Alfie Kohn's New Salvo in the Progressive Education War
Alfie Kohn, renowned author, speaker, and progressive education advocate, continues his fight against traditional classroom teaching in Feel-Bad Education. Kohn's 12th book is a collection of essays detailing—as its title suggests—how conventional teaching, testing, praise and punishment methods create an environment unsuitable for learning.
"This book contains articles about everything from why self-discipline is an overrated concept, to the disturbing policies now referred to as 'school reform,' to a tongue-and-cheek essay about 21st-century schooling," says Kohn, describing the book's major themes.
One message Kohn addresses is the topic of unconditional teaching, which stems from a previous book, Unconditional Parenting. Unconditional teaching, according to Kohn, involves showing students that even when they make mistakes or fall short, we still care for them. As a result of pressures to raise test scores, "one Florida superintendent observed that 'when a low-performing child walks into a classroom, instead of being seen as a challenge, or an opportunity for improvement, for the first time since I've been in education, teachers are seeing him or her as a liability,'" Kohn writes in Feel-Bad Education. This, believes Kohn, "is the epitome of conditional acceptance."
Kohn hopes this book and others will resonate on a larger scale with educators around the country and funnel into the classroom. "The best administrators are creating a democratic environment of professional development—not dictating to teachers," says Kohn. "Likewise, the best teachers are creating democratic classrooms. This is where the best learning takes place—in the process of making decisions together."
Feel-Bad Education will be available in April 2011. For more information, visit www.alfiekohn.org.