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Not for Money Alone April 12, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in education, science.
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I mentioned Drive by Daniel Pink a while back but let comment on it slide until I saw this on Eric Drexler’s blog.

I’m not sure what is in Drive is new information as much as data looked at differently, which can be quite useful. It has long been known that rewards ought to be sporadic, not continual, to reinforce good behavior. Some of this comes out in the book where Pink makes a good case for it through the lens of intrinsic motivation. People do things because they want to. Learning ought to be because we’re interested rather than because we’ll get a good grade. In fact, working for the grade (unless you are an extrinsic type) will decrease your achievement.

Going waaay back to the ‘60s, I remember reading about Summerhill and note that there are new editions/revisions. I am wary of the notion that kids will learn what they need when they need–this is putting the inmates in charge of the asylum. Why am I skeptical? I believe some behaviors are addictive (Worlds of War Crack, anyone?) to the extent some people will spend all their time doing them to the exclusion of everything else. Spin that wheel, little hamster. These people need more guidance to, oh, bathe, eat, learn to read.

Pink does say that the two types, intrinsic and extrinsic, work for different rewards (one satisfaction, the other filthy lucre or power) but seems to think that all people can become intrinsic. And that is good. Rather, it might be like predator/prey ratios. Maybe for species survival humans need different work styles. I know I’d be terrible on an assembly line–the second time a widget came by I’d have six new ways of screwing in the gizmo and really foul up the line. But I have met people capable of doing this 8 hrs a day and never thinking of a better way to work. Different tasks, different skills.

I heartily recommend Drive as affording insight into potential ways of changing our world. Education is foremost, it seems to me, but the current system of extrinsic reward will never be changed because of the extrinsic need for power (over students, over curriculum, indeed, over society. It has actually been recommended in NM that in any given class, throughout the state on any given day, students should be on literally the same page in the same textbook.)

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