(continued from last week….)

When I was in the classroom, when ex- trinsic rewards were the only things that ultimately mattered, some students would take the quickest route there, and the quickest route was the low road. A few years ago we had a bit of a cheating scandal at Borgia. (A problem in every school.) The perps were not who you would have thought. They were not the students struggling to pass, struggling for a D or a C. Instead, they were the high end students wishing to push an A minus or an A to an A plus. That’s what happens when all that matters is the ex- ternal grade and not real education, real personal growth. When our motivation is high, when the only way to travel is the high road, because it is impossible to act unethically when the person who be- comes disadvantaged by one’s bad be- havior is not a competitor or the system, but yourself.

The worst thing about the carrot and stick approach to motivation is that can force us to concentrate on the short term instead of seeing the wider picture. One of the challenges of my job is that I have to pay attention to the big picture, I have to be aware of the long term. When our focus becomes short-sighted and myopic, really bad things happen. This happened to a catastrophic effect in the 2008 financial crisis when everyone seemed focused on the here and now without seeing the long range damage that was being caused. This is also a problem in the wanton destruction of the environment around us.

Daniel Pink in his book Drive points out seven deadly flaws to the carrot and stick approaches:

They can extinguish intrinsic motivation.

They can diminish performance.

They can crush creativity.

They can crowd out good behavior. They can encourage cheating,

shortcuts, and unethical behavior.

They can become addictive.

They can foster short-term thinking.

Once again, that is not to say that all carrots and sticks are bad. As I said, we need baseline rewards (wages, bene- fits, health insurance and the like are im- portant) and schools will not get rid of grades any time soon. Furthermore, people like to be acknowledged for good things they do, and there are certain boundaries that we need to protect and respect.

But what really truly motivates us? What really drives us?

Back in the day in Church, it was the promise of heaven and the fear of hell, the ultimate carrot and stick. It is not that we no longer have a theology about our final destiny (we do), but can we find something deeper, something more pro- found?

Can we look beyond the carrot and the stick?

Father Kevin

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