If you really want to educate, don’t entertain.

A friend of mine was running a basketball camp last summer. He told me they got some local government money and so they could afford to make it free for the participants; a week-long camp where the kids didn’t have to pay. Of course they were instantly overbooked with signups. It was going to be awesome.

Except, when the camp started, nobody showed up.

Why? Because most people don’t value what they didn’t pay for.

The lesson here was something any good salesman (or working girl) already knows: If you want the customer to appreciate your product, don’t give it away for free.

Human psychology dictates that, the more difficult a thing is to attain, the higher the price we have to pay, the more value we attach to it.

There’s a lot more to be explored on this topic but for now, let’s focus how we can use this principle to make education more effective in the modern age.

The intuitive approach might be to make the consumption of education fun and entertaining the same way you might make children’s aspirin taste sweet.

I’m gonna argue for the contrary.

When it comes to knowledge and education, a key requirement to adoption is willingness from the part of the learner. Another word to describe that willingness might be, ‘investment.’

I’m not suggesting we ask students to pay money for education. Absolutely not. The main purpose of human existence is to share knowledge. Education should definitely be free. But as we established earlier, humans are built to dismiss ‘free’ things in pursuit of difficult to attain, ‘expensive’ things.

Groucho Marx did not want to join any club that would accept him as a member. And parents in my friend’s neighborhood didn’t want to send their kids to a free basketball camp.

Sure, in a perfect world, everything is free and everyone is full of appreciation. But in our current world, we need to remember that people only value things that are hard to get.

Therefore, if learners are to value education, there should be a requirement to pay something. And that something we should have to pay is attention.

That’s why if you really want to educate someone, resist the urge to sugar coat it with education.