Having the opportunity to meet fantastically brilliant, hardworking and caring educators has to be one of the best reasons to use Twitter. About a month ago, I met Aaron Eyler, and it is my absolute pleasure to have Aaron, a New Jersey high school history teacher, guest blog here today. I have thoroughly enjoyed his tweets and blogposts on a daily basis, and I would be remiss if I didn't link you to his posts on rethinking assignment structure, differentiation and curriculum. In fact, you will find a common thread among Aaron's writing - he challenges us to rethink a lot of things; and true to his reputation, he challenges you today to rethink school reform.
That's enough of me... here's Aaron:
In his new book Drive, Daniel Pink discusses his theory of the evolution of human motivation starting from 1.0 and proceeding through to 3.0.
Motivation 1.0: presumed the humans were biological creatures struggling for survival.
Motivation 2.0: presumed that humans also responded to rewards and punishments in the environment.
Motivation 3.0: presumed that humans also have a third drive- to learn, to create, and to better the world.
I love the way Pink gets me to think, but I really struggle with believing that our society has adopted a Motivation 3.0 mentality as he describes it. Before we all go running around proclaiming that Pink’s framework is going to liberate education and kids’ minds I think we need to consider a couple of points.
Why have we moved on to Motivation 3.0? In Pink’s other work A Whole New Mind, he spends a chapter discussing three important concepts: abundance, Asia, and automation. The one that should concern us the most is “abundance”. In my mind, the reason that we have entered Motivation 3.0 (which I don’t know if we have) is because we have lived through the “Age of Abundance”. We lived through a period where people valued materialistic goods and, guess what, people still do. People still dream of owning a home, a new car, new this, and new that. It’s the very basis of capitalism.
The problem here is simple: if you haven’t lived through a period of obtaining more goods than are necessary, how can one see the value of bettering the world by learning and creating without an immediate return of investment? It doesn’t matter if you engage in Motivation 2.0 or not. I think you have to live with it to realize that all of those materialistic goods you strive for never make your life any better and normally leave you with a big, gaping hole that simply craves more “stuff”. I really struggle to acknowledge that anyone can skip Motivation 2.0 when we live in a world that is comprised of “haves” and “have-nots”.
But wait! No one would ever turn away an item that is next to free, right? And what is rapidly becoming the cheapest, yet most valuable, commodity in the world? Knowledge. The ability to learn and to develop mastery and autonomy is being revolutionized by technological innovation and ever-expanding connectivity. People now have all of the world’s knowledge at their fingertips for next to nothing.
Unfortunately, this may even be part of a growing problem. The cost of knowledge is becoming so depreciated through technology (despite its high value), which may, or may not, be turning kids off to school completely and making them realize a bonafide fact: they really may not need school anymore. If you don’t need school anymore or don’t see the value, then where is the motivation to go and be actively engaged?
Here is my point: we need to reform education in such a way that students realize the value of knowledge and learning; not of school. Does it really matter if students go to school or not so long as they are gaining an education and developing an appreciation for knowledge and learning? I don’t think so. What matters is that kids are learning and realizing that education is important to their future and success of their livelihood.
More often than not, we spend a ridiculous amount of time discussing how to reform schools when we should really be focusing on reforming learning. This means a conscious effort on everyone (teachers, parents, administrators, businessmen, etc.) to provide students with concrete evidence and proof that learning will take them to wherever they want to go. Who cares about the length of the school day or the curriculum for a class if kids can’t find any relevance in learning the information? Forget reforming schools. Let’s work on reforming learning and making sure that every kid understands the value of it.
THAT’S what will motivate them to learn and be active in their education and in school.
Aaron Eyler (@aaron_eyler) is the writer of the blog “Synthesizing Education” and can be reached via e-mail at Eyler.firstname.lastname@example.org.