My son came home from school last week and told me that the principal announced in the middle of davening that he bought donuts for all the boys, but he expects them to finish davening nicely so they can earn their reward. My son commented that 1) everyone who started davening well from that point was just davening for the donuts, so what’s the point; 2) the principal was obviously not going to return or throw out boxes of donuts that he already purchased, so why make conditions?
Too bad the principal of the school is not as intelligent as my 7th grade son.
(If you are interested in the abused system of reward by incentive (or as my wife puts it, jumping through hoops to earn the fish), the man to read is Alfie Kohn, author of Punished by Rewards, or see http://www.alfiekohn.org for some interesting articles. I can’t say I’m persuaded by everything he writes, but it is certainly worth considering. He hits the nail right on the head in claiming schools stress short term compliance with expected behaviors over long term inculcation of values - external compliance wins out over internal motivation. Reinforcing good davening with extrinsic rewards gets kids to daven better for the moment, but unless time is taken to build some internal motivation and understanding of davening, why should a kid daven when there is no reward? And if a school run minyan is not the place for that internal value of tefillah to be developed and nurtured, what is?)