Pierce College, Puyallup, WA
15 May 2014
There are many focuses that lend to identifying where current failures in education lie. Who or what is at fault? Fractured outcries tend to blame incompetent and short sighted federal policies, political party agenda, Board of Education policies, lack of teacher involvement, lack of parental guidance, student accountability, peer influences, ethnic cultural influences, community support, and economic status (Galston). However, the most common resonated message is that a student’s success in school depends completely on whether the student has the motivation or the drive to succeed. Many students often ask, “Why should I go to school? How will it benefit me in real life?” The hidden message behind those questions is that they need their role models to inspire them. Even though learning is up to them, educational success is driven by using inspirational methods that cultivate internal motivation, because there is sense of satisfaction that compliments the intrinsic desire to learn. This intrinsic desire to learn, however, is influenced and challenged by issues such as parenting, a desire to challenge authority, and socioeconomic levels.
The most common misconception regarding a student’s lack of success are environmental challenges such as the lack of parental duties to provide a safe home, lack of proper economical support, lack of accountability, the choice of instilling poor values, and the parental personal choice for their own lack of education. Common criticisms of parents are that they are not meeting their parental responsibilities in guidance, values, communicating, homework assistance, and community involvement to help foster their children’s educational needs (Henderson and Mapp). Many elders, mentors, and teachers attempt to motivate students with the perception that education is a tool for nation-building and potential economical class elevation, not for personal development when in fact, current studies are discovering there is a growing thought process shift towards less economical glory (Columbo, Cullen and Lisle 106; Gilbert ).
Extrinsic motivation is described as outside influences that will motivate a person such as grades, punishment, money, and bonuses that impact behavior for reward. Daniel Pink describes extrinsic motivation as a dangling carrot or a stick (Pink 464). Intrinsic motivation is internal drive energized by intuitive values and the need to satisfy emotions or desire for happiness. Pink clarifies using a study performed with children:
When children didn’t expect a reward, receiving one had little impact on their intrinsic motivation. Only contingent rewards—if you do this, then you’ll get that—had the negative effect. Why? “If-then” rewards require people to forfeit some of their autonomy. Like the gentlemen driving carriages for money instead of fun, they’re no longer fully controlling their lives. (516)
Studies reveal that the majority of the population is originally born with the desire to be good, just as every person begins life in their infancy enthralled with curiosity and the desire to learn (Tucker ; Hutt). As infants reach the toddler stage, motor skills develop, boundary and limitation exploration begins, they begin to mimic others, they observe, and process information as they ask the annoying repetitive question “why?” Toddlers test limitations for themselves and parents. They will evaluate the results and begin developing habits depending on the number of times they are told “no”, “bad”, or “don’t”. The process of measuring good results against negative results provide them with the necessary lessons learned for future if-then process flows “Developmental Milestones (12-36 Months)”. In essence, everyone is born with innate learning desire, but once children reach the toddler stage, curiosity reaps punishment or statements discouraging exuberant interest in the world and the potential for what can be discovered. The punishments and discouraging statements are compounded as children reach the age to enter primary education.
Socio-economic levels are perhaps one of the greatest challenges to an intrinsic desire to learn to achieve academic success. Philip Moeller of “U.S. News” implies that people who are learning live longer and happier lives in his article “Why Learning Leads to Happiness.” (Moeller) Armed with this information, a question comes to mind—why are the American students listless in the classroom, and why do their educational levels rank average or below average compared to other countries when the United States invests more in them financially than most? (France). Jean Anyon argues this point in her article “From Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work,” which addresses school economical rank and the impact it has on a child’s education. Eighty percent of the students in the nation raised by families that generate household incomes a little higher than $25,000 and below attend working and middle-class schools that prepare the children for working or social class jobs (Anyon 165-166). Anyon asserts that the teachers dole out assignments without explanation of relevancy or concepts behind the process to complete assignments. The children are instructed to follow the directions in order to achieve the right answers. They are bombarded with rules, steps, and memorization instructions. Any type of critical viewpoints are discouraged and avoided in courses like Social Studies because it may cause outbursts and interference from parents. In essence, the children are molded into predetermined workforce roles by primary and secondary education curriculums that assume where their best fit in life will be instead of affording equal opportunity with equal education. Jonathan Kozol, author of “Still Separate, Still Unequal,” demonstrates:
Mireya, for example, who had plans to go to college, told me that she had to take a sewing class last year and now was told she'd been assigned to take a class in hair-dressing as well. When I asked her teacher why Mireya could not skip these subjects and enroll in classes that would help her to pursue her college aspirations, she replied, ‘It isn't a question of what students want. It's what the school may have available. If all the other elective classes that a student wants to take are full, she has to take one of these classes if she wants to graduate.’ (216)
In the affluent and executive elite schools, there are very few minorities and Anyon asserts that those students are challenged to think with creative answers, are pushed to develop reasoning, and use creative arts to express and learn concepts in all subjects. Students are encouraged to discuss, share, talk, and help one another with their answers. All students’ work should demonstrate and reflect their individuality. A lot of emphasis is placed on negotiation, creative writing and illustration of ideas. The children in these schools never have to battle for supplies or materials; these are free to the students when needed. Classes do not end with a bell, although there is a strict collaborated schedule. It seems evident that the affluent and executive elite schools are well aware of the benefit to capitalizing on children’s natural curiosity and they utilize creative teaching methods to promote further interest in higher knowledge. In contrast, the middle and working-class schools are restricted in their teaching methods, creating lackadaisical students stifling their intrinsic desire to learn.
Many would argue, “There are too many leaders in this country already, we need fewer leaders and more workers trained with job trade skills. People should be content that they have any skills to get a job to pay the bills.” My contention is, that there are too many ineffective leaders driven by personal agenda, and they are ignoring the vested interest the nation has in the people’s intrinsic necessities in life. An unbiased quality education for all students to attain equal opportunity should be available for students from every familial, ethnic, and socio-economic background. As Plato states in his political theory “The Republic”:
But it is not any kind of education that will do, but only education to the true and the good. Those who arrange the life of the State, who determine the principles of education and allot the various tasks in the State to its different members, must have knowledge of what is really true and good--in other words, they must be philosophers. (225)
Although society (the State) does not need creative happy students, it does need obedient and reliable workers. Taking advantage of a student’s instinctive interest in learning creates captivated students. More importantly, creative pedagogy helps students understand how their education is relative to practical application in life to support social contribution. The academic systems for the nation’s eighty percent student population should look to their elite counterparts to refine their educative methods by embracing creative instruction styles to elevate and retain the children’s spark for higher learning. Students should not have to ask their mentors why they should learn; their interest should be invigorated so they continue to thirst for knowledge.
Anyon, Jean. "From Social Class and the Hidden Curriculum of Work." Rereading America: Cultural Contexts for Critical Thinking and Writing. Ed. Columbo, Cullen and Lisle. 9th ed. 2013. 239. Print.
Columbo, Gary, Robert Cullen and Bonnie Lisle, Rereading America: Cultural Contexts for Critical Thinking and Writing. 9th ed. Boston, MA: Bedford: St. Martin's, 2013. Print.
Copleston, Frederick S.J. A History of Philosophy. New York, NY: Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc., 1993. Print.
"Developmental Milestones (12-36 Months)." n.d. Office of Child Development. University of Pittsburgh. Web. 10 May 2014.
France. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. United States: Programme For International Student Assessment (PISA) Results From PISA 2012. Paris, France: OECD, 2012. PDF file.
Galston, William. PBS Frontline. The Battle Over School Choice: Is There a Crisis? 08 May 2014. Web. 10 May 2014.
Gilbert, Jay. "The Millennials: A New Generation of Employees, A New Set of Engagement Policies." Ivey Business Journal (2011). Web. 29 04 2014.
Henderson, Anne T and Karen L Mapp. A New Wave of Evidence: The Impact of School, Family, and Community Connections on Student Achievement. Austin, Tex.: National Center for Family & Community Connections With Schools, 2002. Print.
Hutt, Corinne. "Effects of Stimulus Novelty on Manipulatory Exploration in an Infant." Journal of Child Psychology and Psychiatry 8.3-4 (1967): 241-247. PDF file. 10 May 2014.
Kozol, Jonathan. "Still Separate, Still Unequal." Rereading America: cultural contexts for critical thinking and writing. Ed. Columbo, Cullen and Lisle. 9th ed. 2013. 201. Print.
Moeller, Philip. U.S.News: Why Learning Leads to Happiness. 10 Apr 2012. Web. 10 May 2014.
Pink, Daniel H. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. New York: Riverhead Books, 2009. eBook.
Tucker, Abigail. smithsonian.com: Are Babies Born Good? Jan 2013. Web. 10 May 2014.