Carrot and Stick

Nin entered the lecture hall and took a seat in the front row. Today two esteemed thinkers were debating the best method of educating the young. It was the classic dilemma; one suggested rewarding good behaviour, the other favoured punished bad action.

It was an old, tenured lecturer—a respected authority—who favoured the stick. Conversely, his carrot-supporting opponent was a newly-minted teacher, their eyes still bright and youthful.

“Of course, positive reinforcement is the best method of education,” began the young rabbit. “It encourages growth—”

There was a sudden smack as the old respected rabbit hit the young speaker across the paws with a stick. The sound echoed across the lecture hall. “I disagree,” said the old tenured rabbit. “Positive reinforcement teaches youth to expect reward for obeying authority—not for doing what is right.”

The old lecturer cleared his throat then continued: “Only pain can teach the most valuable lesson a rabbit can learn.” What this lesson was, the old rabbit did not say. He merely sat back with a satisfied smile.

The young rabbit grumbled but shrugged off the blow, continuing unabated: “Furthermore, this positive approach encourages exploration. If we overly focus on punishing bad behaviour we also stifle creativity. Children will not experiment in fear that their actions will be perceived as bad. So—”

Again the old tenured rabbit brought his stick down with a thwap, smacking his young colleague over the head. “For children who have not been taught to recognize potential dangers, experimentation is bad!”

And again the young rabbit shrugged off the old rabbit’s attack. “Then, with all due respect sir, it is our duty as educators to teach the young—”

But before he could even finish his thought his esteemed colleague had given him yet another smack, this time across the nose. The old rabbit was steadfast: “Pain teaches the young the most valuable lesson of all.”

This final assault was too much for the young rabbit. With a warcry he lunged at his senior and began throttling him.

“See? See?” cried the old rabbit as the younger rabbit pummelled him, “the most important lesson has been learned—the rebellion against tyranny!”