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on November 14, 2002
Book Review- Ria Caldwell
Kohl, H. (1995). I won't learn from you: and other thoughts on creative maladjustment. New Press.
Kohl is now known as the classic speaker on "not learning" or refusing to learn that results in certain students' inappropriate placement into special education programs and classrooms. Kohl begins by describing certain situations and conditions that he finds himself in, requiring him to re-evaluate what it is that our students need. Hope as he refers to as "hopemongering" is the title of one of his chapters where he cites examples of how he has had to instill or rekindle the flame of hope that students so desperately need at times. Kohl provides some examples of how a student who would be viewed as a discipline or behavior problem might in fact be practicing his "not learning" ability or "right to refuse" as I like to call it.
Kohl addresses issues in education surrounding race, culture, economic, and linguistic differences that result in the diversity of each and every classroom in the U.S. He points out that the reasons for the amount of "dropout" teachers is exceeding the amount of "dropout" students and in order for this to change we need to adopt new ways of embracing these children who are often born into poverty. He emphasizes the importance of finding balance in order to achieve maximum effectiveness with our students. He indicates that the true art of teaching comes from being able to lead students to make discoveries that create their own meaning, purpose, learning and under-standing. Not "lecturing" them on the topic of equality but instead, facilitating their own critical thinking and encouraging them to find their own strengths and weaknesses and to explore their environments with a "new set of eyes." He also talks about fear of students, traditionally the fear that "white" teachers have of "black and latino" students, I would like to call this fear "culturephobia" or "colorphobia".
I think every teacher can find a part of themselves in the numerous examples cited in the book and am glad that I was able to read the words of a man who has so much to offer the educational institutions that exist today.
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on March 11, 1999
Interested in maintaining the status quo? Then this book is not for you. Though evidence of Kohl's leftward leaning ideologies pervade much of the book - (while in his writing he commits some of the very biases he criticizes), his insights into purposeful and subconscious biases that our culture subjects us to are second to none. Interestingly, I find myself battling against many of the same issues as a young teacher in the 1990's that Kohl faced in the 1960's. Kohl's writing is the antithesis to the societal norm of, "My mind is made up. Don't confuse me with the facts!" For those unafraid to think critically, I heartily endorse the book. You never know where it may take you. Prepare to become a maladjusted mover and shaker!
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on December 8, 1998
I loved the insight this author gives in his book about how to understand WHY children chose not to learn - what environments and circumstances can change the desire to learn certain things. I used to have a different philosophy about teaching "lazy, beligerent children" - but now I see that those preconceived ideas are not only unfair, but untrue.
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on January 7, 2010
I had thought this book would give me insight as a teacher why some children don't learn, but it was actually stories of racist and sexist teaching practices that students were reacting to. The first example was a second grader who refused to read. The author "tricked" the student into pretending to read wherein the student replied, "see, I told you I could read." This was a story about a student who couldn't read and was embarrassed about it, not a story about a student who was refusing to learn. The author gradually brought the student along and he learns to read. In another example a teacher was teaching a group of Hispanic immigrant students that the first settlers in Texas were Europeans, in a school of mostly Hispanic students the room's walls were covered with only pictures of famous whites. In a very sad case, a student committed suicide by heroin overdose because a school counselor refused to give him a diploma because of the counselor's personal dislike of the student. This didn't even sound legal but no mention was made about the author seeking legal assistance. The book didn't bring me any insights into the students, just horror stories about bad teachers and bad school administrators. I think the book would have been more appropriately titled, "I CAN'T learn from you."
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on December 8, 2002
A teacher's role is to look past a student's outer shell to find what may be hidden inside and to search beyond the designated classroom curriculum for challenging way to entice a student to learn.
In Herbert Kohl's book titled " I won't learn from you" And Other Thoughts on Maladjustment, he talks about his experiences as a child growing up in a Jewish community in Bronx, New York and refusing to learn to speak his family's language of Yiddish. He relates how his experience of "not learning" helped him to understand why many of his students also chose to do the same thing. Kohl also speaks of the lessons he learned as a child from his imaginary friends, the "Masked Rider and the Tattooed Man". They provided him with the opportunity to dream about far away people and places. These dreams would one day lead him to discover the world and the lessons that could be found in places other than school. Through these struggles he learned that by focusing on a child's inter-strength instead of his inabilities and by developing approachable relaionships, he could develop in the child the desire to learn.
As one reads each of Herbert Kohl's 5 essays you realize how deep his devotion is to his students, his job as a teacher, and his community. In each of these essays he touches on many differenct aspects of being a good teacher, as well as, the value of listening to what a student has to say. To Herbert Kohl no student is a failure. It is the school system and society that has failed the student.
Every practicing teacher and pre-service teaching student should read this book to understand what is happening in the classroom. Herbert Kohls reminds us of why we chose to become teachers and our desire that each of our students may someday change the world.
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on January 13, 1999
The concept of not-learning something that could be learned is an interesting phenomenon. It is akin to not thinking about the punchline of a joke once you've already heard it. For students to consciously choose not to be a part of a debilitating society is at once revolutionary and reprehensible. This book not only helps us to understand why many of our children are where and who they must be, but also, why the teacher in each of us must do and say what we know to be right.
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on June 12, 1998
Herbert Kohl is a marvelous listener. In this incredible volume, he demonstrates the benefits of using both ears and an open mind together. By taking seriously his students' refusals to be taught, he theorizes the well-founded reasons for this stubborn nay-saying. All of us -- parents and educators both -- have encountered this. Kohl helps us make sense of it, and teaches how to work with it.
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on July 18, 2014
Do yourself a favor and get this mind and heart expanding book. Read it several times to feel it really let it soak in. Comprehend how societal risk factors operate in the student's mind from the student's POV. Genius #goodreads #musthave
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on June 17, 2009
"I Won't Learn from You": And Other Thoughts on Creative MaladjustmentWhat an inspiring book for educators who need insight into why some students chose not to learn. Authentic stories and personal narrative make this book superb.
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on October 29, 1998
I really enjoyed the book. Although I find most books required of college students to read monotonous, this one held my interest from cover to cover. It is basically a collection of five stories which focus on creative maladjustment, which consists of (in Kohl's own words), "breaking social patterns that are morally reprehensible, taking conscious control of one's place in the environment, and readjusting the world one lives in based on personal integrity and honesty." In each story we find Kohl learning a little more about himself as a teacher through his students. Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of the book is its reader-friendliness. Powerful, touching, and inspirational, the book is an important reference for all teachers. I feel privileged to have read it, and I will continue to use it as I further my education in teaching.
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