For Love or Money?

The NYT today carries an oped by Barry Schwartz, criticising New York’s plan to pay disadvantaged kids for good school performance. It’s a reasoned critique, accepting the parlous state of many New York schools that serve disadvantaged kids, but making the case that extrinsic motivators (money) may crowd out intrinsic motivations (love of learning). The point is an important one, but since the plan is being implemented with the help of Roland Fryer, one of America’s top young economists, my guess is that we’ll shortly see a careful evaluation that will answer the question.

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5 Responses to For Love or Money?

  1. Kevin Cox says:

    Barry Schwartz does have a point. A study I was in a small way involved in at a University supports his contention. The University conducted surveys of student attitudes to learning and subject matter when they came to the University, while they were there and when they left. To the dismay of many of the staff a love of learning and a desire to know and understand was present in beginning students but by the time they ended they were mainly interested in their marks and getting out of the place. Quite rationally the students concentrated on getting the most out of the place which was a high mark to get a good job.

    Knowing this is the case a “solution” is to make sure that the marks – or the rewards – are given to those students who have the qualities we want them to have – perhaps a love of learning, a desire for self fulfillment, or even perhaps how much a student helps his or her fellow students. The interesting part of the problem is how they devise the measurements to use to Reward the students.

  2. Patrick says:

    The Economist freeexchange blog criticises the article as basically being typically inane anti-economics.

    They have a better point than Barry, it seems to me:

    Mr Fryer is not trying to add on to the intrinsic rewards of learning; he is trying to provide some external rewards where the intrinsic ones seem to be entirely absent. It may not work, of course; but if it fails, it won’t be because the students involved have lost the joy they used to take in studying math and history.

    A penchant for contrarianism is a valuable instinct, but one’s mind shouldn’t be so open that the wind blows through it.

  3. Kids are always and forever brought up with “extrinsic motivators”. That’s how you get the little beasts to behave. In WA they have a “No school, no pool” policy where kids don’t get to go swimming if they don’t attend school.

    Apparently it’s working:

  4. Patrick says:

    Hey, I didn’t know Mike P was a fellow conservative 😉

    Speaking of freeexchange, they have a job offer for you, Andrew.

    Qualifications: a good economics degree, a track-record of blogging or other writing about economics and/or finance, and a pithy style.

  5. Yobbo says:

    Sounds like there’s soon going to be a good profit to be made in stealing/selling exam questions, templating assignments and writing false doctor certificates in New York.

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