Alfie Kohn elaborates on the effects of how an educational grading system can be problematic for student learning, as well as it can reduce the quality of students’ thinking. From my point of view, Kohn’s analysis arises as a consequence of educating people so they can get a job, but not to empower them.
Empowerment is defined as the authority or power an individual has to control one’s life and claim one’s rights (Conger & Kanungo, 1988). However, this complex construct can be understood by both the economic growth and the capabilities approach. Within the economic growth approach, development is associated with efficient economic growth and productive forms of market participation (Keleher, 2007). In this context, empowerment is the ability of a person to make market-related decisions and autonomously control his/her economic status (Keleher, 2014).
On the other hand, empowerment within the capabilities approach is a process of expansion of the substantive freedom people enjoy, and it relates to an individual’s ability of being freely to perform in life (Keleher, 2014; Sen, 2011). This approach positions empowered people as owners not only of their economic activities but also as owners and managers of all the different spheres of life (Alexander, 2008). Additionally, unlike the economic-growth perspective, in order to achieve a lifestyle that a person has reasons to value, empowerment cannot be delivered by anybody, but it can only be achieved by individuals their-self (Conger & Kanungo, 1988), and each individual has to do it at his/her own pace (Rowlands, 1995).
Based in those two delineations, I consider essential to understand that education is a process in which students can get the tools they need to get empowered so they can achieve the lives that they want. Seems to me, that an education system which focus on its majority in the importance of grading, is a system that will be limited to prepare students so they can get a job, accordingly to the economic growth perspective. Consequently, by realizing that any education system should go beyond numbers and grades, and by focusing more on student’s learning experiences, education will be about empowering students so they can find the tools they need to make their difference in the world.
Alexander, J. M. (2008). Capabilities and social justice: The political philosophy of Amartya Sen and Martha Nussbaum. Ashgate Publishing, Ltd. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=H4DcWEDqAngC&oi=fnd&pg=PR9&dq=Alexander,+J.+M.+(2008).+Capabilities+and+social+justice:+The+political+philosophy+of+Amartya+Sen+and+Martha+Nussbaum.+Ashgate+Publishing,+Ltd&ots=I2mZsvg5Gp&sig=Z9I7DrTWlDOsYF_FT1mCVw703eo
Conger, J. A., & Kanungo, R. N. (1988). The empowerment process: Integrating theory and practice. Academy of Management Review, 13(3), 471–482.
Keleher, L. (2007). Empowerment and international development. Retrieved from http://drum.lib.umd.edu/handle/1903/7584
Keleher, L. (2014). Sen and Nussbaum: Agency and Capability-Expansion1. Retrieved from https://papyrus.bib.umontreal.ca/xmlui/handle/1866/10936
Rowlands, J. (1995). Empowerment examined. Development in Practice, 5(2), 101–107
Sen, A. (2011). The idea of justice. Harvard University Press. Retrieved from https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=OM4RBAAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PR5&dq=Sen,+A.+(2011).+The+idea+of+justice.+Harvard+University+Press&ots=0soNdLyTdy&sig=vB8F0R0yo6Y_yNn9zuUbkXk4XzE