Work, study . . . then what?

Claus von Zastrow of Public School Insights looks at The Trouble With Incentives for students.

Former WSJ editor Ron Alsop worries that today’s youth fear failure, need constant feedback, and expect to face well-defined problems that have well-defined solutions. They’ll have trouble finding their footing in today’s professional quicksand, he argues.

. . . Too many young people see rewards as entitlements that have little to do with effort. But ham-fisted attempts to strengthen the link between effort and reward can do more harm than good in the long term.

“The great recession is changing the rules,” he writes.

Suddenly, hard work and success in school are no guarantee of anything. Yes, you won’t have a fighting chance in this climate if you lack academic credentials. But even students who have overcome all odds and become the first in their families to earn a college degree are facing the same grim prospects their parents and grandparents faced in years past.

. . . It’s still critical to show students the link between hard work, perseverance, and future success. But maybe we should help students value learning for its own sake.

That’s not easy, he concedes.

Via Core Knowledge.

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Comments

  1. Michael E. Lopez says:

    Not easy? It’s a bloody Catch-22. It’s just not phrased properly.

    What is written is:

    “But maybe we should help students value learning for its own sake.”

    But what is meant is:

    “But maybe we should help students LEARN to value learning for its own sake.”

    And that seems nearly impossible. However, I generally take it as true that children come into this world with a love of learning. They’re more or less hardwired for it.

    But somewhere along the line, we destroy that love of learning with school. I’m not sure exactly how or when it happens (though I have some suspicions, some social theories having to do with families and peer relations, and some education theories a la Willingham)… but it’s usually somewhere around 4th, 5th, or 6th grade depending on the student. Instead of worrying about how we should help students to value learning for its own sake, perhaps we should consider how to STOP destroying students’ valuing of learning for its own sake.

    Nothing is easier to fix than something you don’t allow to be broken.

  2. “Suddenly, hard work and success in school are no guarantee of anything. Yes, you won’t have a fighting chance in this climate if you lack academic credentials. But even students who have overcome all odds and become the first in their families to earn a college degree are facing the same grim prospects their parents and grandparents faced in years past.”

    Not so sure that those are new rules. But the folks who always seem to have a hard time crashing into reality, in my experience, are not the students who have overcome all odds, etc. etc. It is the kids who breezed through school on the strength of the support and learning-rich environment they were immersed in since birth. Those are the kids who get really hacked off when they discover that they are a dime a dozen in some job market and there are no guarantees for them. The kids who have done well despite a mediocre system, watched their peers settle into work and life while they worked part-time and commuted to the local two-year college and then transferred to a state school–those are the kids who have not only understood the value of learning, but also how work connects to achieving goals, or moving on to Plan B.

  3. However, I generally take it as true that children come into this world with a love of learning.

    I very much doubt it.

    And kids who can barely read should not go to college anyway, so if the one thing that comes out of the recession is fewer unqualified kids going to college, that’s a near-win.

  4. George Larson says:

    “However, I generally take it as true that children come into this world with a love of learning.

    I very much doubt it.”

    I think little children do have a love of learning before they start school. How else would they learn to walk, speak and play?At some point during their formal education many lose it. I do not know why.

  5. Margo/Mom–You may be right about the persistence of students who have succeeded though the deck was stacked against them. But I’m not entirely sure. Those students come into the work world with a much thinner rolodex than their wealthier peers do. They may be better equipped for frustration than are the students who come into the work world with a sense of entitlement. But it’s very, very difficult nonetheless.

    A couple of years back, as the economy was taking a dive, I heard Geoff Canada remark that, for the first time since he founded the HCZ, he couldn’t guarantee his best graduates anything at all. He worried that the promises he and many others had made to his most accomplished students were going unfulfilled, and he seemed very distressed by that realization.

  6. How else would they learn to walk, speak and play?

    Not because they “love” learning. Walking, speaking, and even playing are organic acts.

    Some people do love learning. But most people don’t. We should stop basing our education policy on the premise that they do–or, will, if “taught properly”.

  7. There is no love of learning. There is a conditioned love for some sort of reward that one receives as a result of learning, whether it be a pat on the back, notoriety, or money.
    4- to 10-year-olds love “learning” because they have been conditioned to expect enthusiasm, love, and other rewards from their parents. They come in to school with that love and if the school does its job right, it promotes that love through other methods like stickers, achievement boards, candy, and report cards.
    If this is all done right, by the time the student reaches middle or high school, they will have internalized the love of learning to the point where they don’t need immediate rewards like candy. Instead, they begin to understand that learning enables them to get what they want in life like admission to a certain college and a good career.

    All along this path are minefields though. Low parent involvement sabotages students from the start. A culture that not only ignores, but actively opposes learning also allows little success. Inadequate teachers and curricula frustrate even the most able students. Sex, pregnancy, drugs take their toll on middle and high schoolers.