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Madison Avenue Doesn’t Have the Answer

How Madison Avenue Runs Schools

How Madison Avenue Runs Schools

I have just finished reading an article written by Michael Horn, for Forbes magazine called, “Building Motivation, Instilling Grit: The Necessity of instilling Mastery-based Digital Learning.”  The author presents his arguments that unmotivated students are unmotivated because they have not been instilled with the purpose and potential of competency-based and digital learning.  The author states the reason for this is two-fold:  First, they (students) want to feel successful and make meaningful progress. Second, they (students) want to have fun with their friends.

The author goes on to blame educators that their feedback is generally slow and lacking.  So, when was the last time your boss came by your cubicle to tell you how well you were doing?  Today, many schools have their grades online and have Cloud access.  After work has been graded, by the teacher, it is posted online for access by both parents and students.   Obviously, the author is not quite up to date  in the latest educational technology developments.

The author continues, “So how do we help students who aren’t buying what schools are selling?”   The response is a loud affirmation that digital learning is the all purpose solution.  It slices, dices and can even do your homework.  But more importantly, it will motivate the unmotivated.  Sorry, but technology has been around for over 50 years in education from 16mm film projects to today’s Smartboards.  Technology is a tool, it is not a motivator but an enhancer, in the hands of an expert educator, it can be used to explain complex subject matter, demonstrate with both visual and auditory equipment, but it can’t motivate anymore than the 1958 16mm film projector or DVD player in the 1980’s could.

It all sounded like a great sales pitch, and then I realized, I was reading a Forbes magazine article.  The author named one of his sources–Madison Avenue.  Now, Madison Avenue may understand Marketing but the article proved it still doesn’t understand Education. Three authors, who did not identify themselves as educators, wrote a white paper called, “Rethinking Student Motivation,”  The paper first states that, to date, there is no one size that fits all. They were right! And then they try to ‘market’ their position as the solution. The paper is a testament to Industrial Age Mentality that many schools have been trying to evolve from. Education is not about jobs, it is not about getting a job.  It’s not about selling education as a commodity.  The last time I looked I had a choice of either buying something or not.  Education is compulsory in the United States, students don’t have a choice.   If education was a choice, like at the college level,  we might need selling techniques for our K-12 students–Ah! But, it is compulsory and that’s the rub, the problem, the issue facing all educators in trying to find techniques to motivate the unmotivated.

Brain studies, behavior intelligence, multicultural studies, and socioeconomic, and global education studies are now part of the 21st educator’s arsenal for motivation. Education is about motivating both the group as well as  the individual.  The motivated and the unmotivated.   In the business world of marketing the industry focuses always on the group. The individual is passed by. We can’t do that in Education.

But let’s leave on a reflective note.  The Forbes article does have one positive supporter and that comes from the author’s last comment,  “A competency-based learning system on the other hand literally embeds grit—sticking with things until you master them—in its DNA.” Yes, it is the perfect tool for Standardized Testing, which has already shown itself as a failure  along with it NCLB program.


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