Choice as a Motivator
An article in the New York Times reports that choice in education can motivate students. The article is about eighth-graders choosing books to read in a public-school English class — a micro-level choice as compared with the selection of schools or classrooms, which usually have the spotlight in the debate over educational choice.
Some teachers find that allowing students to choose their own books inspires them to read more and to work harder. If a choice critic saw one of those students avidly reading, he might say, “That student would have excelled at reading any book.” That’s the accusation I often hear when I mention students who are doing well in the schools their families chose for them: “The child would have worked hard in any school.” And it’s hard to dispute this claim, because you can’t observe the same child in a hypothetical different situation to compare. When it comes to choosing books, though, you can make a comparison — a teacher can assign a book to an entire class and also give students the freedom to select books on their own.
Choice in literature programs is not directly analogous to choice between schools, so the success of one doesn’t imply that the other is always best. But it does suggest that, in some cases, people thrive under conditions of choice precisely because they get to choose.