Thursday, January 24, 2013

Here's why #kohnandsahlberg matter

This post is a part of the #kohnandsahlberg blogathon and their public education event in Red Deer, Alberta, Canada, on February 20, 2013.

Merely extending the length of the school day is an example of a clear, simple and wrong solution to the complex problem of creating a great school for all children.

Too many children dislike school, so why would we subject them to more of the same?

Alfie Kohn and Pasi Sahlberg are important because they challenge us to question the preconceived notions we have about what school should look like. As progressive educators, their role is to engage and challenge us all to reconsider our assumptions about education.

Too many of us are reassured by signs of formal-traditional school and are disturbed by their absence. Too many children experience school as something done to them rather than with them. Kohn and Sahlberg challenge us to move beyond our primitive forms of achievement such as testsandgrades and to make school about what matters most -- our children's desire to go on learning.


  1. Having read books by Kohn, a very sharply penetrating analyst, and Salhberg, ambassador for the best education system in the world, my net conclusion is one that entirely mirrors the very same conclusion I drew after years of studying books on psychology :

    Humans are largely irrational, and yet are convinced that they are otherwise.

    One of (many) traps they fall into is characterised by a combination of intuition and a failure to look more deeply. It is intuitive, for example, to believe that someone will work better if we reward them. Not only does that invariably not achieve that goal, it actually damages the achievement towards the goal.

    This problem manifests in the example you gave where parents like to see a formal-traditional environment. It feels like learning should be facilitated, not damaged. But learning flourishes when the learners are relaxed. And the parents could realise this if they recalled their own school life - the times when they prevailed and the times when they were oppressed.

    But this shallow thinking is omni-present, and itself an extremely hard nut to crack.

    Research has shown that pushing school start time back an hour can have an astounding effect on results because sleep is vital for children. Yet shallow thinking cannot feel that this is important, so it gets glossed over.

    And so on.

    The need, it seems, is to keep repeating the value of deeper thinking. Again, and again.

  2. We need more than just moving beyond our forms of achievement. We need a real conversation that looks at the way we organize education generally. We have systems that are a mile wide (or a kilometre) and an inch deep (a centimetre). There is no traction and sustainability in this thinking.

    I watch as people who cast themselves as leaders are doing the same old-same old and the only real change is whatever the fad du jour is. Much of it looks remarkably like when I went to school with more digital technology involved. We need real change.

  3. Howdy neighbour!
    I'm just in Calgary. Joe, I love the debate you have brought forward. I teach high school here, and I completely agree with your need to question our system.
    Interestingly, I have been to Argentina with my husband and the schooling there is very different - and valued to the point that even university is publicly funded. However, kids there go to school from 7:30 to noon. Then home for lunch and siesta. This is all that is mandated for high school graduation - with the core subjects! Then, depending on options that students choose to take - they have school any time from 3 until 9 pm - depending what they choose to take.
    With our etmooc - I often wonder how effective this model could be for the future of schooling. All I know is 4 periods of 90 minutes in a hard desk is archaic in today's world.
    May the debate continue.


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