My Yankton friends cited Daniel Pink on the science of motivation early in the debate over the merits of Governor Dennis Daugaard's plan to wreck public schools with ineffective merit pay. I posted this animation of Pink's basic pitch: the ideology of carrots and sticks doesn't work in 21st-century education or business.

Now fellow teacher Mike Larson drops by the comment section to provide this TED talk straight from Daniel Pink that gives us reason #1 why we must repeal HB 1234 (soon to be christened Referred Law 16) at the polls this November: teacher bonuses won't improve teacher performance or student learning; they may well hurt our public schools.

Pink talks about an experiment comparing the problem-solving skills of two groups, one told they were being timed simply to measure average solution times, the other told they would receive bonuses for solving the problem faster. The bonus group took significantly longer to solve the problem

[4:15] If you want people to perform better, you reward them. Right? Bonuses, commissions, their own reality show. Incentivize them. That's how business works. But that's not happening here. You've got an incentive designed to sharpen thinking and accelerate creativity, and it does just the opposite. It dulls thinking and blocks creativity [Daniel Pink, TED talk, July 2009].

Governor Daugaard's education plan offers teachers bonuses for getting high scores on a state-mandated teacher evaluation scorecard. That's exactly the extrinsic motivation that Pink says doesn't work in complicated modern work like teaching:

[5:19] If you look at the science, there is a mismatch between what science knows and what business does. And what's alarming here is that our business operating system --think of the set of assumptions and protocols beneath our businesses, how we motivate people, how we apply our human resources -- it's built entirely around these extrinsic motivators, around carrots and sticks. That's actually fine for many kinds of 20th century tasks. But for 21st century tasks, that mechanistic, reward-and-punishment approach doesn't work, often doesn't work, and often does harm [Pink 2009].

HB 1234 tries to fix our public schools (and you really should ask the Governor to explain to you what in your local high school needs fixing) with bonus plans that are proven not to work.

[8:36] This is not a feeling. Okay? I'm a lawyer; I don't believe in feelings. This is not a philosophy. I'm an American; I don't believe in philosophy. (Laughter) This is a fact... [Pink 2009].

My readers and I are cudgeling our brains trying to figure out an appropriate counter-moniker to challenge Governor Daugaard's propagandistic labeling of his wildly unpopular education plan. But even if we take the Governor's preferred label and call it the "Teacher Bonus Bill," Daniel Pink will make clear that bonuses don't work. That's not a feeling; that's a fact.