Saturday, August 7, 2010

My two beefs with Alfie Kohn

I spent quality time with Alfie this morning, sitting in the bath tub with The Schools Our Children Deserve--it's a fine book, well worth reading. In August, I can dream about idyllic classrooms with children clamoring to learn.

He's been discussed in Time magazine, sat with "Oprah" twice, and he wanders around lecturing a lot. He's been published by The Atlantic and The New York Times. He's his own cottage industry. Nice gig if you can get it.

I will use some of his ideas in class, and toss more around with our faculty.

The two beefs?

The man has not taught in a classroom since 1985. He confesses that "it wasn’t until years later that I began to realize just how little I understood about teaching." Why is it that only people removed from their own classrooms can see the evils of our ways?

OK, that was a cheap shot--he's spent his life observing others, teachers who have been far more successful than he, and he acknowledges as much with charming self-effacement. But it's not nearly as cheap a shot at what's about to follow....


The man looks like the poster boy for the "San Francisco Flower Child Rescue League." He's preaching solid reform, he's got hard-hitting wonderful ideas, and he looks all of 19 years old. ("Alfie" doesn't help....makes "Arne" sound like a stud.)

We need a face with battle scars, maybe a biker beard. We need tough!

We're getting our butts kicked by Arne Duncan, of all people. So, Alfie, here's my gift to your our cause:

The original image is from Pay Fairly, which got it from Wikipedia,
which says it's a self-portrait used with permission. I hope Mr. Kohn has a good sense of humor.

(And, Mr. Kohn, if you should ever wander to this very tiny piece of this electron universe, and find this piece offensive, I'll remove it.)


John Spencer said...


I wonder if the popularity of Diane Ravitch is that she has been powerful, she repented of her sins and yet she sounds like a pit bull when she talks.

Or Sir Ken Robinson. One part sophisticated gentry and another part Simon Cowell (sp?)

doyle said...

Dear John,

Folks indeed like public pit bulls.

To be fair, Mr. Kohn writes like a pit bull--he just doesn't lookanything like a pit bull.

I love reading his stuff--putting his ideas into practice, though, can be difficult. I've got the NJ Bio EOC test looking at me in the face. This year it counts for graduation.

Will I have enough courage to teach the way I think is best for the kids? We'll see....

John Spencer said...

He does write like a pit bull. I read "Punished by Rewards" in the middle of my first year and felt validated that my push toward authenticity wasn't simply "being a softy"

Kelly said...

I don't know, guys. Still not completely sold. But I have my own biases: some colleagues treat him like the next Messiah, and those same colleagues have never, and I mean NEVER, been a classroom teacher. (And John, we Yanks love and believe anyone with a British accent!)