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The Schools Our Children Deserve: Moving Beyond Traditional Classrooms and "Tougher Standards"
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The Schools Our Children Deserve: Moving Beyond Traditional Classrooms and "Tougher Standards"

4.24 of 5 stars 4.24  ·  rating details  ·  367 ratings  ·  46 reviews
In this “lively, provocative and well-researched book” (Theodore Sizer), AlTe Kohn builds a powerful argument against the “back to basics” philosophy of teaching and simplistic demands to “raise the bar.” Drawing on stories from real classrooms and extensive research, Kohn shows parents, educators, and others interested in the debate how schools can help students explore i ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published September 5th 2000 by Mariner Books (first published 1999)
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Community Reviews

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Mary
I have reading some more current stuff about education this summer while I haven’t been doing school. A few of the books I read I would highly recommend: especially The Schools our Children Deserve by Alfie Kohn.
This book is a response to ED Hirsch’s The Schools We Need and Diane Ravitch’s book The Schools We Deserve. Ravitch, Hirsch and William Bennett (I also read his book The Educated Child) are some of the most prominent voices leading the conservative movement on education so I thought I w
...more
Andy Mitchell
Antiestablishment.

A couple of personal notes / direct quotes from the book:

Deborah Meier's five "Habits of Mind"

1. Evidence, or "How do we know what we know?"
2. Point of view, or "Whose perspective does this represent?"
3. Connections, or "How is this related to that?"
4. Supposition, or "How might things have been otherwise?"
5. Relevance, or "Why is this important?"

Howard Gardner likes to invite teachers to pretend they've only been given one hour with students to do something on the subject of t
...more
Gina Denny
I'm pretty sure most people following these reviews don't care about this book, so I'll keep it short and sweet.

This guy's whole point was that we need to abandon traditional schooling (i.e.- the schooling methods of the last century or so) and let children direct the learning process entirely (i.e.- the schooling method of forever prior to the last century).

He advocates for abolishing:
- all grades whether they be letters, rankings, ratings, scores or anything other than a "pass" or "did not
...more
Rebecca
I truly enjoyed reading this book. Kohn makes a well drafted argument for why the one-size-fits-all, traditional approach of schooling does not produce learning, but does produce quantifiable ranking. And, for even those students that do 'well' in school, they show low retention, and most devastating, a lack of motivation to continue learning.

The book is broken down into two parts: 1 - Tougher Standards Versus Better Education and 2 - For the Love of Learning. He essentially shows the negative
...more
Sherrie
Nov 24, 2008 Sherrie rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: teachers and parents of school aged children
Shelves: education
This book completely re-inspired my desire to be a progressive teacher in a school system that is laden with traditional teachers and classrooms (I sub in them every day). Kohn provides a lot of research to back up his position that traditional classrooms are simply failing kids and not providing them with the engaging, and meaningful learning experiences they deserve. It confirmed what I already believe about education but reminded me of how important it is to fight for change as a teacher and ...more
Clint
Never a disappointment with Alfie Kohn. With his actual research based evidence and his debunking of other "educational researchers" data, Kohn explains that the old school approach of drill and kill, rewarding, competition, grades, and standardized testing is doing more harm than good. When compared to other countries who are actually doing better in achievement scores, yet they aren't teacher centered, textbook driven, test oriented, homework demanded institutions. They are community driven, i ...more
Jason
Clearly articulates with research the best ways for students to learn, for teachers to teach, and for schools to operate. As a student, I was raised in a "traditional" school system, and as a teacher, I am currently traditional (as much as it pains me to say). After reading this book, I want to become more and more progressive, which will only benefit my students. I devoured this book.
Graham Slater
As usual, Alfie Kohn doesn't pull any punches and covers just about every conceivable base in a well-formed, perfectly cogent argument of how to create the type of schools our children deserve. Kohn remains one of my favorite writers on educational topics.
Jen Marin

In The Schools Our Children Deserve, Alfie Kohn delves into the research that demonstrates what I have always felt in my bones: the educational system needs a massive overhaul. Yes, there are great schools out there. There are even more great teachers. But ask a great teacher, and many will tell you that they, too, feel hamstrung by a system that is overly concerned with achievement, competition, coercion, standardized testing, and the belief that 'harder equals better.'

When we focus on how we a
...more
Emily
This guy is famous in education circles--love him or hate him. This was a pretty good book that presented the argument against the traditional model of education in our country, with evidence to back it up. Pretty convincing, particularly his arguments against the mass use of standardized testing & all of the pitfalls along with that. Interesting that this came out before No Child Left Behind made mass standardized testing even more prevalent... I'm sure he has a lot to say about that & ...more
Corrie Campbell
Every educator (and parent) should be interested to know what's in this book. Alfie Kohn describes in detail the advantages of a progressive education footnoted with an overwhelming amount of research. Interdisciplinary, conceptual, experiential, collaborative, often ungraded and student driven instruction proves superior to traditional skills-based instruction in study after study. Especially the studies that deal with intrinsic motivation, which is incredibly pertinent if we, as a culture, bel ...more
Nola
Sep 12, 2008 Nola rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: parents
Shelves: to-review
This is a great book for anyone who has children in schools - and also for any homeschoolers. It takes a good look at the educational system and what most needs to be reformed, concentrating not only on the here-and-now but the long-range goals. It also makes a good read for homeschoolers because of the way education is portrayed. It discusses the "ideal" and methods for getting there, and though it is primarily focused on the public education system at large, it gives a great jumping-off point ...more
Kate
Reading this book was kind of discouraging. I loved it--but I knew I couldn't find what he described anywhere around me, and I felt really at a loss. At this point, I really didn't think I had anywhere near the abilities needed to provide my kids with what they needed--and this book just cemented that for me.

But that left me pretty much hopeless. Couldn't do regular public schools with all their testing and grading, rewarding and punishing, labeling and categorizing. But I couldn't offer my kid
...more
Laura
For parents, teachers, or students examining what is wrong with our school system, this is the perfect place to start. The first section looks at what is wrong with traditional education: top-down school reform, overemphasizing achievement, standardized testing, traditional teaching/learning, and the push towards tougher standards. This alone would make for a great book. But Kohn goes a bit farther by laying out an alternate vision for education in the second half of the book. A great response t ...more
Amy
Language is dense at times but, full of inspiring ideas for public schools.
Eamonn Barrett
Alfie Kohn at his best. Authoritative, persuasive, angry. Inspiring stuff!
Margie R-O
I have to read this in small doses. I get so upset with how we do school in the US, and I couldn't agree more with Alfie about how our schools are headed in the wrong direction. My son was in a progressive K-8 PUBLIC school and it was a great experience. What a shame more schools aren't switching to in-depth, child-directed learning. We want innovative adults after years of mind-numbing education. Hello, what's wrong with that picture? Whoops, there I go getting angry again...time to switch book ...more
Terry
A complete picture of what stymies education and what might be done about it. Written in 1999, Kohn's thinking is as relevant today as it was at the end of the Clinton administration. For the first half, chapters delve into how education gets motivation, teaching and learning, evaluation, reform, and improvement wrong. The second act explores the ways to make meaningful changes.

Kohn is a must for parents and teachers and anyone who is concerned with the condition of education in the USA.
Wendy
May 08, 2008 Wendy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: those interested in progressive approach to education
Presents valid and provokative arguments concerning our current schooling system in the US. The language was accessable, entertaining and appropriate for its intentions. My only beef is that Alfie occasionally makes remarks that are funny but a bit snippy. Could easily be written off as propaganda by it's opposition reading certain sections. It's defifinately for the progressively inclined audience, and probably won't do more than anger the traditionals.
Angus Mckay
The information contained in this book is so crucial to our crumbling education system, yet those in power choose to ignore it.
Kohn gets a little overly cynical in his writing and can use some over-simplified examples at times, but the content is vital enough to garner the 4 stars I gave.

I recommend skipping the introduction
Kimberlee
This book changed my view of education especially when it comes to high stakes standardized tests. It taught me that we don't have to accept the status quo and that there are better ways of teaching. I'd recommend it to teachers and parents who worry about their child's education.
beck
This book seems to be targeted at people who know nothing about constructivist teaching practices, so much of it comes off as repetitive and fairly shallow. Kohn also is a failed public school teacher, which always calls authority into question in my opinion.
Ashley
Kohn has some really interesting ideas, but the book is pretty dense read. Really good if you're at all interested in public schools in the US or if you hate standardized testing. Otherwise, it mostly just strengthens beliefs that a lot of us already have.
Lisacjackson
Packed with information about how our children learn best, packed with studies, data and facts. This information will make you want to reconsider the possibilities you have never considered as possibilities before, for helping your kids learn.
Karin
I found more of the book about what is wrong with the education system and only the last chapter or 2 about what should be happening in schools. Am looking forward to reading more of his books to see if he answers my questions there.
MSP
Great book for all educators. More parents of school age children as well as principals and school board members should read Kohn's work. Until then, however, we will be a COUNTRY "left behind."
Jason
Jul 09, 2008 Jason added it
Reading this was like having the lights come on above my head. It was one of the strongest experiences of it that I've had with a book. I'm a different and better teacher now.
Don Berg
Well researched counter to the standards and testing arguments. Talks about democratic classrooms but oddly stops short of democratic schools.
Katie
Our presidential candidates should have to read this and follow Kohn's suggestions to the T. I love Kohn and his work. Inspirational!
Tanya
Thinks book really makes you think about why we do what we do! A good book for reflecting on how much conveyor belt hang over I still have.
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Alfie Kohn writes and speaks widely on human behavior, education, and parenting. The author of eleven books and scores of articles, he lectures at education conferences and universities as well as to parent groups and corporations.

Kohn's criticisms of competition and rewards have been widely discussed and debated, and he has been described in Time magazine as "perhaps the country's most outspoken
...more
More about Alfie Kohn...
Unconditional Parenting: Moving from Rewards and Punishments to Love and Reason Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise and Other Bribes The Homework Myth: Why Our Kids Get Too Much of a Bad Thing No Contest: The Case Against Competition Beyond Discipline: From Compliance to Community

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“Many of our elected officials have virtually handed the keys to our schools over to corporate interests. Presidential commissions on education are commonly chaired by the executives of large companies.” 5 likes
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