Student Motivation Question

As I noted in the Reinvention Forum notes, one of our colleagues, Kristin Bivens, raised an interesting point about student responsibility and motivation needing to be included in the mix of considerations related to student success. About a week before, I read this article by Robert Samuelson in the Washington Post about student motivation, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to post it; something about the tone, or maybe the content, kept me from putting it up, even the day after the forum. (And I also didn’t want to suggest that Kristin’s point was anything like Samuelson’s, even accidentally, just as I don’t want to give the impression now that am critical of her position because of the next paragraph.)

And then I saw this response to Samuelson’s piece in the Washington Post education blog from Alfie Kohn, titled (at least on his web site) “School Would Be Great If It Weren’t For the Damn Kids”:

Look beyond methods, though, and consider goals. What’s the point of educating students in the first place? Here is where it becomes relevant that Samuelson’s primary area of interest, like that of so many others who hold forth on the subject of education, is not education. His job is to write about economics, and he sees schooling through that lens. As I’ve noted elsewhere, we have reason to worry when schooling is discussed primarily in the context of “global competitiveness” rather than in terms of what children need or what contributes to a democratic culture — and, indeed, when the children themselves are seen mostly as future workers who will someday do their part to increase the profitability of their employers.

And then I came home yesterday and found my beloved’s September issue of English Journal, which is all about “Motivation” and features an article, also by Alfie Kohn, called “How to Create Nonreaders: Reflections on Motivation, Learning, and Sharing Power.”

And I think you should read them all.

And then read this article on another topic altogether. Come back and say something helpful when you get through one or all of them, preferably by tomorrow. (And yes, that was meant to be an attempt at irony by intentionally imposing three of Kohn’s suggestions for “killing motivation.”) I will stop now…