As often happens, one of Seth Godin’s daily posts this week left me with things to think about days after as well as to connect to other little pieces.

His title is “It’s easier to teach compliance than initiative” and, unlike most of his entries, he’s not talking about business.

Initiative is very difficult to teach to 28 students in a quiet classroom. It’s difficult to brag about in a school board meeting. And it’s a huge pain in the neck to do reliably.

Schools like teaching compliance. They’re pretty good at it.

Looking around the schools I visit – look around your school – I have to admit he’s not far from wrong.

That concept of compliance vs. initiative also ties into in a new book I’m currently reading, Daniel Pink’s Drive in which he investigates the research behind what motivates people.

In it he presents plenty of evidence that the reward/penalty philosophy at the core of compliance is not nearly as effective at motivating people to perform better as we assume it is.

That people, including many of those in our classrooms, are far more inspired to succeed when they are interested and involved in the outcome, when they have a personal stake in what they are doing.

The kind of approach you might use when teaching initiative.

Initiative, however, isn’t on the test and compliance is.

And, as Godin notes, we’re good at teaching that, even if our kids are less and less motivated to learn it.