Monday, July 13, 2009
How do you apply the alternative in the real world.
11:14 am edt
The alternatives to rewards that Kohn suggests are based in creativity and care. What he basically suggests is to
treat all people with respect by giving them control over their education or their work. The foundation of rewards seems to
be a matter of control and Kohn says the epitome of this is that even a 5 year old child can see right through it. If the
phenomena of reverse psychology and the placebo effect have taught us anything; it is that people just simply don't like to
be told what to do.
With these thoughts in mind Kohn suggests that:
1. In the workplace: people be given
a fair salary for their work and assigned work but given as much freedom and control to complete it. Without competitive driving
incentives the workers begin to work as a team and stop working against each other. Workers are more likely to come forward
to honestly report problems when they know it is for the better of all and not just going to reduce their bonus. The workers
will keep a more open mind. He also makes a social statement that we need to question the ethical responsibility of buying
products that have been produced by putting workers through mind numbing repetitiveness. If it is produced this way we shouldn't
buy it. Another side theory emerges that points the finger at rewards for producing a society afflicted with rampant consumerism.
Keeping up with the Joneses so to speak.
2: In the schools: Here is a dilemma indeed. Kohn explains that thoughtful
teaching where students are provided with opportunities to give meaningful important input to the course curriculum is paramount
to providing students with an inherent interest in what they are learning. The decisions must be important issues that are
gently directed by the teacher. In effect they must be allowed to make mistakes. I don't think anyone would disagree with
the power of learning from your mistakes. (Scouts: learn while doing philosophy). Also the grades are important but they should
be kept at arms length from the students. An example is "you are doing just fine in all areas; this area needs improvement
specifically with this issue". In study after study it was shown that kids focusing on grades damaged and poisoned learning
environments by creating a me against you; divide and conquer; competitive atmosphere as opposed to the powerful efficient
team spirited learning and discovery machine it needs to be.
3. At home raising kids: This is the toughest issue
yet I think. Again the control issue seems to be at the heart of the problem of giving rewards or punishments. According to
Kohn and the literature children should be give choices and be allowed to make mistakes. Safety trumps all however careful
explanations are needed so that what may be obvious to an adult can be made clear to the child. Saying listen to me because
I am the parent and you are the child without explanation teaches a dangerous lesson. Kohn reiterates that at home and at
school our goal should be to raise creative people who can make decisions and think for themselves. The result of blind obedience
seems to be mindless automatons or robots. I think everyone will agree with Kohn on the fact that these types of kids can
get into a lot of trouble when they listen and obey the wrong people.
The book closes with an interview with B.F.
Skinner the father of modern behaviorism. This is an invaluable insight into the mind and theories of Skinner. He apparently
was a troubleshooter at heart. He saw everything as a problem to be solved and even is credited for inventing things. The
questions Kohn asks of Skinner are very pointed yet Skinner patiently answers to each one with a careful and thoughtful response.
Stay tuned for the conlusion. -sak.
Monday, July 6, 2009
Yea but what is the alternative!!!
11:04 am edt
I am glad to see I am not the only one thinking about a plan-b when rewards or punishments just don't work. It seems that
everyone agrees that they never do! When the author presents his findings at conferences and meetings the three words he hears
the most are "what's the alternative".
This Kohn says is a fair question. Essentially he is saying that
rewards and punishments are a no-brainer to administrate and doing the right thing is. That is it takes a lot of brain power,
work, and practice to do the things that will get results.
An example in the work place is to pay people fairly
and give them a job to do and let them do it. Over supervising is the same thing as using rewards and punishments. When the
have money pushed in their face continuously they will do a better job. The underlying control strategies
of rewards and punishments are so transparent Kohn says that a 4 year old can see through them. When the worker is not afraid
of making a mistake for fear of losing a reward or recieving a punishment they will communicate honestly about what problems
are occurring in the work place.
The same essential message is there for kids in school. Learning is a multi-dimensional
experience. It involves communicating with others, moving around the class, testing ideas, and not being afraid of being wrong.
These unfortunately are all things that get discouraged in the classroom. -sak