'I WON'T LEARN FROM YOU' by Herbert Kohl


And Other Thoughts on Creative Maladjustment
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 The five essays in this book are powerful reminders that currently popular ideas of school choice may be only another trendy veneer disguising the deeply rooted problems of public education. Teacher Kohl (From Archetype to Zeitgeist, 1992, etc.) is an ardent spokesman on behalf of students, the people most neglected in debates about failures in the classrooms. The title essay explores the provocative idea that ``not-learning'' is a conscious choice made by children who observe, sometimes very early, that the school system is trying to impose on them values and behavior that are foreign and sometimes repugnant to them. Diagnosed as learning- disabled, stupid, or disciplinary problems, children who appear not to be able to learn to read or do math may simply have opted out of the system, choosing instead to put their intelligence and creativity to work outside school. In ``The Tattooed Man,'' he asserts that, before anything else can be accomplished, teachers must challenge the hopelessness felt by students. The ``norming of excellence'' and political correctness are the subjects of two other essays, accompanied by a devastating critique of E.D. Hirsch, Jr.'s Cultural Literacy and Core Knowledge series. Kohl attacks Hirsch's material as not only racist and sexist, but ``pernicious, stupid, and dangerous.'' Martin Luther King, Jr.'s call to be ``maladjusted'' to injustice and inequity is the theme of the last essay. ``Creative maladjustment'' consists of ``learning to survive with minimal moral and personal compromise in a thoroughly compromised world,'' says Kohl. In such a world, he argues, the failure of schools and teachers is often pinned on children--by diagnosing them with Attention Deficit Disorder, for example. He challenges teachers to take action by, for instance, refusing to turn such children over to special education classes. Some anecdotes and examples are repeated from earlier works, but this is must reading for Kohl fanciers and anyone looking for the humanity buried in the long debate about why Johnny can't read.

Pub Date: April 1st, 1994
ISBN: 1-56584-095-X
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: New Press
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 15th, 1994


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