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Posted On 08-18-2011 4:41 AM
Your Name: Benedict Moudry
Email Address:
Organization: Great River School
Location: St. Paul, MN
How did you find our site?: sent an email of article with link
Comment: Mr. Kohn, I deeply appreciate the article you wrote for Education Weekly (April 27, 2011) concerning the far too recognized and promoted educational styles of direct instruction, strict and punitive discipline, and rote memorization and recall (known by Haberman as "pedagogy of poverty"). However, I was bothered by one generalization and one omission you made. The generalization is concerning charter schools. In my experience there are a small, but significant percentage of charter schools that are actually attempting to implement innovative teaching and learning models. I agree though that they are few and far between, but to make it seem that charter schools are only using the "pedagogy of poverty" is unfortunate. The omission is not mentioning Montessori schools and/or other educational philosophies that are student centered, humanistic and have well defined methods of teaching/education. Reggio Emilia is a wonderful educational philosophy and method and I appreciate and value it. Montessori education is over 100 years old and has thousands of schools throughout the US as well as over 8000 world wide on six different continents. It also has the most clearly established materials and method of teaching in the world and in the last 20 years has clearly established itself as a 0-18 year old method with now nearly 10 Montessori high schools throughout the country. Yes, the vast majority of the Montessori schools are private and geared towards the middle and upper class. Although there is an interesting phenomenon with the Montessori high schools created over the past 15 years, most of them are charter schools....

Posted On 08-11-2011 1:04 PM
Your Name: Niki
Email Address:
Organization: Educator
Location: NY
How did you find our site?: By going to my Favorites Tab
Comment: I definitely just talked my husband into arranging our anniversary celebration trip around your lecture in Massachusetts. It will be so romantic.  Haha...
Can't wait to hear you speak again!

Posted On 08-09-2011 2:28 PM
Your Name: Natalie Gologorsky
Email Address:
Comment: I was just thinking that, because you are so liberal on most topics, what you think about the future of capitalism? I would actually hope for a society without extrinsic rewards or punishments, and so capitalism would most certainly conflict with that ideal. What would you think of a gift economy? Gift economies are the epitome of unconditional love, because there is no formal quid-pro-quo system and everyone works because they enjoy working and not because they are paid to do it....

Posted On 08-07-2011 8:05 AM
Your Name: Gilah Langner
Email Address:
Comment: Just read Mr. Kohn's "Feel-Bad Education" and other articles on this website, and I'm totally on board!  But as an adjunct professor, I'm baffled how to implement some of his ideas in a college setting.  Can you have 45 students arrive at a consensus curriculum, and how long does that take?   How do you equalize decision-making if some of the students already have familiarity with the subject matter and some don't?   Does anyone have experience with this at the college level?   It isn't feasible for me to do most of my interaction in office hours outside the classroom -- they don't even give me an office!   I'd be interested in personal experiences, or in links to listservs or articles where these kinds of issues are discussed.

Posted On 08-05-2011 10:42 PM
Your Name: Valerie Arbizu
Email Address:
Organization: Los Gatos High School
Location: Los Gatos, CA
How did you find our site?: Mr. Kohn spoke at New Tech Network conference in July 2011
Comment: Thank you so much for articulating what so many educators feel about their schools and professions - and in such an entertaining, thought-provoking, and succinct manner! I wanted to become a teacher in order to change the world for the positive - to undo the wrongs I saw and experienced as I matriculated through the California Public Schools of my childhood. Then I stepped into my teaching credential courses and discovered the world of standards and prescriptive education... and have now recently stepped into the world of administration. The quandary for many - myself included - is how we can play by the rules of standardized assessment (it doesn't appear to be going anywhere any time soon) AND make room for students to have a solid democratic 'say' in what and how they learn; and, furthermore, to support those teachers who truly want to push the envelope on what it means to be an educator today. It's a walk on a truly public tightrope, and it helps to be reminded often of why we're in the 'business' of education in the first place: to help students find their own personal success - and a love for learning simply because it's fun and feels good. Thank you for continuing to challenge the status quo and for reminding us that it's what our children learn that is most important.

Posted On 08-05-2011 3:00 PM
Your Name: John Grund
Email Address:
Location: Portland OR
How did you find our site?: I've read Alfie's books
Comment: The reaction to Matt Damon's recent comments about teachers brought you to mind, and I saw Michael Graham's column in the Boston Herald. I wrote a letter to the editor:


Beware of statements that begin, “Of course….” What follows is often not supported by the facts.

Michael Graham (Aug. 4) writes, “Of course people work harder if they believe it will pay off. Naturally people slack off otherwise,” as he scoffs at the idea that teachers are motivated by love of teaching.

The truth is, people are motivated at their jobs by monetary rewards and by “softer” reasons such as the desire to do a good job and to help others. And by something like love. Yes, incentives work, for a while. But they also seem to fail before long. Every company I’ve worked for has redesigned its incentive plan about once a year. Why is that?


When they do work to boost production, incentives also get people to focus on the money instead of their other reasons for working. One of the paradoxes of modern HR management is that incentives are proving to be much less durable helps than a simple policy of setting fair wages, putting aside the topic and letting people focus on their jobs. Check out writer Alfie Kohn for more.

So on the topic of teachers and their motivations, Matt Damon gets an “A” and Graham gets an “F.” Maybe he was getting paid by the word.

Posted On 08-04-2011 10:02 AM
Your Name: Belinda
Email Address:
Organization: EHB, LLC
Location: Sedalia, Mo
How did you find our site?: Google search on SuperNanny show

I just found your site looking for supporting evidence of the 'supernanny' show host's approach to child discipline and am intrigued.  I have other comments on this point (am an attachment parenting sort of parent) and I have some feedback for you regarding your query on the consistent tardiness of folks.  I'm one of those folks...and it's no fun.  Your article is correct. I know these things but don't execute or use the tools at hand to be on time.  I would hazard to say it's laziness of the mind. I am proactive in every other way, but being late is my target rich issue.

Posted On 08-03-2011 4:45 AM
Your Name: Jason Kortis
Location: Northeast Ohio, USA
How did you find our site?: google
Comment: I want to thank you for your eye-opening and behavior changing (mine, not my children's) comments regarding rewards and punishments. The funny thing is, I intuitively knew that rewards and punishments were ineffective, but really was at a loss as to what else to do. Keep up the good work!

Posted On 08-02-2011 5:16 PM
Your Name: dee harris
Email Address:
Organization: real learning
Location: phila., pa
How did you find our site?: researching test taking strategies
Comment: ed week 2000...standardized testing and its victims...i'm astounded that all of the arguments that show the negative effects of standardized tests on less privileged kids and the teachers who teach them are clearly presented in this one article.  we all read it, argued its importance, buried our heads in the sand, and retired.   eleven years later, younger teachers are being laid off or let go...  administrators stoop to bullying staff into cheating on the tests, among other things....we've gone from bad to with the greatest need, receive the least do we get the folks in power to listen to the folks who teach?  

Posted On 07-30-2011 9:22 AM
Your Name: Jan Roberts
Email Address:
Organization: Retired Educational Administrator
Location: Charleston, SC
How did you find our site?: Read Article by Valerie Strauss
Just read the article  Posted at 02:00 PM ET, 07/29/2011  Kohn: Why we have to save our schools  By  and could not agree with you more.  I have been following Diane Ravitch for the last year and this whole idiotic federal reform process and the EOE administration.  My concerns and griveances about the sad state of our public education go along the same line as your thoughts and opinions.  I hope that we will be able to take back public education from those , as you say, "corporate-style school reformers don't have research or logic on their side. All they have is the power to impose their ignorance with the force of law".   Please keep up the great work.

Posted On 07-28-2011 9:15 PM
Your Name: Shane
Email Address:
Organization: Lake Ridge Schools
Location: Gary, IN
How did you find our site?: Saw Alfie Kohn speak
Comment: While I understand Alfie's arguments for getting rid of standardized testing and more "rigorous" standards, I would like to know more about his opinion of where to draw the line. Specifically as a mathematics teacher, I have a hard time with saying just get rid of the standards. Mathematics is cumulative and as such the standards are in place to ensure that the students have the prerequisite skills to move on to the next subject. If schools taught whatever they wanted, yes, the students may have more of a desire to learn but sometimes you must learn things to get where you want to be. For example, during elementary school I hated memorizing basic math facts. Now I love math and teach it, and I do not regret being "forced" to learn the basic facts I needed to know. So where do you draw the line for standards? There needs to be some guidelines. Most standards for Algebra I are necessary for learning Algebra II.

Posted On 07-27-2011 11:08 AM
Your Name: Ariel Jacobs
Email Address:
Organization: UTexas
Location: Austin
How did you find our site?: google search on education articles
Comment: I just read the article 'Bad Signs' and loved it. I had to think back to how many of the bad signs I had in my classroom, mostly left over from previous teachers. I too always felt those posters were corny and superficial. I would love to do a research project on nonverbal communication in school and student behavior. I fear it is the messages we send without words that are more harmful than failing grades. Great stuff, I look forward to reading more.

Posted On 06-23-2011 10:04 AM
Your Name: C Russell
Email Address:
Location: Utah
How did you find our site?: Twitter link
Comment: Just found this site.  It got me laughing remembering a day in an undergraduate education class.  We had a substitute, and a project due on the day the professor was due back. We were also feeling overwelmed with all our studies. So, we got together and wrote an email to our professor. It went something like this:  "In the spirit of Alfie Kohn, we have decided to take back our classroom.  Our assignment will no longer be due on Friday, but on the following Monday." The professor was actually impressed, and we got away with it!

Posted On 06-22-2011 10:49 AM
Your Name: Aimee Turner
Email Address:
Organization: MomsLikeMe - Maine
Location: Maine
How did you find our site?: I saw Alfie speak in Portland ME
Comment: Big conversation going on right now on our public chat board about the Texas mom who is facing legal repercussions for spanking her 2-year-old daughter.  It's so sad to read just how many parents think spanking is not only acceptable but a great parenting "tool."  It's hard for me not to get REALLY angry about what I'm reading.  At least there are a few voices saying "spanking is HITTING"...

Posted On 06-21-2011 11:31 PM
Your Name: Shakhmaty
Email Address:
Organization: None
Location: Illinois
How did you find our site?: Frequent visitor
Comment: I just finished re-reading THE CHILD BUYER, by John Hersey, and am absolutely shocked at how pertinent Alfie Kohn's research is to the situation presented in the book. Please e-mail me if you want to discuss this, because I'm yearning to talk with someone about "what to do for these kids"...and not send them to the "U. Lymphos" of this world.

Posted On 06-20-2011 11:04 AM
Your Name: Jim G
Email Address:
Organization: SUNY College at Oneonta
Location: Oneonta
How did you find our site?: Twitter Link
Comment: A frequent refrain from the teachers around my dinner table for the last 30 years is "no matter what we do in school, it is undone at home".  How much thinking, money, effort is being put into helping the family when the school reformers get together?  How about more help for single parent homes, families in need, organizations that try and help children in at risk situations, etc.  Most schools now have before school, breakfast, and after school programs.  Many children are in school from 7 am to 5 pm!!  No matter what you do in school, it ain't a gonna work for these kids.

Posted On 06-17-2011 1:18 PM
Your Name: Ms. Teacher
Email Address:
Organization: Public School
Location: The South
How did you find our site?: Friend recommended
Comment: I was just reduced to tears by reading the simple chart of what to look for in a good classroom (  I have taught for seven years in public, low-economic-status schools.  I taught first in a school in NY, where they took many of your lessons to heart, and where the administration trusted the teachers to "close our doors" and do what we needed to do when no-one was looking.

Then I moved South.  The process of teaching here has scarred me emotionally, as I was threatened, browbeaten, and reprimanded into teaching in a style perfectly described in the "What You Don't Want To See" column.  My constant resistance to an administration that was dead set on teaching the pedagogy of poverty earned me a one-way ticket out of the school for the next school year, and I can't say I'm sorry to go. 

I am just left with a burning anger that more people can't see that what I endured, and what my students were forced to endure, was soul-crushing and educationally unsound for everyone involved.  I was criticized for letting students sit at tables, for letting them talk and discuss things, for having a library for choice in reading materials, for having the audacity to attempt to interject fun into lessons...I was called into the office for letting my fifth grade students stretch in the middle of a two hour test.  How dare I disrupt their focus that way!  The mantra of the discipline code in the upper grades was, "You Don't Have A Choice."  I can't tell you how many times teachers repeated this ad nauseum to the faces of their reluctant, angry students.

One-fifth of our instructional time was taken up by testing.  Every Friday was test day.  When asked--nay, begged--by the instructional staff for bi-weekly tests instead of weekly tests, the administration's response was, "But then what will we use for data?"

Data.  Grades.  Spreadsheets.  Test Scores.  Graphs.  My life was more full of these things than it was with creative lesson planning.  "Just follow the book," was the advice given to me by fellow teachers.  "'These Kids' can't handle a deeper curriculum.  They can barely read as it is."

What a travesty.  I want so desperately to get this critical information to my former boss, to show her how wrong she is in her priorities.  She wants to help these kids...but she's just drilling them deeper into the ground.

Posted On 06-16-2011 4:55 PM
Your Name: Katherine Sheffer
Email Address:
Organization: Parent
Location: Gurnee, IL
How did you find our site?: google
Comment: I have been reading your research since my daughter started school.  I am appalled at the way the public schools bribe children to learn.  I have tried to tell them that paying a child to read will not get them to like it, but to no avail.  School teachers say candy and cheap toys are easy, cheap and effective.  I don't believe this is true and my own daughter feels degraded and manipulated when her teachers try this.  I wonder if we are teaching them to make good decisions or are we teaching them to do what easy.  I have found that trying to talk to the educators as a parent has been time consuming, and frustrating.   I applaud you, in that you have gotten through to some, and wish there more parents that would speak up and put a stop to bribery in the classroom.

Posted On 06-08-2011 10:35 PM
Your Name: Erin
Email Address:
Location: Australia
How did you find our site?: Love it!
Comment: I have just finished reading Unconditional Parenting. All I can say is Thank-you, and I'm sure that is what my daughter would say also.  

Posted On 06-04-2011 8:40 PM
Your Name: Brett
Email Address:
Organization: Seth Godin's Triiibe, AIAA (aerospace professional society)
Location: Greater Philadelphia, PA
How did you find our site?: referenced in \
Comment: Thanks for all of the dedicated work and amazing collections here!  I'm glad to get plugged in so I can help make a difference.  And I will.

Posted On 05-16-2011 12:56 AM
Your Name: Mari
Location: Canada
How did you find our site?: books
Comment: It was such an eye opener for me when I read the Homework book (and i'm part way through the School our Children Deserve book).  You have described my educational career.  I was an average student who just wasn't interested in anything taught at school. I have rarely been able to 'connect the dots' from lectures to practical application. The building blocks method of teaching made everything "compartmentalize" in my brain with little understanding how to actually combine the information.

As a mature college student in my 30's, your assertation that grades make for poorer learning is absolutely true.  I studied what was to be tested, I did NOT want to learn more or gain deeper understanding, and any projects were absolutely chosen to get me high grades rather than follow my interest. I became an expert in studying/short term memorization to get near perfect exams. I would joke that I would flush the info out before the next module to make room for the new information. Turns out it wasn't a joke after all.

My college gave tutorials on how to ace multiple choice exams. And it has nothing to do with understanding the subject matter. Scary.

Posted On 05-13-2011 3:42 PM
Your Name: Guy T. Craig
Email Address:
Location: Eugene, Oregon
How did you find our site?: Google Search
Comment: It's too bad this paradigm shift to progressive education has moved so slowly.

While we have been employing the "traditional" educational model, what has our society lost by not helping our youth tap in to their unique strengths and interests by their own efforts in a self-directed, constructivist approach to learning? 

Hopefully, the growing sustainability movement will provide some needed support for progressive education and renew public interest in project-based, thematic, place-based education and the many other aspects of this most enriching and natural way to learn. 

Excellent, informative articles...I'm off to share many of these ideas with colleagues!

Posted On 04-28-2011 7:51 PM
Your Name: Carolyn
Email Address:
How did you find our site?: a friend
Comment: Read this and weep.  This is still going on at this school, which, in and of itself, is a huge incentive to teach your children yourself. 

Posted On 04-28-2011 11:28 AM
Your Name: Evan Bachus
Email Address:
How did you find our site?: link on edweek

I was first exposed to your 'approach' while reviewing literature for my M.Ed. I was fairly certain that I'd see your picture in the dictionary if I looked up 'gadfly.' I have not followed your publications, but have occasionally run across an article or reference to one. Your piece in EdWeek today (4/28/11) is proof that you are alive and well.

As is often the case, you have stated in a clear and concise way what I already knew, but didn't quite realize. Sadly, the poor children you discuss are the vast majority of students in my home state of Louisiana. Even our more capable students are being forced into the torture chamber approach to education. It's also too common in the private and parochial schools. Although our state assessments do have constructed response items that require higher order processes, a student can be deemed 'proficient' without earning any points for those items.

I have yet to understand how Obama and Duncan wound up in bed with NCLB and how our republican governor and superintendent of education wound up in bed with with the three. I'm not convinced that the only successful reform models are the 'Race to the Top Quartet.' I guess the remarkable success in New Orleans could be a model. We could call it Thimblerig, but Paul Vallas would need to be invited to the orgy.

Some of us in the field have high hopes for the common standards/assessments coming down the pike, though our experience compels low expectations. The consortia seem to be struggling at present.

Your article points out AGAIN that our model for education is still linked to the training developed to provide the workforce for the industrial revolution, that morphed into the Skinnerian/Behaviorist approach of the 60's, and is based on proficiency and AYP today.

And in Louisiana we add a 99% confidence to AMOs AND Safe Harbor (meaning around last year's performance minus 10% of the non-proficient AND this year's performance, and if the intervals 'touch' the subgroup passes). Hey! A sixth reform model!

Keep pokin' 'em in the eye, Mr. Kohn.

Posted On 04-26-2011 11:12 AM
Your Name: A.W.
Email Address:
Organization: None
Location: Illinois
How did you find our site?: Frequent visitor
Comment: I think there's another, more Orwellian reason why there's so much "Poor Teaching for Poor Children," as Alfie Kohn wisely puts it. It's not just about "school reform," either.

People of color are disproportionately represented in high-wage, high-prestige jobs. These kinds of occupations--e.g. lawyer, banker, doctor--require DEEP critical thinking skills and a HIGH degree of inquiry. I don't think the (disproportionately white and male) cadre that usually holds these positions wants anybody to compete with them. The "work hard, be nice" ethos may SEEM all well and good, but careers such as these require far more from those who pursue them. Thus, poor teaching for poor kids.

If they were ALL taught to be future poets, philosophers and scientists, then they probably wouldn't settle for the disgusting, dangerous, and otherwise demoralizing jobs that the cadre I mentioned earlier wants them to fill. If "work hard and be nice" is all a person knows, then why WOULDN'T he or she be tempted to fall into the trap that this way of thinking represents? I know I would if I sensed that I had no better future.

"Work hard and be nice" crushes the spirit and diminishes the ego. How do I know? That's how I was taught in school, and I wasn't even considered "disadvantaged". Nevertheless, many of my classmates were poor or at least lower-middle-class. It was all our teachers expected of us--that and "do whatever you're told, or you're toast".

That's the excrement that we all get fed daily, in a certain sense. However, some people are being forced to eat far more than their fill, if you get my meaning... 


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