good final grade with money, a gift, or something else, while parents of a different background don’t care.
    It’s important to note that there are individuals who will not respond to any form of conditioning, and that the rest of individuals should not be sacrificed in a futile attempt to motivate the continually unmotivated.

  8. Doing what you love is great… but paying the bills is a pretty good idea too.

  9. This is such a bizarre idea but in the ridiculous atmosphere of the public education system it seems almost worthwhile.

    Maybe it’s just that there’s a symmetry in paying kids to do what they’re born to do, learn, to balance off requiring parents to do what they’d do regardless of the impediments, give their kid a leg up in life by providing a good education. Or maybe giving kids any direction, any impetus at all to learn, is better then allowing them to continue to be passengers on a ship without compass, rudder or destination.