Out this week, Feel-Bad Education: And Other Contrarian Essays on Children and Schooling, a new book from one of the most outspoken and incisive thinkers in education, Alfie Kohn.
In essays dealing with the purpose and promise of Progressive Education, how students learn best, making schools better places for students, educational policy, and parenting, Kohn calls on parents and educators to rethink our priorities and reconsider our practices.
Kohn repeatedly invites us to think more deeply about the conventional wisdom. Is self-discipline always desirable? he asks, citing surprising evidence to the contrary. Does academic cheating necessarily indicate a moral failing? Might inspirational posters commonly found on school walls ("Reach for the stars!") reflect disturbing assumptions about children? Could the use of rubrics for evaluating student learning prove counterproductive?
Subjecting young children to homework, grades, or standardized tests-merely because these things will be required of them later-reminds Kohn of Monty Python's "getting hit on the head lessons." And, with tongue firmly in cheek, he declares that we should immediately begin teaching twenty-second-century skills.