Education Editorial: Work and Success

Education Editorial: Work and Success

We recently looked at the work of the Brookings Institute related to motivation and character. Do young people who understand, and have experienced, rewards perform better than those who have not been taught that work leads to recognition…money, status, influence, or a feeling of accomplishment?

Years of educational research (including some that I have conducted) have offered different lessons. "Self concept" advocates believe that if you teach a young person to feel good he will perform better.

In reality, young people don't achieve more because they feel good; they feel good when they have achieved.

When I learned to ride a bike or fly a plane, there were many mistakes and some bumps, but one day the wheels rolled freely and the wind lifted my wings…and this wonderful sense of achievement rushed through my body.

The bike was at six years old and the plane was at 40…but the feeling was the same. I can also recall saying, "we don't want to teach young people to feel good about living in the projects; we want to teach them skills that will get them out of the projects."

What Brookings is highlighting is that young people with skills may still not know the sense of rewards. Perhaps we should think differently about education…and poverty. Teach young people skills…and give them a chance to work. Let them experience the feeling of success!

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