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OPINION: Should SCHS continue to reward academically successful students?

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By Eunice Oh


Three tests in one day, five consecutive AP Exams, a 15-minute memorized presentation: these are the tasks high schoolers can face throughout their school career, and periods of self-doubt and poor academic crops can become part of the process.

Even worse, millennials have the belief that “trying hard” without any attention to their competency, is enough to be rewarded.

There is a purpose behind school awards: it distances itself from this ideology that trying hard without a goal is enough, and it rewards and congratulates people for their high academic achievement. Therefore, the Renaissance Rally, the honor roll and Honor Roll T-shirts are rewarding experiences for one’s own accomplishments, as well as physical reminders of their efforts.

But firstly, how does one get the motivation to keep up with persisting academic tasks?

Initially,  a student may have an inherent or an intrinsic motivation to learn about a specific subject. However, is that enough? When can the difficulty of the subject overcome the intrinsic motivation to save a student from schoolwork and exams?

Familiarizing knowledge about a subject or multiple subjects simultaneously takes time. As time passes, reaching goals can be like jumping over hurdles, and for each upcoming hurdle, it becomes more difficult to maintain consistency. During such circumstances, rewards can help with progressively harder goals.

Alfie Kohn, a critic of rewarding and former teacher, believes intrinsic motivation can be inversely proportional with extrinsic motivation, and according to Kohn, intrinsic motivation is worth more. This is not incorrect, it is truly one own’s passion about learning that will sustain a student’s long term goals. However, this does not mean all types of goals and rewards should be eliminated.

Small, even trivial, amounts of external rewards motivate students without any loss. Psychologically, small rewards, examples of extrinsic motivations, cannot be the sole reason why a student uses so much time and effort for a given task, and so they will seek to find an additional motive. This leads to two paths for the student. They either decides that they have no other reason to continue their effort, or the student develops a passion out of their own self interest to pursue their activities.

So even small rewards like a Honor Rolls T-shirt or an Honor Roll sticker can help nudge students to develop intrinsic motivation.

Scientifically, the greatest motivation for a student stems from learning environments with close interactions between teacher and students. When larger classrooms restrain teachers to talk with each student often, the use of rewards can be very relevant and beneficial.

So if teachers inhibited rewards from students, teachers can actually create an unintended harmful effect towards student motivation and the first steps to academic prosperity.

Eventually, challenging goals and persisting workloads will always be there outside of school, with or without a compensating experience, but at the finish line, there will be a bigger and better reward waiting.





By Ayden Salazar


There are core principles behind everything humans do and why they do it. Today, many modern school systems offer incentives in exchange for academic achievement. Whether it is through the form of elaborate reward ceremonies or golden honor roll status, schools have totally redefined what it means to be “smart.” The main focus of the Renaissance Rally here at SCHS is to reward high-achieving students. But is such a reward really necessary? And if so, what type of an impact does it leave? Academic incentives do seem to correlate with higher work output, but schools tend to overlook the flaws of this otherwise cure-all system.

Contrary to popular belief, academic incentives will not eliminate the racial achievement gap. They will not miraculously turn struggling teachers into skilled instructors. Academic incentives will not provide a panacea that will get students off video games and into books. What academic incentives will do, however, is undermine a student’s intrinsic motivation. Think of it as a favorite pastime. If a student is into a sport, for example, does anyone tell them — or reward them — to do what they love? Chances are they do not love it if they have been told to do it. But add an incentive to the equation, like a sum of cash, and they are likely to respond.

Anything that falls within this realm of action in exchange for reward is called extrinsic motivation and it is, believe it or not, the driving force behind most academic endeavors. How often has one come across a student who studies simply because they “enjoy it?” Oftentimes, parents, peers and teachers play a vital role in keeping a student on top of their studies. It is not impossible to find an intrinsically motivated student, but incentives would undoubtedly lower their already low numbers.

Why is extrinsic motivation given such a bad rap, then? There is indeed an increase in college-bound students. There is indeed a rise in academic intelligence. But the truth is, extrinsic thinking has its pitfalls. What it would be doing, essentially, is leading students down the wrong path, a path in which they are constantly on the look-out for shortcuts. While intrinsic workers need not be told to study, extrinsic workers often slack off, cheat and give half-hearted effort.

Extrinsic motivation also burns off fairly quickly. If one is into something just for the reward, one would likely have a short attention-span (think of the person who goes to meetings, eats the donuts, then leaves). But if one is into something with a passion (intrinsic motivation), one is bound to dedicate long, thoughtful hours to the process (if only the meeting had concerned a topic of interest, the donuts probably would not have looked so tempting).

When it comes to recognition for great things, schools must applaud those who have overcome hardship. Schools must tip their caps to those who have accomplished miraculous feats. Schools must commend those who have displayed high levels of improvement. But, by no means, must schools place a t-shirt on a student and label them “smart.” Judging one’s ability to cram, grind, and study does not validate their success as a human being. In the end, it will only be those with a profound love for something — those who need not be told what to do, who to become, what to be — that will find success. As a popular saying goes, “Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.”


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OPINION: Should SCHS continue to reward academically successful students?