- Paperback: 212 pages
- Publisher: Beacon Press; 1St Edition edition (May 15, 2004)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0807032670
- ISBN-13: 978-0807032671
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.5 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 19 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #664,704 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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What Does it Mean to Be Well Educated? And Other Essays on Standards, Grading, and Other Follies 1St Edition Edition
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From Publishers Weekly
If general readers recognize Kohn's name, it's thanks to his campaign against standardized testing (The Case Against Standardized Testing). Educational professionals will recall Kohn's insights into classroom management (Punished by Rewards) and school reform (The Schools Our Children Deserve). This collection of essays, written from 1999 to 2003, proves the author is one of America's most astute critics of current educational policies. Kohn revisits the standards and testing mania, but also takes on other controversial issues: grade inflation, school violence and how educators can deal with the aftermath of 9/11. "Turning Learning into a Business" is an informative and incisive critique of the many ways in which Kohn sees the corporate world exploiting kids and profiting from schools through the marketing of tests, advertising in schools and textbooks, and turning schools into for-profit businesses. Kohn carefully links these issues to larger social concerns: "one of the most crucial tasks in a democratic society" is "the act of limiting the power that corporations have in determining what happens in, and to, our schools." Kohn is unapologetic and articulate about the advantages of a progressive approach to education that values students' interests, focuses on understanding (rather than the acquisition of isolated facts) and assesses student work authentically (rather than by single, standardized measures). True to his educational philosophy, he asks readers to consider big questions, such as: What's important to know? What are the qualities of a good school? And perhaps most vital, Who gets to decide and who benefits?
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The most energetic and charismatic figure standing in the way of a major federal effort to make standardized curriculums and tests a fact of life in every U.S. school. --Washington Post
"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. His willingness not simply to challenge conventional answers but also examine whether we're asking the right questions gives his work a genuinely eye-opening quality." --Booklist
"Kohn cuts against the grain and takes on adversaries without fear, and yet with a mature and rational sophistication. He draws upon a rich tradition, citing the work of Dewey, Bruner, Piaget, and Holt, among others, but he now takes his proper place within their ranks." --Jonathan Kozol
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For example, emphasis on passing standardized test does not necessarily improve learning and knowledge but only helps students become good at cracking a specific type of test. Learning often takes back seat compared to learning tricks to crack the test. It may even become a measure of resources to join courses to help crack such tests, which does not necessarily measure knowledge or intelligence.
There are sugestions like making work at schools more project, problem solving and discovery oriented, where students have to cooperate, show initiative and think logically to solve problems rather than simply learning tricks to solve certain type of questions.
I only found the section on capitalistic conspiracy theory a bit distractive from main idea. However, I would highly recommend this book to anyone interested in education.
After teaching for 1 year at the high school level I encountered the dilemma that is the central theme of this book: teaching students to be tested, as opposed to teaching students to learn. The section (From Degrading to De-Grading) on "learning orientation" and "grade orientation" really captures the essence of Alfie Kohn's message.
Some may say that this book is tremendously one-sided, and it is. Alfie Kohn believes that our archaic system of ranking and judging our students based upon the memorization of a "bunch o' facts" and the reward of a grade is damaging. So what does he propose we use to measure performance and achievement? The use of qualitative feedback from instructors that he refers to as authentic assessment. It includes narratives (written comments), portfolios (carefully chosen collections students' writings and projects that demonstrate their interests, achievements and improvements over time), student-led parent-teacher conferences, exhibitions, and other opportunities for students to show what they can do.
If you are concerned that such methodology may affect your child's chances of getting into college, he's researched that too. He writes that the most selective colleges have been known to accept home-schooled children who have never set foot in a classroom, and that it's not widely known that hundreds of colleges and universities don't require applicants to take either the SAT or ACT. These narrative assessments are accepted by college admission officers in lieu of letter grades.
This book will definitely make you question what it means to be well educated.