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Capitalism in education

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After trying "self esteem" classes, whole language learning, and new math, government education is noted for turning out low-performing students.

One district accidentally used a principle of capitalism: if you want people to produce, pay them. It works! The number of students passing standardized tests is up nearly 40% at some schools. Students are happy to be "earning" money and friendly competition for good grades is building.

Critics argue that paying kids corrupts the notion of learning for education's sake alone.

Thank goodness. The sooner we get the students self-interested and motivated, the better for them, and coincidentally the better for everyone else.

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I'm not totally sure if that works out in the long run, though. Yes, you're motivating them in school because they have an immediate value they can achieve. But what will happen once you start giving them their immediate reward later? In college? Wouldn't that most likely destroy their motivation, because it's mainly based on being given something they want immediately?

I think it would make far more sense to teach these children that learning is a selfish exercise that they should do because of its value to them. In most cases it doesn't pay off until the longer term, and an approach like this makes them focus on the short-term gains that much more.

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I'm not totally sure if that works out in the long run, though. Yes, you're motivating them in school because they have an immediate value they can achieve. But what will happen once you start giving them their immediate reward later? In college? Wouldn't that most likely destroy their motivation, because it's mainly based on being given something they want immediately?

College is completely voluntary. Also, students are studying over time to "earn" under the system being reported, so they're making the connection between work now and reward later.

I think it would make far more sense to teach these children that learning is a selfish exercise that they should do because of its value to them. In most cases it doesn't pay off until the longer term, and an approach like this makes them focus on the short-term gains that much more.

I disagree. Students and young people don't have a long-term perspective. At most, they have vague plans for their future lives. Education is currently motivated by appeal to authority, or simply authority outright: "you'll learn this because I told you to". The success of this strategy speaks for itself. On the other hand, giving students a short-term incentive (like money) at least gives them some personal reason for learning the material. (High-performing students will do well regardless of the incentive programs in place; what they're doing is motivating moderate- or low-performing students.)

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One district accidentally used a principle of capitalism: if you want people to produce, pay them. It works! The number of students passing standardized tests is up nearly 40% at some schools.

Your principle is not a principle of capitalism.

Lisa VanDamme has a very nice series of articles on motivating students. This particular method falls into a class of subjective motivational tools.

You can read more at: http://www.pedagogicallycorrect.com/index.php?p=23

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Your principle is not a principle of capitalism.

Lisa VanDamme has a very nice series of articles on motivating students. This particular method falls into a class of subjective motivational tools.

You can read more at: http://www.pedagogicallycorrect.com/index.php?p=23

It's true the students don't volunteer to take the exams or classes, but I ask in all earnestness: how is paying for performance not a principle of capitalism? Whether the money appeals to students' long-term interests is irrelevant.

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Well, my first response is that capitalism is not based upon being paid. It is based upon the trader principle, i.e. trading value for greater value. Who is the recipient of the value obtained in this trade? Who pays and why is the childs success of value to them?

If you look at this as not an example of "pay for performance" but rather as an example of "value for value" it is not so clear that it is an equivalent example.

If you read on in LVD's series you'll see that she actually indicates that what you think cannot be done, actually can be. That is children can understand and value education, but only in a certain context. Her closing paragraph...

The basic principles of motivation are really quite simple: the teacher must identify the value of his course, design the curriculum accordingly, and name the value explicitly. If he does this properly, he can dispose of the pizzas, gold stars, and rulers, and enjoy the radiantly eager response of children who really grasp what they are learning and why.
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Well, my first response is that capitalism is not based upon being paid. It is based upon the trader principle, i.e. trading value for greater value. Who is the recipient of the value obtained in this trade? Who pays and why is the childs success of value to them?

If you look at this as not an example of "pay for performance" but rather as an example of "value for value" it is not so clear that it is an equivalent example.

The core of the transaction:

Students learn more, as evidenced by higher passing rates and better performance on standardized tests. Because student learning is the stated goal of the institution, this makes the student learning the institution's highest value. There are secondary concerns like funding cuts and recruiting better students, but learning is the primary. The school values student learning more than than the funds spent. (If you prefer, the school chooses to spend the funds this way rather than purchasing more computers or sports equipment. This has relatively greater value to the school.)

The school gives the students money in return for their performance. The money is a value for the students. The money is worth more to the students than the time and effort it takes to study.

The wider context is not capitalism because the school is state-funded. However, my original point stands: they are using a principle of capitalism - which Kendall correctly phrased as trading value for a greater value - to produce results.

If you read on in LVD's series you'll see that she actually indicates that what you think cannot be done, actually can be. That is children can understand and value education, but only in a certain context. Her closing paragraph...

I did not claim something could not be done. Several posters imply I think this is the best possible way to motivate students. That is not my point. My point is that this particular method appears successful and is relevant to the forum because it incorporates a capitalistic principle. I find that amusing given the socialist bent of most public education and educators.

Having said that, the blog Kendall linked to has many useful tools for motivating students. Thank you for the link, and I highly recommend it to others as well.

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Well, my first response is that capitalism is not based upon being paid. It is based upon the trader principle, i.e. trading value for greater value. Who is the recipient of the value obtained in this trade? Who pays and why is the childs success of value to them?

If you look at this as not an example of "pay for performance" but rather as an example of "value for value" it is not so clear that it is an equivalent example.

On reviewing the definitions of capitalism, I'm willing to revise my position. I should expect precision use of language when posting to a philosophy board. :lol:

The schools are using the profit motive, which also happens to be the driving force of those operating in a capitalist system, to get results. Is that a statement you can agree with?

Also, under your argument, wouldn't all free transactions be subjectively motivated? Most people work to buy things they want. They are willing to do something other people want in order to achieve their own values. We may be arguing different aspects of the same point.

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This is not capitalism. It just reeks of the same mindset of parents who "bribe" their children to do well in school. They do not value the real, long-term value of education, and instead learn to do well in school because it "directly" gives them money. What happens to their motivation when the money doesn't come directly anymore? When they should have been motivated on the fact that education may be/is important to achieving your long term values, they instead treat education as a low paid job. Well, once they find another slightly higher paying job, their motivation for education is lost.

It is counterproductive to treat young people like dogs, who need to be seduced with biscuits to enter the car when going on holiday, or distracted with a toy when giving them a vaccine. If you treat them like dogs when they are children, they will see themselves as dogs when they are adults. Young people actually have a mind that can appreciate the long term, and to destroy it with stuff like this is really bad.

Even though Objectivists shouldn't generally be reminded of this, everything that has to do with money, or monetary rewards, is not capitalism. And destroying teenagers minds in order to get statistics to look nicer, is not something an O'ist should support.

Edited by JJJJ
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