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Posted On 04-25-2009 12:12 PM
Your Name: Jenni Davis
Email Address:
Organization: Davis Designs
Location: Ohio
How did you find our site?: Web browsing for alternative education
Comment: Thought you and your readers might enjoy a poem I recently wrote: (With sincere apologies to E.A. Poe…..) The Standards by Jenni Davis Once upon an inservice dreary While I pondered, weak and weary Over some ominous data charts of unpredicted scores; While I nodded, nearly napping Suddenly there came a tapping As if someone gently rapping Rapping on my brain’s front door… Telling me, “This stuff is nonsense— All it does is make me snore!” Only this, and nothing more. Ah, distinctly I remember it was in a new September And all the children came to school expecting to explore; When suddenly there came a zapping As The Standards came a-flapping Flapping into every classroom Plastered to the walls and doors. “Me you’ll teach,” The Standards muttered As the teachers stood and stuttered, “Only Me, and nothing more!” Gone forever were recesses games and fun because the test is now the only thing that matters… even tho it really shatters hopes and dreams that creative, meaningful lessons are in store. Hopes and dreams that school can be a place that kids adore… “Hopes and dreams are nonsense,” Quoth The Standards, “Nothing more.” Presently my soul grew stronger Hesitating then no longer “ODE,” I pled, “or Congress, truly your forgiveness I implore; But the fact is, I was teaching, And so quickly you came screeching and so harshly you came shrieking Shrieking at my classroom door, That I scarce was sure I heard you…” Here I opened my room’s door; Data there, and nothing more. Deep into the Data peering, Long I stood there, wondering, fearing, Doubting, dreaming dreams no teacher ever dared to dream before. But the silence was unbroken And the stillness gave no token and the only words there spoken were the hateful words “More Scores!” This was shouted, and an echo bounced back the words “More Scores…” Only this and nothing more. Back into my classroom turning All my soul within me burning Soon again I felt a zapping Somewhat stronger than before… “Surely,” I said, “you don’t mean it that test scores are all that’s seen with which our schools are judged as keen with… only scores, and nothing more? Surely tell me I’m mistaken and that kids can still explore…” Quoth The Standards— “Only Scores!” Much I marveled this ungainly mandate to hear declared so plainly Though its answer little meaning— little relevancy bore… For we cannot help agreeing That no living teaching being Ever yet was cursed with seeing Standards plastered on her door. Standards, benchmarks, tests and data Plastered on the classroom door. Only these, and nothing more. “Be those words our sign of parting Standards, or Nonsense,” I shrieked, upstarting— “Get thee back into a shredder and off my classroom’s walls and door. Leave no benchmark as a token of the students’ spirits broken Leave my classroom’s pain unspoken Quit the files and books and more. Take thy words from out my brain and take thy data to the shore— to be dumped—forevermore!” And The Standards, never flitting Still are sitting, still are sitting Gathering dust in classrooms Along with old tests we abhor… And the children all are singing As their voices now are ringing “School’s again somewhere worth being and a place we all adore.” Gone forever are The Standards And the way they made schools flounder— To return here—Nevermore!

Posted On 04-22-2009 10:13 PM
Your Name: Ruth Gill
Location: Hancock, MI
Comment: I have a two-year-old son and have always assumed that I would not send him to school but rather follow an "unschooling" approach, like many other people I know (after having a child I became connected with the large unschooling communities online). However, I recently read "Unconditional Parenting" (which I enjoyed very much) and decided to read a couple of your other books, including "The Schools Our Children Deserve". So far I have only read one book by John Holt - "Teach Your Own" - but in the introduction to that book he talks about how he and many other like-minded people in, I believe, the 1960s, saw how damaging the schools were and endeavored to introduce reforms not unlike those proposed by you in your book. However, he goes on to relate how, after the initial enthusiasm with which the ideas were met had worn off, little progress was made, and discouraged parents tried instead to set up alternative schools, a process which ultimately proved so time-consuming and financially stressful that Holt finally concluded that the only really workable alternative was for parents to educate their children outside of schools altogether. So, my question to you is: Are you truly confident that genuine public school reform along the (inspiring) lines laid out in your book is ever likely to occur, given the dismal experience that Holt encountered when trying to provoke the same kind of change a few decades ago? If so, what do you think has changed since then? I am personally skeptical, and have not changed my commitment to unschooling my own child. I also wanted to comment that there seems to be a noticeable lack of any reference in your books to the growing homeschooling movement. Are you ideologically opposed to it? I am curious to know...

Posted On 04-20-2009 9:59 AM
Your Name: James Wesenberg
Email Address:
Organization: Drake University
Location: Des Moines, IA
How did you find our site?: study on Empathy, Morality & Ethics

I enjoyed reading THE BRIGHTER SIDE OF HUMAN NATURE even though I still argue the psychological egoist point of view with a few exceptions (aren't there always exceptions!). I very much enjoyed your conclusions and appreciate how they have added to the body of knowledge.    ...jim W.



Posted On 04-16-2009 12:13 AM
Your Name: Mary
Email Address:
Location: Ohio
How did you find our site?: co worker
Comment: I'll admit up fron that I haven't read your books but I'm hoping to find what I need to help my daughter with school.  I have two daughters one who needs to be lead around by the nose.  Who does well in school but who never showed any natural desire to learn.  And a second daughter who has always been curious and would explore and learn regardless of schooling.  Unfortunately, this is the child who has problems in school.  I'm looking for ways of making what she sees as pettiness in the class room, something she can deal with better.  She doesn't have a behavior problem but she is highly aware of the gold star kids.  The whole thing seems to be an annoyance to her.

Posted On 04-14-2009 3:45 PM
Your Name: Sandy Walker
Email Address:
Organization: Credential student at CCOE, CSULA
Location: Los Angeles, California
How did you find our site?: Google
Comment: My mother always used to say that 'where there's life, there's hope!'  As a 50+ late-return to further education graduate university student doing a teaching credential program, being assigned Alfie's "Beyond Discipline" in my Classroom Management class brought me some of that hope.  I have not yet read it because my copy has not yet arrived in the mail, but I certainly got some encouragement from reading other parts of this website and comments by readers of his work.  I continue to be puzzled why in an allegedly-advanced country (I'm from England, and I do not believe that they are doing any better than the U.S. at this time) would-be teachers are still be following such a test and homework-obsessed education program and yet teachers are assigning such forward-thinking theorists as Mr. Kohn (Frank Smith's "Learning and Forgetting", another assigned text, also greatly impressed me) as part of our course work.  As noted on this site, unfortunately our new president appears to be too preoccupied to address this appalling situation too!


Sandy Walker

Posted On 04-13-2009 7:51 PM
Your Name: David Newman
Email Address:
Organization: Teachers for Justice
Location: Midwest
How did you find our site?: Google
Comment: I am a high school English teacher, and next week we are scheduled to give the PSAE test. Not only are we losing a full day of teaching to the PSAE, we (the teachers) were also informed that we should film a segment with the AV teacher in which we cheer the students before they take the exam, and the compilation video would be show as encouragement the day of the test. Since I was so appalled, I wrote out what I WOULD tell the students if given the chance: "Students, you are about to take part in the death of education. Any life you may have left in you, any curiosity or joy or passion or fire you may have is now going to be traded in for a standardized exam written by a corporation that will require you to bubble in answers from preset options. Your creativity, your individual development, your humanness will now be ignored. The teachers have been enlisted to give you encouragement about this standardized exam, which tacitly says that this test the MOST important thing you've done this year, that your score on THIS exam is what we value more than anything else. Which is another way of saying we value FAR LESS that great discussion you had in class a week ago, we value FAR LESS the time you helped a friend who was depressed, or the moment you were proud of the poem you wrote, or the experience of being in a class that acts like a surrogate family, or that inexplicable (and impossible articulate) rush you got when a work of art struck you just so. You see, centuries ago, in ancient Greece, there were the Sophists and there was Socrates. The Sophists claimed they had a monopoly on 'wisdom' and 'knowledge,' and if you paid them, they would tell you. Socrates on the other hand, would just ask you questions. And more questions. And more questions. And you'd get into a long discussion with him which would ideally lead to the formulation of your own questions, which would then lead to your own self-discovery. As you can see, these days, the Sophists are in charge. They 'know' what you should be thinking, they've written an exam about it, they've formulated their own questions, they will tell you the right or wrong answers, and they are getting paid to administer it all. So here is the exam. Sorry about what it does to you. Sorry that this is the state American education. And sorry about the future America it is helping to build."

Posted On 04-08-2009 1:25 AM
Your Name: Scott Ginoza
Email Address:
Organization: Self
Location: Honolulu
How did you find our site?: Read Books
Comment: I enjoy and can relate to the wonderful insight that these books have provided.  As a parent of four children and working towards marriage and family therapy licensure, "Uconditional Parenting" resonates with my theoretical orientation, Adlerian.  I reccomend your books to all who are willing.



Posted On 04-04-2009 12:44 PM
Your Name: Heather

I am a senior in high school, and was recently assigned a research paper for my honor's English class; for its topic I chose to discuss the negative impact of standardized testing. I just wanted to thank you for the passion that you bring to the subject that so closely parallels my own. Your devotion encourages hope for change. Thank You!


Posted On 04-01-2009 8:32 AM
Your Name: Darcy Ogle
Email Address:
Organization: Parent, kid in progressive school
Location: California
How did you find our site?: Read Alfie's book
Comment: As a parent of a child with a chronic illness (Cystic Fibrosis), I often run into a "doing to" approach in the medical community. Sadly, many health professionals don't see the value in "working with" patients or their parents.

When I confronted one doctor, his excuse was that he simply didn't have the time. Not have the time to consult or problem solve? This doctor also used fear to manipulate me ("as long as you do what I say, your kid will be healthy"). I continually have to educate myself on my own time. Most doctors simply won't take the time for in depth explanations or questions.

It seems to me that the medical community needs a "whole patient" approach, especially for kids with chronic illness. In these medical circles they talk about medical "compliance" -- getting the kid to comply with the medical routine. Their vision is so limited. I want to empower my kid to think for herself and make her own decisions, to educate herself and advocate for herself , and most importantly to be happy and feel in control of her life. 

Apparently,  "compliance" issues are really a problem in teens. It's not surprising. Doctors and parents haven't laid the ground work for a kid who feels in control of her life. The best suggestions the medical professionals can come up with are rewards (like sticker charts).  I wish that Alfie would get his research into the hands of medical professionals. I wish he would write a book or an article (hint, hint!). Sometimes, I feel like I'm going it alone out here.

Posted On 03-31-2009 8:05 PM
Your Name: John Berger
Email Address:
Organization: musicians institute australia
Location: Australia
How did you find our site?: Read Alfie Kohn's "Punished by Rewards"
Comment: I've taught violin for over 25 years. I studied with Shinichi Suzuki in Japan for several years back in the 80's and was delighted to find a collaborative way of education that was not based on competition, testing, grading or rewards. Children enjoyed learning and made great progress, working cooperatively with parents and teachers. Contrary to myth, this general approach underpinned much of Japanese child rearing. Back in the west, teaching violin was surprisingly easier than before. We didn't focus on discipline (what I refer to as the sheepdog method) - and had no discipline problems. We just got on with the music! I saw immediately that we lived in a behaviourist world. I'd always disliked that approach and felt doomed to follow it. Other teachers used it with great conviction, but were forever barking at the heels of students or using elaborate merit/grading/competition systems. Now I have something which I believe is much better. The students are happier and work well together. I'm happy and love my "work". The hardest thing is educating the parents.

Posted On 03-31-2009 6:35 PM
Your Name: Tera
Email Address:
Organization: Lakeland Area Bus
Location: Minocqua,WI
How did you find our site?: Public Radio
Comment: Listened to NPR during my bus route this evening.
As a mother of 3 and a school bus driver, I totally agree with you on the homework issue.
At my children's school it seems teachers are always emphasizing how important homework is to the children's grades. And they actually tell us that they assign homework to get the parents involved in the student's education and to force parents to spend time with their children. As parents who spend very much time doing family projects or having family game nights, I am very offended that the believe it is their business to tell us how to spend our time together.
This is the first time I have been on your sight and I can't wait to read on more topics you have written about.
Thank You!

Posted On 03-29-2009 9:02 AM
Your Name: Fiddle McBinnigan
Comment: Schools have nothing do to with education.  The premise is wrong to begin with.  Walk out the front door of your home.  That's where education starts.  Not on TV.  Not in a text book.  Not on a computer.  Not in the library.  All those things are pretty much a waste of time.  Hook a child up with an adult.  Walk around the street, the city, a building, a field, a stream.  Everthing you need to learn is right there. Not on a chalkboard with some union teacher. When you are actually learning on your feet (not sitting in some dopey classroom) you should bring a good reference book with you.  After that, all you the rest you need to do is study and write in your own quiet room.

Posted On 03-24-2009 2:31 PM
Your Name: Monica
Email Address:
Location: Seattle
How did you find our site?: Read Alfie's books
Comment: This is a great video by Tom Chapin, a great children's singer.  Its called "Not on the Test"

Posted On 03-23-2009 4:21 AM
Your Name: Matt Rundle
Email Address:
Location: London, UK
How did you find our site?: Random googling
Comment: Alfie's article on self-discipline is very interesting and tackles some paradoxical points. However, I think it misses one vital thing; humans are adaptive creatures and the point isn't really to have a good time, but to survive. To digress briefly; ironically, pleasure-seeking behaviours are all part of this - no such thing as happiness for its own sake and those who pursue that never feel satisfied because that's not what it's for - i.e., a state of permanent euphoria isn't achievable as it doesn't suit our natures as survivors and could even be unhelpful - hence why we need ever more increasing 'happiness' to stay happy, rather like a drug-user needing more of a fix each time.


Digression over. Self-discipline or lack of it are simply attributes along the short-term v. reward / gain continuum. It's all just a bit of a bet; what are the chances of this gratifying behaviour paying off now or will I have to put extra effort in in future to get a bigger payoff. It has little to do with happiness - so what if you're unhappy? Nature doesn't care; it's results that matter. As such, we have both attributes - short-termism (gratification, loose morals, sensual pleasures, etc etc) and long-termism (self-discipline, frustration, pain and so on) because both of these are beneficial to survival in their own ways, at certain times. Neither's right nor wrong; it's simply a question of the payoffs for evolution and survival. After all, hasn't anyone ever wondered WHY we have emotions and concepts like happiness to start with?!

Posted On 03-22-2009 2:04 PM
Your Name: Annie Page
Location: Suffolk, UK
How did you find our site?: Recommended to read Unconditional Parenting by friend
Comment: Unconditional Parenting is an inspirational book - thank you!  I feel really confident in my style of parenting, which wasn't that far from what you suggest anyway, but feels a million miles away from what is "expected" of me.

Posted On 03-19-2009 9:02 AM
Your Name: April Maria
Email Address:
How did you find our site?: Google search
Comment: As a parent I am happy to see the pragmatic way you advise us to deal with the problem of testing. I am working on a global education reform project at We would love anyone who thinks we need to better prepare our children for the world they will inherit to join in our discussions.


Posted On 03-16-2009 2:56 PM
Your Name: Manal
Email Address:
Organization: Dar-Alhekmah College
Location: Jeddah- Saudi Arabia
How did you find our site?: From a trainer ( Khalid Ashour )
Comment: I want to tell you how much I enjoyed your articles,books.I have already benefitted from them. You pointed out several things that I will remember for years to come. I look forward to reading more and more.


 Thank you for a very valuable experience.

Posted On 03-10-2009 1:37 PM
Your Name: Marcia Daszko
Email Address:
Organization: Marcia Daszko & Associates
Location: Silicon Valley
How did you find our site?: familiar with Kohn's books for 10+ yrs and his connection with Dr. Deming
Comment: Ten-plus years ago I was introduced to Alfie Kohn at conferences where he and Dr. W. Edwards Deming spoke about transformation -- of American leadership thinking, thinking about education and how it must change, intrinsic motivation and harmful extrinsic motivators like grades, incentives, merit pay, and motivating people and children.


President Obama seems to be well focused on getting this country to work together for transformative change.  But on the topic of merit pay and rewarding good teachers, he is incorrect in his plan--these practices will break down the already broken education system.  Can we all please write/communicate with the President and our legislators and Sec. of Education, etc. about the harm of merit pay, etc.  It builds Internal Competition and we need to create a nation where children and all people love continual learning and helping each other--not testing, not grading. 

Posted On 03-10-2009 6:20 AM
Your Name: Chad Dull
Email Address:
Organization: Western Technical College
Location: La Crosse, WI
How did you find our site?: Been here before
Comment: I am so disappointed today. I see our new president is going to unveil an "education" plan and all the articles are "standards this and standards that." Somedays Alfie must feel like Sisyphus, i know I do

Posted On 03-08-2009 5:25 PM
Your Name: Nicole Hansen
Email Address:
Organization: Adelphi University
How did you find our site?: Referred by a Graduate Professor of Multicultural Education
Comment: I was absolutely impressed with Alfie Kohn's article on the overuse of praise. I think both parents and teachers could learn from this valuable argument. Students and children need to be taught the intrinsic value of motivation without being bombarded by disingenuous praise by their parents or teachers. I believe that praise should come from a place of pure intention whereby an individual is giving constructive feedback to another and I also think it should be given in small doses. Kohn touched on a very important point that often parents use praise as a manipulative way to continue to get their children to behave well; even if they do not realize they are doing so. I applaud Kohn for bringing this topic into the open.

Posted On 03-06-2009 12:55 PM
Your Name: Nancy Baron
Email Address:
Organization: St. Monica School
Location: Mercer Island, WA
How did you find our site?: Alfie mentioned it

Alfie Kohn gave a spirited talk on “ the myth of homework” at Mercer Island High School last Tuesday. He cites research that shows there is no academic benefit to homework before high school, and that even at the high school level, the correlation between high test scores and homework is very weak.  “Homework is all pain, no gain,” is his thesis, and he claims that “homework may be the greatest extinguisher of curiosity ever invented.”  When I add the term “sometimes…” to the beginning of most of Mr. Kohn’s statements, I can agree with him.  Sometimes homework puts a burden on parents.  Sometimes homework creates stress for students.  Sometimes homework fosters family conflict, takes time away from other good things, and can even dampen enthusiasm for learning. Sometimes.

I also maintain that every aspect of student learning and excitement about learning has not, and possibly cannot, be studied scientifically. Since every child is inherently unique, controlled environments and critical factors (I.Q., emotional well-being, physical health, personal interest, free will, etc.) are too varied to lend themselves to strict scientific procedures. Therefore, the studies that exist may tell us part of a story, but certainly not the holy truth for the best way to educate children. [...]

As the Reading Specialist at St. Monica School , I work every day with students from Kindergarten through Fifth Grade. While in each classroom, I get a special view of the homework students complete.  This past week I saw First Graders bringing in their homework, the personal responses they have received  after sending out their “Flat Stanley” letters.  Each child will have a letter written especially to him or her, detailing what that person did while Flat Stanley visited, often with pictures and maps included.  They are so proud to read what Grandma and Grandpa, or Auntie, or Dad on a business trip, wrote to them!  [...]

As a former middle school teacher, I feel a need to defend well-planned homework on another level.  I taught in a public school where my students came from a wide variety of socio-economic and ethnic backgrounds.  I gave points for homework completed, and points for quality of work.  I feel strongly that the regular completion of homework gave certain students a measure of control over their overall grades…spreading out points over time so that everything did not depend on one test day, when a student may be hungry, tired, late, home with a troubled parent, etc. Let’s face it, everyone does not have equal “intelligence” or “advantages”, but effort and perseverance can do a lot to level a playing field.  Do you want  only the “smartest” employee or the one who studies the manual, completes the paperwork, and comes to work everyday? [...]

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Posted On 03-02-2009 6:12 PM
Your Name: Mary E. LaLuna
Email Address:
Organization: MCAS
Location: Michigan City Indiana
How did you find our site?: by way of an article posted by my professor
Comment: Thank you!  I absolutely agree with you 100%  I am Miss Dooferday!  Seriously, if I could establish my own school, it would be as I see it should.  And WOW!  I am so thrilled that all along I thought I was the odd woman out, I am not alone in my thinking!

Posted On 02-26-2009 11:34 AM
Your Name: Marc
More support for the "The Brighter Side Of Human Nature".

Posted On 02-26-2009 10:12 AM
Your Name: Suzan Gridley
Email Address:
Organization: CSULB (Graduate Student)
Location: Long Beach, CA
How did you find our site?: just surfing
Comment: While researching my old elementary school, I stumbled across the 2004 Washington Post article about Bailey's Elementary School, whose principal had decided to NOT teach to the test.  Does anyone know what happened in response?  I notice that the current principal is not the same one as quoted in the article.  Was she silenced?

Posted On 02-23-2009 12:39 PM
Your Name: Lori Nielson
Email Address:
Organization: Fremont County School District 25
Location: Riverton, WY
How did you find our site?: Title I Conference
Comment: It was my pleasure to hear Dr. Kohn speak at the annual Title I Conference in San Antonio, TX last week.  His presentation was powerful, thought provoking, and a call to reexamine where we've allowed ourselves to be led as a profession.  Thank you, Dr. Kohn.


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