"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Monday, October 20, 2008

Alfie Kohn Warns Against Educational Ethnic Cleansing

Kohn takes on the anti-culturalists in the reddest of the red states. From the Salt Lake Tribune:
Rising test scores are no reason to celebrate, author Alfie Kohn told teachers at the Utah Education Association (UEA) convention on Friday.

Schools that improve test scores do so at the expense of other subjects and ideas, he said.

"When the scores go up, it's not just meaningless. It's worrisome," Kohn told hundreds of educators on the last day of the convention. "What did you sacrifice from my child's education to raise scores on the test?"

Kohn, who's written 11 books on human behavior, parenting and schools, spent nearly two hours Friday morning ripping into both established and relatively new education concepts. He slammed merit pay for teachers, competition in schools, Advanced Placement classes, curriculum standards and testing - including Utah's standards and testing system - drawing mixed reactions from his audience.

"Considering what we hear a lot, it was pure blasphemy," said Richard Heath, a teacher at Central Davis Junior High School in Layton.

Kohn called merit pay - forms of which many Utah school districts are implementing this year - an "odious" type of control imposed on teachers.

"If you jump through hoops, we'll give you a doggie biscuit in the form of money," Kohn said.

He said competition in schools destroys their sense of community. Advanced Placement classes, he claimed, focus more on material but don't do much to deepen students' understanding. He said standardized tests are designed so that some students must always fail or they're considered too easy, and often the students who do poorly are members of minority groups.

"We are creating in this country before our eyes, little by little, what could be described as educational ethnic cleansing," Kohn said. He called Utah's standards too specific and the number of tests given to Utah students "mind-boggling."

He called on teachers to explain such problems to parents and community members.

"The best teachers spend every day of their lives strategically avoiding or subverting the Utah curriculum," Kohn said. . . .

1 comment:

  1. I could not agree more with his views on the current state of mandated testing. Which is saying a lot because sometimes I don't agree with Alfie Kohn. My issue with him, however, is that he always leaves just when I'm gettig hooked. That is to say, he's just led me to the depths of despair (yes, I agree Alfie, the world IS ending!), and I'm right at that place where I am holding my breath, waiting for the ingenious alternative solution that I just know is going to come and rescue me from such an ominous state when...he stops writing, as if to hand the issue over to me to solve. Oh, the anticlimax kills me everytime.