Humorous Questions That Make You Think Twice Part #1

8 09 2009

 Can you cry under water?

How important does a person have to be before they are considered assassinated instead of just murdered?

If money doesn’t grow on trees then why do banks have branches?

Since bread is square, then why is sandwich meat round?

Why do you have to “put your two cents in” . . . but it’s only a penny for your thoughts?”   Where’s that extra penny going?

Why does a round pizza come in a square box?

What did cured ham actually have?

How is it that we put man on the moon before we figured out it would be a good idea to put wheels on luggage?

Why is it that people say they “slept like a baby” when babies wake up like every two hours?

If a deaf person has to go to court, is it still called a hearing?

Why are you IN a movie, but you are ON TV?

Why do people pay to go up tall buildings and then put money in binoculars to look at things on the ground?

How come we choose from just two people for President and fifty for Miss America?

Why do doctors leave the room while you change? They’re going to see you  naked anyway.

I signed up for an exercise class and was told to wear loose‑fitting clothing. If I HAD any loose‑fitting clothing, I wouldn’t have signed up  in  the first place!!!

Wouldn’t it be nice if whenever we messed up our life we could simply  press ‘Ctrl Alt Delete’ and start all over?

Why is it that our children can’t read a Bible in school, but they can in prison?

Brain cells come and brain cells go, but why do fat cells live forever?

How can you tell when you run out of invisible ink?

Could someone ever get addicted to counseling? If so, how could you treat them?

Can you be a closet claustrophobic?

Did Adam and Eve have navels?

Does anyone ever vanish with a trace? Or disappear in fat air instead of thin air?

How does the guy who drives the snowplow get to work in the mornings?

If a turtle doesn’t have a shell, is he homeless or naked?

If Fed Ex and UPS merge, would they call it Fed UP?

If a chronic liar tells you he is a chronic liar do you believe him?

If a mute child swears, does his mother wash his hands with soap?

If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to see it, do the other trees make fun of it?

If all those psychics know the winning lottery numbers, why are they all still working?

If nothing ever sticks to TEFLON, how do they make TEFLON stick to the pan?

If olive oil comes from olives, where does baby oil come from?

What would a chair look like if your knees bent the other way?

If pro is the opposite of con, is progress the opposite of congress?

If quitters never win, and winners never quit, who came up with, “Quit while you’re still ahead?”

If the Energizer Bunny attacks someone, is it charged with battery?

If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid of all but one of them, what do you call it?

What did we do before the Law of Gravity was passed?

What happens if you get scared half to death twice?

Why are we afraid of falling? Shouldn’t we be afraid of the sudden stop?

Why do airlines call flights nonstop? Don’t they all stop eventually?

Why is the alphabet in that order?

Why isn’t phonetic spelled the way it sounds?

You know how most packages say “Open here” What is the protocol if the package says, “Open somewhere else?”

You know that little indestructible black box that is used on planes, why can’t they make the whole plane with the same substance?

How do you know when it’s time to tune your bagpipes?

What would happen if you put a slinky on the Aup@ escalator?

Where does the light go when the light goes out?

How can I stop payment on a reality check?

Is it true cannibals won’t eat clowns because they taste funny?

I you were invited to a party by a psychic…would you have to RSVP?

Why aren’t apartments called togetherments?

If a stealth bomber crashes in the woods, does it make a sound?

Have you ever stopped to think…..and forgot to start again?

What happens when you get scared half to death a second time?

When do you use a solar flashlight?

If you arrest a mime does he have the right to remain silent?

If a word is misspelled in the dictionary, how would we ever know?

If Webster wrote the first dictionary, where did he find the words?

Why do we say something is out of whack?  What is a whack?

Why does “slow down” and “slow up” mean the same thing?

Why does “fat chance” and “slim chance” mean the same thing?

Why are they called “stands” when they are made for sitting?

Why is it call “after dark” when it really is “after light”?

Doesn’t “expecting the unexpected” make the unexpected expected?

Why are a “wise man” and a “wise guy” opposites?

Why do “overlook” and “oversee” mean opposite things?

If work is so terrific, why do they have to pay you to do it?

If all the world is a stage, where is the audience sitting?

Why do you press harder on the buttons of a remote control when you know the batteries are dead?

Why do we put suits in garment bags and garments in a suitcase?

How come abbreviated is such a long word?

Why do we wash bath towels? Aren’t we clean when we use them?

Why doesn’t glue stick to the inside of the bottle?

How come when you call a wrong number, someone is always home?

Do people in Australia call the rest of the world ‘up over’?

Does that screwdriver really belong to Philip?

Does killing time damage eternity?

Why doesn’t Tarzan have a beard?

Why is it called lipstick if you can still move your lips?

Why is it that night falls but day breaks?

For information on having Bob as a guest speaker or for products see his website at……..

The Risks of Rewards

8 09 2009
By Alfie Kohn

Many educators are acutely aware that punishment and threats are counterproductive. Making children suffer in order to alter their future behavior can often elicit temporary compliance, but this strategy is unlikely to help children become ethical, compassionate decision makers. Punishment, even if referred to euphemistically as “consequences,” tends to generate anger, defiance, and a desire for revenge. Moreover, it models the use of power rather than reason and ruptures the important relationship between adult and child.

Of those teachers and parents who make a point of not punishing children, a significant proportion turn instead to the use of rewards. The ways in which rewards are used, as well as the values that are considered important, differ among (and within) cultures. This digest, however, deals with typical practices in classrooms in the United States, where stickers and stars, A’s and praise, awards and privileges, are routinely used to induce children to learn or comply with an adult’s demands (Fantuzzo et al., 1991). As with punishments, the offer of rewards can elicit temporary compliance in many cases. Unfortunately, carrots turn out to be no more effective than sticks at helping children to become caring, responsible people or lifelong, self-directed learners.


Studies over many years have found that behavior modification programs are rarely successful at producing lasting changes in attitudes or even behavior. When the rewards stop, people usually return to the way they acted before the program began. More disturbingly, researchers have recently discovered that children whose parents make frequent use of rewards tend to be less generous than their peers (Fabes et al., 1989; Grusec, 1991; Kohn 1990).

Indeed, extrinsic motivators do not alter the emotional or cognitive commitments that underlie behavior–at least not in a desirable direction. A child promised a treat for learning or acting responsibly has been given every reason to stop doing so when there is no longer a reward to be gained.

Research and logic suggest that punishment and rewards are not really opposites, but two sides of the same coin. Both strategies amount to ways of trying to manipulate someone’s behavior–in one case, prompting the question, “What do they want me to do, and what happens to me if I don’t do it?”, and in the other instance, leading a child to ask, “What do they want me to do, and what do I get for doing it?” Neither strategy helps children to grapple with the question, “What kind of person do I want to be?”


Rewards are no more helpful at enhancing achievement than they are at fostering good values. At least two dozen studies have shown that people expecting to receive a reward for completing a task (or for doing it successfully) simply do not perform as well as those who expect nothing (Kohn, 1993). This effect is robust for young children, older children, and adults; for males and females; for rewards of all kinds; and for tasks ranging from memorizing facts to designing collages to solving problems. In general, the more cognitive sophistication and open-ended thinking that is required for a task, the worse people tend to do when they have been led to perform that task for a reward.

There are several plausible explanations for this puzzling but remarkably consistent finding. The most compelling of these is that rewards cause people to lose interest in whatever they were rewarded for doing. This phenomenon, which has been demonstrated in scores of studies (Kohn, 1993), makes sense given that “motivation” is not a single characteristic that an individual possesses to a greater or lesser degree. Rather, intrinsic motivation (an interest in the task for its own sake) is qualitatively different from extrinsic motivation (in which completion of the task is seen chiefly as a prerequisite for obtaining something else) (Deci & Ryan, 1985). Therefore, the question educators need to ask is not how motivated their students are, but how their students are motivated.

In one representative study, young children were introduced to an unfamiliar beverage called kefir. Some were just asked to drink it; others were praised lavishly for doing so; a third group was promised treats if they drank enough. Those children who received either verbal or tangible rewards consumed more of the beverage than other children, as one might predict. But a week later these children found it significantly less appealing than they did before, whereas children who were offered no rewards liked it just as much as, if not more than, they had earlier (Birch et al., 1984). If we substitute reading or doing math or acting generously for drinking kefir, we begin to glimpse the destructive power of rewards. The data suggest that the more we want children to want to do something, the more counterproductive it will be to reward them for doing it.

Deci and Ryan (1985) describe the use of rewards as “control through seduction.” Control, whether by threats or bribes, amounts to doing things to children rather than working with them. This ultimately frays relationships, both among students (leading to reduced interest in working with peers) and between students and adults (insofar as asking for help may reduce the probability of receiving a reward).

Moreover, students who are encouraged to think about grades, stickers, or other “goodies” become less inclined to explore ideas, think creatively, and take chances. At least ten studies have shown that people offered a reward generally choose the easiest possible task (Kohn, 1993). In the absence of rewards, by contrast, children are inclined to pick tasks that are just beyond their current level of ability.


The implications of this analysis and these data are troubling. If the question is “Do rewards motivate students?”, the answer is, “Absolutely: they motivate students to get rewards.” Unfortunately, that sort of motivation often comes at the expense of interest in, and excellence at, whatever they are doing. What is required, then, is nothing short of a transformation of our schools.

First, classroom management programs that rely on rewards and consequences ought to be avoided by any educator who wants students to take responsibility for their own (and others’) behavior–and by any educator who places internalization of positive values ahead of mindless obedience. The alternative to bribes and threats is to work toward creating a caring community whose members solve problems collaboratively and decide together how they want their classroom to be (DeVries & Zan, 1994; Solomon et al., 1992).

Second, grades in particular have been found to have a detrimental effect on creative thinking, long-term retention, interest in learning, and preference for challenging tasks (Butler & Nisan, 1986; Grolnick & Ryan, 1987). These detrimental effects are not the result of too many bad grades, too many good grades, or the wrong formula for calculating grades. Rather, they result from the practice of grading itself, and the extrinsic orientation it promotes. Parental use of rewards or consequences to induce children to do well in school has a similarly negative effect on enjoyment of learning and, ultimately, on achievement (Gottfried et al., 1994). Avoiding these effects requires assessment practices geared toward helping students experience success and failure not as reward and punishment, but as information.

Finally, this distinction between reward and information might be applied to positive feedback as well. While it can be useful to hear about one’s successes, and highly desirable to receive support and encouragement from adults, most praise is tantamount to verbal reward. Rather than helping children to develop their own criteria for successful learning or desirable behavior, praise can create a growing dependence on securing someone else’s approval. Rather than offering unconditional support, praise makes a positive response conditional on doing what the adult demands. Rather than heightening interest in a task, the learning is devalued insofar as it comes to be seen as a prerequisite for receiving the teacher’s approval (Kohn, 1993).


In short, good values have to be grown from the inside out. Attempts to short-circuit this process by dangling rewards in front of children are at best ineffective, and at worst counterproductive. Children are likely to become enthusiastic, lifelong learners as a result of being provided with an engaging curriculum; a safe, caring community in which to discover and create; and a significant degree of choice about what (and how and why) they are learning. Rewards–like punishments–are unnecessary when these things are present, and are ultimately destructive in any case.


Birch, L.L., D.W. Marlin, and J. Rotter. (1984). Eating as the ‘Means’ Activity in a Contingency: Effects on Young Children’s Food Preference. CHILD DEVELOPMENT 55(2, Apr): 431-439. EJ 303 231.

Butler, R., and M. Nisan. (1986). Effects of No Feedback, Task-Related Comments, and Grades on Intrinsic Motivation and Performance. JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY 78(3, June): 210-216. EJ 336 917.



Fabes, R.A., J. Fultz, N. Eisenberg, T. May-Plumlee, and F.S. Christopher. (1989). Effects of Rewards on Children’s Prosocial Motivation: A Socialization Study. DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY 25(4, Jul): 509-515. EJ 396 958.

Fantuzzo, J.W., C.A. Rohrbeck, A.D. Hightower, and W.C. Work. (1991). Teachers’ Use and Children’s Preferences of Rewards in Elementary School. PSYCHOLOGY IN THE SCHOOLS 28(2, Apr): 175-181. EJ 430 936.

Gottfried, A.E., J.S. Fleming, and A.W. Gottfried. (1994). Role of Parental Motivational Practices in Children’s Academic Intrinsic Motivation and Achievement. JOURNAL OF EDUCATIONAL PSYCHOLOGY 86(1): 104-113.

Grolnick, W.S., and R.M. Ryan. (1987). Autonomy in Children’s Learning: An Experimental and Individual Difference Investigation. JOURNAL OF PERSONALITY AND SOCIAL PSYCHOLOGY 52: 890-898.

Grusec, J.E. (1991). Socializing Concern for Others in the Home. DEVELOPMENTAL PSYCHOLOGY 27(2, Mar): 338-342. EJ 431 672.



Solomon, D., M. Watson, V. Battistich, E. Schaps, and K. Delucchi. (1992). Creating a Caring Community: Educational Practices That Promote Children’s Prosocial Development. In F.K. Oser, A. Dick, and J.L. Patry (Eds.), EFFECTIVE AND RESPONSIBLE TEACHING: THE NEW SYNTHESIS. San Francisco: Jossey-Bass.


Copyright © 1994 by Alfie Kohn. This article may be downloaded, reproduced, and distributed without permission as long as each copy includes this notice along with citation information (i.e., name of the periodical in which it originally appeared, date of publication, and author’s name). Permission must be obtained in order to reprint this article in a published work or in order to offer it for sale in any form. Please write to the address indicated on the Contact Us page.

What to Look for in a Classroom

8 09 2009

By Alfie Kohn

An earlier version of this chart was published in the September 1996 issue of Educational Leadership, and reprinted as the title essay in the anthology What to Look for in a Classroom…And Other Essays .

This revised version appeared as Appendix B of The Schools Our Children Deserve




FURNITURE Chairs around tables to facilitate interaction 

Comfortable areas for learning, including multiple “activity centers”

Open space for gathering

Chairs all facing forward or (even worse) desks in rows
ON THE WALLS Covered with students’ projects 

Evidence of student collaboration


Signs, exhibits, or lists obviously created by students rather than by the teacher


Information about, and personal mementos of, the people who spend time together in this classroom


Commercial posters


Students’ assignments displayed, but they are (a) suspiciously flawless, (b) only from “the best” students, or (c) virtually all alike


List of rules created by an adult and/or list of punitive consequences for misbehavior


Sticker (or star) chart — or other evidence that students are rewarded or ranked

STUDENTS’ FACES Eager, engaged Blank, bored
SOUNDS Frequent hum of activity and ideas being exchanged Frequent periods of silence 

The teacher’s voice is the loudest or most often heard


LOCATION OF TEACHER Typically working with students so it takes a few seconds to find her Typically front and center 
TEACHER’S VOICE Respectful, genuine, warm Controlling and imperious 

Condescending and saccharine-sweet

STUDENTS’ REACTION TO VISITOR Welcoming; eager to explain or demonstrate what they’re doing or to use visitor as a resource Either unresponsive or hoping to be distracted from what they’re doing
CLASS DISCUSSION Students often address one another directly 

Emphasis on thoughtful exploration of complicated issues


Students ask questions at least as often as the teacher does

All exchanges involve (or are directed by) the teacher; students wait to be called on 

Emphasis on facts and right answers


Students race to be first to answer teacher’s “Who can tell me…?” queries

STUFF Room overflowing with good books, art supplies, animals and plants, science apparatus; “sense of purposeful clutter” Textbooks, worksheets, and other packaged instructional materials predominate; sense of enforced orderliness
TASKS Different activities often take place simultaneously 

Activities frequently completed by pairs or groups of students

All students usually doing the same thing 

When students aren’t listening to the teacher, they’re working alone

AROUND THE SCHOOL Appealing atmosphere: a place where people would want to spend time 

Students’ projects fill the hallways


Library well-stocked and comfortable


Bathrooms in good condition


Faculty lounge warm and inviting


Office staff welcoming toward visitors and students


Students helping in lunchroom, library, and with other school functions

Stark, institutional feel 

Awards, trophies, and prizes displayed, suggesting an emphasis on triumph rather than community



Copyright © 1996, 1999 by Alfie Kohn. This article may be downloaded, reproduced, and distributed without permission as long as each copy includes this notice along with citation information (i.e., name of the periodical in which it originally appeared, date of publication, and author’s name). Permission must be obtained in order to reprint this article in a published work or in order to offer it for sale in any form. Please write to the address indicated on the Contact Us page.