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Kohn's book focuses on the basic idea of how the temporary fix has supplanted a long term vision in our schooling and parenting of children. Kohn's beliefs is that our desire to provide immediate incentives to children in their learning has ended up creating a setting where pursuits such as scholarship, intrinsic learning, and crafting knowledge with meaning have become lost. In its place, rewards like the proverbial "gold stars" or the idea of the class party and other immediate gratifications have dominated the educational setting. In this, Kohn finds much wrong as real learning and Progressive notions of education have become supplanted. For Kohn, this instant gratification display embodied by rewards from both teachers and parents to students has helped to normalize the cultural implications of standards based educational reform. The idea of "immediacy" in rewards has helped to make learning and education equally immediate, in that standardized test performance is what determines success or failure, learning or the lack of it in our modern educational setting. Accordingly, Kohn does not see learning, but rather compliance. Rewards are used to control and not to educate and inform. In this, Kohn finds nothing but regret and despair, as an entire generation of students are being closed off to scholarship, problem solving, critical thinking and, instead are being instructed to work for "the reward" or the short term gratification, as opposed to anything of long term value.
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