Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Alfie Kohn's The Schools Our Children Deserve

Alfie Kohn's book The Schools Our Children Deserve is a part of an essential reading list for all.

Recently C-SPAN decided to release their video collection to the public for free. Here is an 80 minute lecture by Alfie Kohn that summarizes his book The Schools Our Children Deserve. October 27, 1999.

From the book flap:

Are our schools in trouble because they have lowered their standards and strayed too far from the basics? Just the opposite: if American students are getting less than they deserve, it's due to simplistic demands to "raise the bar" and an aggressive nostalgia for traditional teaching.

Alfie Kohn, the author of critically acclaimed works on such subjects as competition and rewards, now turns the conventional wisdom about education on its head. In this landmark book, he shows how the "back-to-basics" philosophy of teaching treats children as passive receptacles into which forgettable facts are poured. Likewise, shrill calls for Tougher Standards are responsible for squeezing the intellectual life out of classrooms. Such political slogans reflect a lack of understanding about how and why kids learn, and they force teachers to spend time preparing students for standardized tests instead of helping them to become critical, creative thinkers.

Kohn offers an ambitious yet practical vision of what our children's classrooms could be like. Drawing on a remarkable body of research, he helps parents and other ex-students understand the need to move beyond a "bunch o' facts" model of teaching. Drawing on stories from real classrooms, he shows how this can be done. Along the way, Kohn offers surprising truths about the Whole Language versus phonics controversy, why a straight-A report card may not be good news, and how we can best gauge the progress of schools and students.

The Schools Our Children Deserve offers a fresh perspective on today's headlines about education - and on what our children will be asked to do in class tomorrow morning. It offers a persuasive invitation to rethink our most basic assumptions about schooling.


  1. I think it's worth mentioning that this book is still just as relevant today - over 10 years later.

  2. Joe,
    I'm still confused about how you do grading on report cards. Do students know--as the semester proceeds--how they are doing and what grade they should expect when the day comes? In your informational feedback do you hint/say what grade the student will get?
    If you do things in groups but one person clearly does less work than other group members do you do you talk to them about this? And if you talk to them and they ignore your concerns do you reflect that in their semester grade?
    How do you judge whether a student is actually learning?
    Do students ever think that you are playing favorites by giving better letter grades to those who are more cooperative? or those whose values seem to mirror your own? Do students complain that the letter grade they got is 'unfair' because it isn't based upon an accumulation of lesser number or letter grades?
    Jerry Heverly, San Leandro, California

    and thanks for the link to the video


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