A compelling argument that the use of rewards is counterproductive in raising children, teaching students, and managing workers. Kohn (The Brighter Side of Human Nature, 1990, etc.) contends that rewards, like punishments, are methods of controlling people—perhaps a morally objectionable goal—and that, at best, they produce only temporary compliance. He begins by tracing the development of behaviorist doctrine and the widespread acceptance of its popular version, encapsulated in the idea ``do this and you'll get that.'' Kohn examines the effect that rewards have on behavior, concluding that rewards fail for many reasons: They punish; rupture relationships; ignore underlying reasons for behavior; discourage risk-taking; and undermine interest in the task at hand. The author looks carefully at three places in which rewards are used extensively- -the workplace, the classroom, and the home—and demonstrates in turn why incentive plans and other reward-based systems employed, first, by managers fail to improve the quality of work; why outward motivations undermine students' intrinsic motivation to learn; and why children whose parents use rewards to motivate them are less likely to develop a sense of responsibility and the ability to make ethical judgments. Having shown that rewards don't work, Kohn undertakes the more difficult task of developing a strategy that does. His solution is based on what he calls the ``three C's''—``content,'' ``choice,'' and ``collaboration''— and he illustrates how they can be applied by managers, teachers, and parents. Three appendices round out his well-documented study: excerpts from a 1983 interview with a rather crotchety B.F. Skinner; a reflective essay on intrinsic motivation; and Kohn's prediction of how behaviorists will respond to his arguments. A clear, convincing demonstration of the shortcomings of pop-behaviorism, written with style, humor, and authority.

Pub Date: Oct. 26, 1993

ISBN: 0-395-65028-3

Page Count: 356

Publisher: Houghton Mifflin

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1993

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Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.


New York Times columnist and editorial board member delivers a slim book for aspiring writers, offering saws and sense, wisdom and waggery, biases and biting sarcasm.

Klinkenborg (Timothy; or, Notes of an Abject Reptile, 2006), who’s taught for decades, endeavors to keep things simple in his prose, and he urges other writers to do the same. (Note: He despises abuses of the word as, as he continually reminds readers.) In the early sections, the author ignores traditional paragraphing so that the text resembles a long free-verse poem. He urges readers to use short, clear sentences and to make sure each one is healthy before moving on; notes that it’s acceptable to start sentences with and and but; sees benefits in diagramming sentences; stresses that all writing is revision; periodically blasts the formulaic writing that many (most?) students learn in school; argues that knowing where you’re headed before you begin might be good for a vacation, but not for a piece of writing; and believes that writers must trust readers more, and trust themselves. Most of Klinkenborg’s advice is neither radical nor especially profound (“Turn to the poets. / Learn from them”), and the text suffers from a corrosive fallacy: that if his strategies work for him they will work for all. The final fifth of the text includes some passages from writers he admires (McPhee, Oates, Cheever) and some of his students’ awkward sentences, which he treats analytically but sometimes with a surprising sarcasm that veers near meanness. He includes examples of students’ dangling modifiers, malapropisms, errors of pronoun agreement, wordiness and other mistakes.

Analyzing his craft, a careful craftsman urges with Thoreauvian conviction that writers should simplify, simplify, simplify.

Pub Date: Aug. 7, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-307-26634-7

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: May 14, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 2012

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Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis...



Privately published by Strunk of Cornell in 1918 and revised by his student E. B. White in 1959, that "little book" is back again with more White updatings.

Stricter than, say, Bergen Evans or W3 ("disinterested" means impartial — period), Strunk is in the last analysis (whoops — "A bankrupt expression") a unique guide (which means "without like or equal").

Pub Date: May 15, 1972

ISBN: 0205632645

Page Count: 105

Publisher: Macmillan

Review Posted Online: Oct. 28, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 1, 1972

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