Mental time travel motivates students, writes Tom Jacobs (no relation) on Miller-McCune’s online magazine. He cites a University of Michigan study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology by Mesmin Destin and Daphna Oyserman.
Researchers asked Detroit eighth-graders in a poor, predominantly black school to envision their adult job. Nearly nine out of 10 expected to go to college, but only 46 percent envisioned an adult career requiring a college education.
Members of that minority “were more likely to invest current effort in schoolwork than those who did not, and these efforts paid off in better grades.”
Why bother to study if you see yourself as a future NBA star or a winner on American Idol?
In the second experiment, one group of seventh-graders looked at a graph showing how earnings rise with education. The other group’s graph “showed median earnings in Michigan and the very high earnings of top actors, athletes and musicians.”
Those who saw the chart linking pay with education were eight times more likely to complete an optional extra-credit assignment.
The children of poorly educated, erratically employed parents hear a lot more about rappers’ riches than they do about how to prepare for a middle-class life.
Years ago, I went on a field trip organized by two kindergarten teachers in a district with many low-income, immigrant students. They took every kindergartner in the district to San Jose State for a tour. It started with a pep rally. A five-year-old stepped up the microphone and said, “I want to be a fireman.” A college student said, “I’m studying fire science so I can get a job as a firefighter.” A firefighter said, “I worked hard in school and went to college. Now I’m a firefighter.” They did three or four careers that way. Very cool.