Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Coersion vs. Choice

I have a friend who's a Communist. We had a conversation about Maslow's Hierarchy of needs. Her take was that it's the government's responsibility to provide for the lower needs (food, shelter, etc.) for as many of a country's citizens as possible. She believed that it was only after the government had effectively provided these needs that the citizens could start thinking about higher needs like 'self actualization' and 'giving back', etc. She felt that from this perspective, the government was totally justified in coercing everyone to give of their means in order to provide for these basic needs.

My view took a top down approach. I argued that it's government's job to do nothing more than preserve my right to seek 'self actualization' in the way that suited me best--and that as a result, I would be better equipped to contribute to others' needs. Of course, functioning in a society that uses currency for acquiring 'self actualizing' endeavors, this argument requires the opportunity to pursue property and wealth in a manner that is uninhibited by the government's propensity to take it from me the moment I earn it.

All entrepreneurship is social entrepreneurship (or charitable in nature or in some other way reaching out to those who would struggle to meet their own needs). Any company that generates profits also generates jobs and products and a general economy that allows for everyone to 'give back'; whereas, none of the 'social programs' we have would work without genuine profit-generating economic stimulating entrepreneurship that earns real money for real people.

The real question is "under what conditions do we give back?" My communist friend says the best way is for the government to take and redistribute what we earn (at the threat of fines, penalties, even jail for noncompliance). I say I am more apt to give generously when CHOOSING to do so, rather than when coerced to give. For instance, tithes and offerings are not coerced, yet people pay them generously because they so choose.

Coercion vs. Choice in Education

We all prefer benefits and rewards to pain; yet, it's a scientifically proven fact that, in general, we all take greater action to prevent the risk of pain, than we do to gain a benefit or reward. It therefore becomes easier to manipulate mankind with the fear of pain than the promise of reward. It's this psychological fact that motivates so many people in so many systems to Coerce, rather than incent a desired Choice.

The psychologically manipulative nature of most educational institutions is particularly vexing to me. The idea that 'students won't act unless they fear some punishment' is really annoying. "You didn't show up at a certain time, so you don't get credit for the class". . . "you didn't do your homework, so you fail the class". . . "you didn't fill out the survey, so you can't continue your education".

Is anyone asking: Did you learn what you hoped to from our institution?

I say let the natural consequence be the consequence. If you don't do your homework, you don't learn, and you're stupid. If, somehow, you don't do your homework, yet you learn. . . show us how you did that, cuz that's AWESOME!!! If you don't fill out the survey, then what? Yeah, you failed to contribute to your school's ability to show the results it may hope to show. If the welfare of your school motivates you, then fill it out. If it doesn't. . . then what? The school should threaten you with a hold on your class registrations so you can't continue to pursue the education you wanted?

All I'm saying is that philosophically, there is FAR more to be gained from natural creative motivations than coerced manipulation. Don't you learn so much more in a class where you are learning because you care about the subject MORE than the grade?

I don't think I'm built differently than anyone else on this: it sucks to be told you HAVE to do something. It's fun to WANT to do something because you care. Why can't institutional educators put some real thought into how to motivate action via the latter, as opposed to the former?


Blaineusa said...

This post is brought to you courtesy of Lisa's comment on my 'Note to Sandra Rogers' post. Thanks for the food for thought, Baby. I love you. ;)

Rebecca said...


unfortunatly.. we teach the way we were taught
I'm doing my best to preach the message of motivation.. .:)

Thanks for your thoughts!

Lhone said...

Boy, you just really don't like surveys, huh? I'm with Becca. The person that comes up with a way to make sure students learn without tests, and fear of failing grades will be an awesome person. Great... now Blaine will be working on THAT for the rest of the night.

Wade Hone said...

heh, Blaine that 'I don't wana take your stupid survey so whatcha gonna do about it... oh.. not give me credit for the classes I took??!!??' would REALLY get my riled up man.

I'm with you there, if you do a protest I'll drive up to hold a sign in it !

Wade -out.