The Compliance Curriculum

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.

A Motivating Talk

Love TED Talks! This new one from TED Global in England last month features Daniel Pink discussing the science of motivation.

Pink is addressing the business world in his presentation but I think parts of what he has to say could apply to those of us in the non-business world as well.*

Especially when he notes that “too many organizations are making their decisions based, their policies about talent and people, based on assumptions that are outdated, unexamined, and rooted more in folklore than in science.”

Pink suggests that businesses and organizations need a whole new approach, one “built much more around intrinsic motivation, around the desire to do things because they matter, because we like it, because they’re interesting, because they’re part of something important”.

Towards the end he discusses one motivator being used by a few companies, a variation on Google’s policy allowing employees to spend 20% of their time working on personal projects.

How cool would it be if we could incorporate the Google 20% policy into schools? Not just for teachers, but for students as well.

Anyway, as with many TED talks, this less than 20 minute presentation (it’s pretty clear when Pink gets the two minute light :-) is worth your time.

* I know there are some educators who can’t stand Pink’s ideas (not me for the most part) as well as the attempt to apply business practices to education (me most of the time).