This week's Meta-Wednesday is a fun little exercise in two of our favorite things: academics and ethics. We have ethics to thank for all those "I have not injured any invertebrates in the course of my research" forms, and ethics is also involved in a new study about cash incentives for learning.
You decide: Should kids be bribed to do well in school?
Were any of you overtly bribed, or is the scope of this a new thing? I remember being bribed a few times when bombing the test would have been catastrophic (like the CRT you had to take every year to keep moving up a grade), but the idea of being paid per book read is foreign to me. If only I could get that deal now!
Another question: is rewarding for attendance and behavior substantially different from gold stars? Obviously a gold star doesn't cost a dollar, but it always seemed odd to me that gold stars could motivate even the worst kid in class to stop pushing other kids' faces into the water fountain or hitting them with a clarinet. At least addiction to money is a national problem; addiction to stickers beyond a certain age is just bizarre.
Finally, what does this mean for higher education instructors? I expect that bribing is actually fairly widespread, but not consistent like Fryer's programs. I expect that a couple of weeks before the semester ends there is a lot of haggling and begging and promises of stuff if there are no C's. Here the most important part of the article might be on page 3, regarding the kids' inability to figure out how to simultaneously earn more money and achieve success.
Part of the conclusion is that younger kids tend to respond better to the incentive programs. I'd be interested to see how many of these kids maintain their higher books-per-annum numbers several years after leaving an incentive program. This could go one of two ways. The first is that the lack of cash is felt immediately, and reverses the trend. Or it could go like clicker-training, where the reward eventually switches from the food reward (in this case, money) to the clicker (or, a love of reading) being the only reward. For the love of textbooks and the future of our profession I hope it is the latter.