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

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9780618083459: The Schools Our Children Deserve: Moving Beyond Traditional Classrooms and

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 ideas rather than filling them with forgettable facts and preparing them for standardized tests.
Here at last is a book that challenges the two dominant forces in American education: an aggressive nostalgia for traditional teaching (“If it was bad enough for me, it’s bad enough for my kids”) and a heavy-handed push for Tougher Standards.

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Teacher-turned-writer Alfie Kohn takes on traditional-education giants like E.D. Hirsch, along with practically every state government "raising the bar" and toughening standards, in this attack on the back-to-basics movement. An established critic of America's fixation on grades and test scores, Kohn has written a detailed, methodical treatise that accuses politicians and educators of replacing John Dewey, the father of public education, with test-tutoring king Stanley Kaplan. The current standards movement that demands students learn a list of dates and facts prepares kids for Jeopardy, Kohn argues, not real life. He joins David C. Berliner and Bruce J. Biddle (The Manufactured Crisis) in questioning whether today's schools are truly floundering, warning that romantic memories of the old school, with its tests, worksheets, and drills, are purely that--memories romanticized by time and perception.

Kohn backs up his argument with research and observations from like-minded reformers such as Deborah Meier, but his position is nothing new. Rather, it is a volley back at traditionalists, a direct counter to Hirsch's 1996 book The Schools We Need, which Kohn critically dissects at length, even accusing Hirsch of incorrectly generalizing footnoted research. Kohn also takes issue with the backlash against the whole-language approach to reading instruction (though this argument wears thin, given that many schools have already moved beyond the debate to use a combination of whole language and phonics). The overall message of The Schools Our Children Deserve is a valid cautionary tale about the future of American education that deserves to be heard out by teachers, policymakers, and parents. --Jodi Mailander Farrell

From the Inside Flap:

Are our schools in trouble because they have lowered their standards and strayed too far from the basics? Just the opposite, says Alfie Kohn: if American students are getting less than they deserve, it's due to simplistic demands to "raise the bar" and an aggressive nostalgia for traditional teaching.

Alfie Kohn, the author of critically acclaimed works on such subjects as competition and rewards, now turns the conventional wisdom about education on its head. In this landmark book, he shows how the "back to basics" philosophy of teaching treats children as passive receptacles into which forgettable facts are poured. Likewise, shrill calls for Tougher Standards are responsible for squeezing the intellectual life out of classrooms. Such politicized slogans reflect a lack of understanding about how and why kids learn, and they force teachers to spend time preparing students for standardized tests instead of helping them to become critical, creative thinkers.

Kohn has an ambitious yet practical vision of what our children's classrooms could be like. Drawing on a remarkable body of research, he helps parents and others interested in education understand the need to move beyond a "bunch o' facts" model of teaching. Using stories from real classrooms, he shows how this can be done. Along the way, he offers surprising insights about the Whole Language-versus-phonics controversy, why a straight-A report card may not be good news, and how we can best gauge the progress of schools and students.

The Schools Our Children Deserve presents a fresh perspective on today's headlines about education--and on what our children will be asked to do in class tomorrow morning. It is a persuasive invitation to rethink our most basic assumptions about schooling.

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