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And Other Contrarian Essays on Children and Schooling

by Alfie Kohn

Pub Date: April 5th, 2011
ISBN: 978-0-8070-0140-0
Publisher: Beacon

A philosophical, well-structured argument for viable progressive education from one of the movement's most prolific and well-regarded authors.

In the introduction to his 19 succinct essays, Kohn (The Homework Myth, 2006, etc.) lays out 12 points that he thinks should be “Well Duh” moments for educators: essentially what he considers to be irrefutable tenets that somehow get lost in practical application. The points radiate around the same theme—that students are humans, and humans learn through participation, interest and engagement, rather than memorization of facts and recitation of those facts through standardized testing. The material that follows, which is broken up into five major sections (“Progressivism and Beyond,” “The Nuts and Bolts of Learning,” “Climate & Connections: How Does School Feel to the Students?” “The Big Picture: Education Policy” and “Beyond the Schools: Psychological Issues & Parenting”) is not a step-by-step plan, but rather a carefully considered interrogation of the way we teach and how we might inject some of the "Well Duh" concepts back into classroom learning. Despite the comprehensive references that end each chapter, Kohn’s arguments are, in keeping with his classroom philosophy, hardly recitations of his research, but rather ideas, often with his own experience as a teacher as the backing evidence. He is unapologetic for some of his unconventional philosophy, advocating that teachers give less homework, for example, that they seek out students that challenge them in the classroom, that they think outside the rubric in planning lessons and evaluating students, and that test preparation and quantified reading assignments and report writing are killing student motivation. In the title essay, he tackles the fundamental and so often overlooked concept of happiness in education, asking not only when schools became places so devoid of joy, but why getting it back became such a low priority.

A vital wake-up call to educators.