School Survival


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School Survival > Commentary >

Why bribery doesn't motivate in school

By: dreamer...

In my attempts to motivate myself to do schoolwork, I've been trying to bribe myself-promising that if I get good grades, I can buy certain things for myself. But I've realized it's a faulty idea. Say, for example, I can buy myself a new video game if I get a B in math and history. Now that video game must be fairly important to me, since I'm using it as a motivator.

If I don't make a B in math and history, then I won't have the pleasure of enjoying the game. I'm essentially telling myself that without good grades, I don't deserve that game. That I don't deserve to have fun. That my grades have the power to make me worthless. I know it's a bit of an overstatement, but these are the implications of my attempt at bribery.

What I'm telling myself is that poor grades should deny me the right to have a good time. Only the grades matter- not my character, not my other accomplishments, not my good and bad deeds outside of school. The grades can almost strip me of my humanity-if I let them. But I'm not going to let them.

If you've read John Gatto's Dumbing Us Down, you'll probably remember his "7 Lesson Schoolteacher." One of those lessons, you may recall, was "provisional self-esteem." School teaches you to base your self-confidence solely on your grades. How you feel about yourself depends upon whether or not you gain the teacher's approval. This kind of thinking, this "provisional self esteem," is extremely destructive, and dangerous. It destroys students' individuality, making them dependent on others for self-confidence.

And unfortunately enough, bribery is a core part of the school system. If you obey your teacher, you'll get a good grade. Your parents will be happy with you. You'll get into college. You'll succeed in life. But since when have grades become the only measure of a person's success?

Bribery makes an ineffective motivator because it places academic performance above students' happiness and freedom. It promotes blind obedience, silently eroding students' ability to think for themselves. In addition, bribery promotes a very narrow-minded view of "success," ignoring the myriad of ways in which one can be successful without school.

If you want that video game, just go out and buy it, no matter what grades you end up with. You deserve it.

Where to next? Pick one!

Posted in: Commentary on June 30, 2009 @ 8:34 PM

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