As a child, to encourage a love for reading, my mother would pay me to read stories in “Reader’s Digest”. I’d finish a story and report back to her where she would ask me a few questions about what I’d read and then hand me over a dollar bill. I always loved to make money as a child. Funny thing is…I hated to read. Even as a teenager, that never changed. I was a good reader and I could read fast. I just never really liked it much. I especially hated fiction. Gimmie the movie version instead.
Eventually I headed off to college. My disdain for reading continued there. I would read only what I needed to ‘get by’. I had finished up my Bachelor’s Degree at the University of Central Florida. Legal Studies with a Minor in Criminal Justice. As a freshman I wanted to go into Marketing until I sat in a freshman orientation class and a man got up in the front of the room and told us that there were “no women in Marketing”. That’s a story for another day. I knew I liked to make money…I guess I’ll be a lawyer instead.
After obtaining the Bachelor’s degree in Legal Studies and seeing all the research (reading) lawyers had to do I decided that that wasn’t for me. I still had an interest in Marketing. I’ll go for my MBA. I was at Barnes & Noble picking up books for the beginning of my second semester when a book caught my eye. “Retire Young, Retire Rich” by Robert Kiyosaki. I picked up that book, along with my other course materials. When I got home I started reading Robert’s book…and I couldn’t put it down. I wasn’t getting paid to read…there would be no test where I would get paid in the form of a grade, and yet I read and read and read that book like it was my job.
In Gretchen Rubin’s book “The Happiness Project” she says, “Studies show that if you reward people for doing an activity, they often stop doing it for fun; being paid turns it into ‘work’.”
Although her intentions were noble, my mother paying me to read had turned reading into a chore. Work that had to be done to earn a dollar. The same way that schools pay kids to read. They read so that they can pass a test and earn a grade.
With outside motivation, people act in such a way to earn outside rewards or avoid punishments (earning F’s). When people decide to do things for themselves, when there is no outside motivation, they do things for their own love and satisfaction.
People say that school is a place where children learn to explore what they do and don’t like. That college will give young adults the option of taking different classes to see what they ‘want to be when they grow up”. But that’s not what schools are doing at all. Schools are providing kids with outside motivation to earn grades. Teachers are teaching for a test. College becomes less about exploration of subjects that young adults would like to pursue as careers and more about the kids wanting to earn good grades so that they can make their parents proud…keep their GPA up so as not to lose a scholarship… What if they learn quickly that they want to quit a subject? Makes it harder when they are getting paid to do it…or worse, if they’ve paid to take it.