This work is sheer brilliance. Mr. Kohn makes a very good and very unshakable case against dispensing awards. I have long believed that COMPETITION KILLS COOPERATION and that creating rivalry among people often undermines the outcome in the long run.
I have always had a constitutional aversion for "lollipop" awards; that is, awards passed out like lollipops to every participant. In some instances all participants receive a uniform prize. Nobody's performance is being distinguished, so therefore a prize is asinine and meaningless. As well intentioned as this is, no playing field can ever be level and merely dispensing such uniform "lollipops" flies in the face of what awards are really for. I personally detest the "lollipop" awards and I, for one, would not ever be able to accept one in good conscience. For me, it has to be earned fairly and honestly or it doesn't count.
If I had my way, there would be no prizes and awards. All they do is breed rivalry and negative competition. I feel they often undermine cooperation and in many instances preclude cooperation. I like "intrinsic rewards" wherein a person feels good about their accomplishments and receives positive verbal feedback. My favorite uncle was a grand champion at intrinsic rewards -- just knowing he felt you had done a good job or that he was pleased with something you did was a major ego booster. His way was to offer words of gentle encouragement and his motto was simple: if one expects the best, then one can reasonably believe they will GET the best performance. He did not pass out any type of award and he had a strong sense of self and ethics. This highly gifted man has imparted a real gift -- the gift of hard work and taking pride in it.
This book is an excellent statement to the above. I would highly recommend it to anyone. People are more than conditioned responses and rewards often feed into behaviorist thinking.