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Don't erode the fun of learning

September 10, 2008

Re "Shortchanged by pay to learn," Opinion, Sept. 5

Reading Wendy Grolnick's and Kathy Seals' Op-Ed article on paying students to learn, I stopped at this sentence: "Almost all children start kindergarten excited about learning to read and solve math problems."

How true. I taught kindergarten for more than 24 years. A remark made by one of my little students came to mind. In 1976, when we first tested our kindergartners in Carlsbad, a little girl raised her hand during the test and said to me, "Mrs. Hart, now I know why my brother hates school."

When you take the excitement of learning at the child's own unique timetable away and turn the emphasis to stupefying pressure, you get turned-off kids.

Nancy Hart

Carlsbad, Calif.

Indeed, consequences play a large role in student learning and achievement. But contriving consequences to the neglect of determining what motivates and sustains learning is shortsighted and unlikely to yield lasting results.

Although the studies reported about seemed to help prove the authors' point, the students or participants were not representative of learners who have trouble learning. Also, citing deCharms' research, completed more than 30 years ago, seems to promote a romantic educational policy of laissez-faire: Let students choose how and what they will learn. There is little if any evidence to support the efficacy of this approach to learning.

Gregg Drevno

Milford, Del.

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