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What to Look for in a Classroom: ...and Other Essays

What to Look for in a Classroom: ...and Other Essays

Alfie Kohn

ISBN: 978-0-787-95283-9 February 2000 Jossey-Bass 304 Pages


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"Alfie Kohn has a knack for bursting the bubbles that surround just about every school topic imaginable, from putting kids into uniforms to make them behave better to raising kids' self-esteem by rewarding them with stickers and pizza for reading books and doing homework. This collection of previously published essays reminds us that many schools have veered off course in their day-to-day business. And it's a primer that, if taken seriously, can put schools back on the right track."

--Educational LeadershipThrough his writings and speeches, Alfie Kohn has been stirring up controversy for years, demonstrating how the conventional wisdom about education often isn't supported by the available research, and illuminating gaps between our long-term goals for students and what actually goes on in schools. Now What to Look for in a Classroom brings together his most popular articles from Educational Leadership, Phi Delta Kappan, and Education Week--and also from The Atlantic Monthly, the Boston Globe, and other publications.

From self-esteem to school uniforms, from grade inflation to character education, Kohn raises a series of provocative questions about the status quo in this collection of incisive essays. He challenges us to reconsider some of our most basic assumptions about children and education. Can good values really be instilled
in students? What, if anything, lies behind the label of attention deficit disorder? Are there solid data to support our skepticism about watching TV? Might such allegedly enlightened practices as authentic assessment,
logical consequences,
and Total Quality education
turn out to be detrimental? Whether he is explaining why cooperative learning can be so threatening or why detracking is so fiercely opposed, Kohn offers a fresh, informed, and frequently disconcerting perspective on the major issues in education.

In the And, his critical examination of current practice is complemented by a vision of what schooling ought to be. Kohn argues for giving children more opportunity to participate in their own schooling, for transforming classrooms into caring communities, and for providing the kind of education that taps and nourishes children's curiosity. Through all these essays, Kohn calls us back to our own ideals, showing us how we can be more effective at helping students to become good learners and good people.

Introduction ix

Part One: Classroom Mismanagement 1

1 The Limits of Teaching Skills 3

2 The Trouble with School Uniforms 8

3 Beyond Discipline 11

4 How Not to Teach Values: A Critical Look at Character Education 16

Part Two: American Ideology Goes to School 45

5 Resistance to Cooperative Learning: Making Sense of its Deletion and Dilution 47

6 “A Lot of Fat Kids Who Don’t Like to Read: The Effects of Pizza Hut’s Book It! Program and Other Reading Incentives 69

7 Grading: The Issue Is not How But Why 73

8 Grade Inflation and Other Red Herrings 82

9 Only for my Kid: How Privileged Parents Undermine School Reform 85

Part Three: Unquestioned Assumptions About Children 109

10 Suffer the Restless Children: Unsettling Questions About the ADHD Label 111

11 The Truth About Self-Esteem 135

12 Television and Children: ReViewing the Evidence 166

Part Four: Business as Usual 187

13 The Five-Hundred-Pound Gorilla 189

14 The False Premises of School Choice Plans 207

15 Students Don’t “Work” – They Learn 210

16 The Littlest Customers: TQM Goes to School 215

Part Five: Lessons Learned 225

17 Caring Kids: The Role of the Schools 227

18 Choices for Children: Why and How to Let Students Decide 249

19 What to Look for in a Classroom 277

Index 281

The Author 289

"Of the dozens of 'experts' on what's wrong (and right) in U.S. schools, only a handful are truly worth reading; Kohn has long been one of the soundest." --Booklist

"Kohn's message, if heeded, could inspire a productive revolution in America's fatigued regime of public education." --Publisher's Weekly

"This collection...reminds us that many schools have veered off course in their day-to-day business. And it's a primer that, if taken seriously, can put schools back on the right track." --Educational Leadership

"Informative, inspiring, and thought-provoking." --Library Journal