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Feel-Bad Education: And Other Contrarian Essays on Children and Schooling Paperback – April 5, 2011


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 196 pages
  • Publisher: Beacon Press (April 5, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0807001406
  • ISBN-13: 978-0807001400
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.5 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #193,376 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Educator Kohn (Punished by Rewards) presents 19 essays (previously published in such newspapers and journals as the New York Times and Education Week) in this spirited and incisive probe of education today. Though Kohn can be witty and wry, his overarching message is quite sobering: he's convinced that "historians will look back at our era of ever-higher standards and increasingly standardized instruction as a dark period in American education." Kohn regards the one-size-fits-all approach as a serious mistake: instead of educating the "whole child" in an individualized manner that nourishes a love of learning, the trend is to produce students who can memorize facts that are soon forgotten. Along with standardized tests, Kohn debunks homework and grades, and in a piece entitled "How to Create Nonreaders" reveals that a sure way to destroy children's love of reading and writing is to require written reports, offer incentives, quantify assignments or focus on skills—all common practices in our classrooms. True "progressive education" is very hard to find, the author claims, which is one reason it can't be blamed for the failings of our educational system. With plenty of data to back up his contrarian views, Kohn asks readers to take a hard look at where America's classrooms are heading and do whatever is necessary to turn schools from "test prep centers" into joyful environments where kids learn to think for themselves. (Apr.)
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Review

“Kohn cuts against the grain and takes on adversaries without fear, and yet with a mature and rational sophistication.” ―Jonathan Kozol

"[A] spirited and incisive probe of education today." —Publishers Weekly

“A philosophical, well-structured argument for viable progressive education from one of the movement's most prolific and well-regarded authors…A vital wake-up call to educators.”—Kirkus Reviews
 
“The reader will find much to reflect upon in Feel-Bad Education, and will be mindful of controversies that are still unexplored in this short but enjoyable volume.”—The School Administrator
 

More About the Author

Alfie Kohn writes and speaks widely on human behavior, education, and parenting. He is the author of twelve books and hundreds of articles. Kohn has been described by Time Magazine as "perhaps the country's most outspoken critic of education's fixation on grades and test scores." He has appeared twice on "Oprah," as well as on "The Today Show," NPR's "Talk of the Nation," and on many other TV and radio programs. He spends much of his time speaking at education conferences, as well as to parent groups, school faculties, and researchers. Kohn lives (actually) in the Boston area - and (virtually) at www.alfiekohn.org.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

59 of 59 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on April 19, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
While not actually being a researcher himself, Alfie Kohn has become a fairly well-known commentator on education based on his broad knowledge of research on many topics of interest to teachers and educational policymakers. Most of his books and essays are backed up by a great deal of research conducted by professionals and published in peer-reviewed journals. This is his latest book and it is actually a collection of essays, many of which appeared elsewhere and some of which relate to topics covered in some of Kohn's earlier books. This book is divided into five general sections each of which have a number of essays relating to the topic of that section. The sections roughly cover: the concept of progressive education, the nuts and bolts of learning, such as what happens in a classroom, the climates for learning we create in schools, educational policy and psychological issues related to education. Each essay is well-documented and he makes ample reference to other books and essays he has written in case the reader is interested in going into any one topic in greater detail.

The tenor of this book could generally be described as progressive or anti-conservative. In essay after essay, Kohn turns conservative conventional wisdom that has tended to dominate national discussions on education, upside down. Some of the things he sees as being counterproductive are: homework, standardized testing, the use of rubrics, encouragement of self-discipline, the use of rewards and incentives, competition in the classroom, nationalized standards and the memorization of facts.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful By Gerald A. Heverly on June 26, 2011
Format: Paperback
For those who have read Mr. Kohn's other books on schools and families this book will be no more than a series of digests of his ideas. But the ideas are where the fun is, right? Few writers on manners and morals incite more virulent adherents and opponents than Alfie Kohn.
Just for fun I'd like to lay out my own reading of Alfie's basic assumptions. If I'm right you should find evidence of each one in this book. And let's contrast his views with people who disagree with the author. I'll list Kohn's assumptions first. For the sake of brevity I will not deal with Kohn's ideas on families.

1. First and foremost children come to school with inherent virtue that can be nurtured (by stimulating lessons and caring teachers) or corrupted (by undemocratic teachers instilled in the beliefs of behaviorist rewards and punishments). Opponents say that kids come to school faced with choices between virtues and sin and are only prevented from making the wrong choices by controls used by the schools and by the family.

2. In school kids come loaded with intrinsic motivation to learn (after all learning is a natural process that we engage in nearly nonstop throughout our days). Opponents argue that kids come to school (remember they are there by fiat, not by choice) without motivation and it is the job of the school, particularly the classroom teacher, to steer them toward good decisions.

3. The knowledge we should be encouraging is discernment not information. Opponents argue that wisdom is derived only after information is amassed.

4. Knowledge cannot be measured.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Barc on February 10, 2012
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Alphi Kohn does a good job describing what progressive education looks like. Kohn also describes the short comings of the traditional approaches to teaching and learning. As in other texts that he has written he makes a stand against the short falls that have come about from standardized testing and the threats of nationalizing an education curriculum which would standardize a curriculum for all all students across America. His stand against the current competitiveness found in our schools forces the reader to reflect on current practices and hopefully bring about construtive changes.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By k.a.o. on January 15, 2012
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This was our elementary school book club pick. I will definitely look to read more by Alfie Kohn. He sees into the classroom in realistic and practical ways, considering real students. In New York City, we have many good teachers whose hands have been tied because of a mayor trying to run the education system like a business. Children are individuals, not numbers! I highly recommend this book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Fran on June 18, 2012
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If you are at all interested in looking at an alternative view to classroom teaching, developmental practice and oppression- this may be your book. Kohn has a magical way of never undermining the huge issues our country faces in the name of education but does it in a way that does not leave you feeling drained or depressed...rather, motivated. I loved reading this book the first time and look forward to reading it again and again! A highly recommend to ALL new teachers in the field.
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