Hello Terry ( @misterrosen ),
Thank you for raising your concern and such an interesting questions.
I apologize that I could not respond earlier. But now, I finally got the opportunity to respond to some loose-ends conversations on my blog. So let me try to address your concern.
First of all, I am familiar with both Alfie Kohn and Edward Deming, and I have deep respect for their work respectively. But as you said, we live in a society where traditional evaluation is deeply ingrained. So it may just be a necessary evil for now, which can only be undone over time. It will take time to undo the wrong system we put in place due to our own ignorance. So we all have to walk a very fine line between the modern view (of Deming and Kohn) and the more traditional views.
Second, I don’t believe there is any contradiction in what I said with Kohn and Deming. The grading system is what’s destroying the intrinsic motivation, not the student’s desire to do better. He or she is simply a victim of the system that we put in place, because we train him/her to believe that getting a good grade is a good thing, because the society will reward him/her for it. Given the right environment, we all will try our best to optimize our gain. In this respect, a student wanting to get a good grade is no different from someone trying to get some food because he’s hungry. Having desire is not bad, it’s human nature. The system is what’s flawed.
Third, I do believe that both intrinsic and extrinsic motivation has its place. They both exist for a reason. Biologically and evolutionarily, we and other animals respond to both because they are both important for our survival. It is not the case that intrinsic motivation is always better than their extrinsic counterpart. It really depends on what you are trying to accomplish. Good leaders should know how to leverage both. Unfortunately many leaders today are too focused on the extrinsic, because they tend to work faster and have more measurable effects.
Finally, you are right that I probably have made an assumption that “nothing is wrong,” when I said “there is nothing wrong with wanting to get good grades.” But I felt that it’s a fair assumption, because we can easily find millions of things that is wrong with our world. If I want to be critical about it, I can easily go down the path that everything is wrong and we might as well reboot this entire world that we lived in. And even then there is no guarantee that the new system won’t create other problems.
One could easily argue that Kohn and Deming are wrong, because they publish their work to promote their selfish belief, for fame, and potential economic gain. We are too, because we have a job and trying to do things for our own economic gain, which is extrinsic too. Why do we accept payment? So is the economic system is wrong? Is capitalism is wrong because it’s not fair? But a purely utopian type of community is not perfect either because it kills motivation and encourages people to do the bare minimum. IMHO, I believe that everything that we do or said in this world is based on some assumptions. And these assumptions aren’t bad or wrong. They are merely our past experiences that shape our lives, our thinking, even our beliefs.
Thank you for your comment. It’s well taken. I don’t take disagreement personally, because I see it as an opportunity to further our knowledge. Besides, I like these academic debates, even though they could be very wrong and wasteful of earthly resources in someone’s eyes, since they often do not produce anything of value. But who is to decide what’s valuable? Isn’t that subjective? So if I am happy doing it should that be enough justification? But isn’t that just selfish? Why is this form of selfishness OK, and the student working by themselves and don't want to help other is not?
See the point? I don't think we can blame people for their sub-optimal behavior if the system is not perfect. But we can't blame the system either because they are created by less than perfect human beings just like ourselves.
Some of the problems we face are very complex. I don’t think we as a human species collectively are even close to having any real solutions to some of these problems we created. I can only hope for the best.
I hope you enjoy this discussion. I did.
See you next time.
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