If I told you that a student returned a lost wallet to the office or a foster mom drove her foster child to his 6:00 am hockey practice, what would think of these acts?
Your first reaction may be something that reflects approval. These sound like people who are doing good things for others; however, do any of these statements provide the people’s motivation for doing what they are doing?
And do you care?
What if I told you the student only returned the wallet because he figured out the reward was worth more than the contents of the wallet, or that the foster mom was only driving the foster child to hockey practice because she got paid mileage?
When you are privy to these individual’s motivations, does this change your impression of their actions? In each situation, these people are doing what seems like good things; however, we all know that people can do the right thing for the wrong reasons.
If we prescribe to use extrinsic motivators to gain compliance from students, we are really saying that we don’t care why people are doing things; we are willing to manipulate children with rewards, control through seduction, or punishment, control through fear. Despite this argument, some teachers and parents may suggest starting with the extrinsic, and then simply remove it. The idea being that the extrinsic is needed in order to initiate an interest in the student. But this doesn’t translate into anything but the ol’ bait-and-switch, and I think we can all envision the greasy, used-car-salesmen who probably invented this innately disrespectful tactic.
As a professional, I am convinced that the use of extrinsic motivators is morally objectionable, dehumanizing and a form of educational malpractice.