Many of us who've actually logged years in classrooms struggling to teach inner city kids believe that education, particularly authentic education done right, offers its own reward. The proof of this is abundantly evident when one observes the engaged, motivated, inspired behavior of students involved in high value learning activities ( like robotics design and programming - see my post @ http://classroomrobotics.blogspot.com/2007/12/first-robotics-competition-slide-show.html )
The absolute converse of this would be to bribe youngsters to bite the bullet and suffer through what they find as boring, off-putting instruction so that they can get an artificial reward at the end of the torture. Many believe the New York City Department of Education's program to give schools monetary rewards for high scores on standardized tests is just such a scenario!
Recently, at a photo-op ceremony at which Joel Klein, the Chancellor of New York City schools made such an award to a school, the Chancellor was taken to task by a city councilman who pointed out how such tests prove little or nothing about actual learning and represent serious dis-incentives for true education to happen within the city's classrooms (see full article on this statement @ http://www.ny1.com/ny1/content/index.jsp?stid=4&aid=77140 ).
Put on the spot by the univited Councilman, and thus forced to offer a spontanoues explanation of his policies, Chancellor Klein's relfexive response was "When I was in school we had tests. They didn't say just bring two number two pencils. They said 'you better learn the 20 vocabulary words we are practicing this week,'"
In making this statement Joel Klein revealed two of his personal understandings/beliefs about education that shed light on why the city's schools are in the state they are:
1) It is valid and useful to model what is done currently in tens of thousands of classrooms on memories of what was done in one classroom 4 decades ago, and
2) Memorization of facts IS learning.
Both assumptions reveal an understanding of the goals and means of education that is thoroughly steeped in 19th Century - Old Paradigm thinking! This, despite millions and millions of pages published defining what professional educators hold to be understandings that go light years beyond this.
According to the "independent voices of New York City public schools parents" blog, Councilman Weprin had "crashed" this press event http://nycpublicschoolparents.blogspot.com/2008/01/weprin-crashes-press-conference-and.html . and because his critical presence there was unexpected, the Chancellor had no statement prepared by his press corps with which to respond to the accusations made against his policies. This is serendipitous for us, obervers of the evolution of the educational paradigm and its influence on the reality of classrooms, because it is in the heat of moments like this that people unexpectedly and genuinely reveal who they are and what they believe!
Since those days when a young Joel Klein was held responsible for more than just bringing to school two #2 pencils, man has walked on the moon, the personal computer has taken over the world, far more print content than was ever published on paper has been made available on something called the Internet, incalculable numbers of people carry wireless telephones with them wherever they go, the digital calculator, a novelty that cost hundreds of dollars in the late '70s has become a ubiquitous mainstay everywhere costing just 99 cents, ETC. ETC. In view of all that, should we not move our understanding of education beyond a youngster's ability and willingness to memorize 20 vocabulary words?